What’s the Difference Between Battery and Assault?

Battery vs. Assault Laws in Texas

The crimes of assault and battery occur together so frequently that incidents of physical violence between two or more people may simply be called “assault and battery.” However, while these two offenses share some similar characteristics, they are actually two distinct behaviors.

In some jurisdictions, assault and battery are two separate offenses that can be charged independently of one another or in conjunction with one another. In Texas, there is no individual criminal charge for battery. However, committing actions that meet the definition of battery can lead to legal penalties and arrest in Texas. Read on to learn more about these two criminal offenses.


What Is Assault?

In legal terminology, assault is a deliberate action that is carried out with the intention to cause another person to fear physical danger or harm. Under Chapter 22 of the Texas Penal Code, a person can be charged with assault if they intentionally, knowingly or recklessly:

  • Cause bodily injury to another person
  • Threaten another person with imminent bodily injury
  • Cause physical contact with another person while knowing that the other person will view the contact as threatening or provocative

If you read those definitions carefully, you will see that, in Texas, a person can be charged with and convicted of assault even if they never actually touch another person. While physically harming another person can certainly lead to an arrest for assault charges, it is not necessary to warrant an arrest.

For example, Peter and Jacob meet on the sidewalk one day. Peter thinks that Jacob stole his girlfriend so he walks up to Jacob and tells him “I’m going to beat you into a bloody mess.” Jacob knows that Peter has violent tendencies and has beaten people up before. Jacob can very reasonably by afraid of being harmed by Peter so he calls the police. Peter can be arrested for assault just as he could be arrested for assault if he actually punched Jacob in the face.

What Is Battery?

In legal terms, battery is the physical act of intentionally harming another person. In jurisdictions which draw a distinction between assault and battery, assault can be defined as a threat to cause violence while battery is the act of following through on that threat.

As stated previously, Texas does not actually have a separate legal penalty category for battery. Instead, actions that can be considered battery are added under the category of assault crimes.

That being said, committing acts of battery in Texas can cause assault charges to be upgraded to a more severe penalty category.

Legal Penalties

In Texas, the criminal penalties for an assault crime are directly based on the severity of the assault itself. This means that a very minor incident may be punished less harshly than a serious assault that leads to serious harm. However, other factors can influence the severity of the punishment, such as the criminal history of the person who committed the assault and the occupation or status of the person who was victimized.

Under the law, simple assault in Texas is a Class A misdemeanor offense. A simple assault is one in which serious bodily injury or death did not occur, no weapons were used and the victim of the assault was not a public servant or the spouse of the person who committed the assault. A person convicted of simple assault can be punished with:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $4000

In some cases, simple assault can be downgraded to a less serious charge. For example, if a person threatens another person or makes threatening physical contact with another person, but does not actually cause them bodily harm, the charge may be lowered to a Class C misdemeanor offense. This is punishable by:

  • A fine of up to $500

In other circumstances, the charge can be upgraded significantly. Committing any type of assault against a public servant who is performing their duties, a spouse or family member or committing assault by strangulation can cause the charge to be upgraded to a felony of the third degree. This upgrade can also occur if the person committing the assault has previously been convicted of an assault crime. This is punishable by:

  • Two to 10 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

In the most serious cases, assault charges can be upgraded to serious felony status. An assault which causes seriously bodily injury to another person or an assault which involves using or displaying a deadly weapon can be upgraded to an aggravated assault charge. This is a second degree felony charge, which is punishable by:

  • Two to 20 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

Committing aggravated assault against a public servant, or an act of aggravated assault committed by a public servant while on duty, can be charged as a first degree felony. This charge can also be made if the assault is targeted at a security officer or if it involves a drive-by shooting. This is punishable by:

  • Five to 99 years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000

In addition to these penalties, a person who is convicted of simple assault or aggravated assault may be served with a restraining order which mandates that they have no contact with the victim of the assault. They may also be ordered by the court to attend anger management counseling sessions.

A conviction for assault is very serious. People may lose their jobs for such a conviction or they may find that they have trouble finding future work in their chosen career. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best way to try to have these charges dropped or to fight for a plea deal for a less serious charge.

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