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Do you understand the difference between assault and battery?

It goes without saying that there are certain legal terms that can cause people an inordinate amount of confusion in the area of criminal law. For example, many people often hear -- and even use -- the terms "assault" and "battery" interchangeably as if they were the same criminal offense in the eyes of the law.

While this is understandable given what we see on television and in the movies, it's nevertheless important to understand that these terms do indeed have very distinct meanings in Georgia. In fact, the law in our state recognizes them as not just two separate crimes, but four separate crimes -- simple assault, simple battery, aggravated assault and aggravated battery.

What is simple assault?

The crime of simple assault, a misdemeanor, can essentially be broken down into two separate actions: 1) attempting to cause another person physical harm and 2) threatening someone to such a degree that they could reasonably believe based on the words spoken and the defendant's abilities that physical harm was imminent.

What are some examples of simple assault?

A classic example of simple assault would be a person throwing a punch at another and missing, or using threatening words or phrases (i.e., threatening to knock someone out) in an angry or otherwise threatening manner.  

What is simple battery?

The law dictates that the crime of simple battery, also a misdemeanor, occurs when a person "1) makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with the person of another, or 2) intentionally causes physical harm to another."

It should be noted that while the physical act must be intentional, there is no requirement that there be a specific intent to injure another.

What are some examples of simple battery?

As you might imagine, the crime of simple battery occurs when a person makes actual physical contact with another, such as shoving, slapping or punching. However, it can also encompass less obvious acts like spitting on another or ripping their clothes.

We will continue to examine this topic in future posts. In the meantime, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if are facing assault or battery charges.

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