What’s the Difference Between Assault & Battery?

What’s the Difference Between Assault & Battery?

Oftentimes, people use the terms assault and battery interchangeably or believe the terms refer to the same type of offense. However, in Georgia, assault and battery are two distinct crimes. 

While people are often charged with these offenses simultaneously, it is important to have a clear understanding of the distinction between these offenses. In this blog post, we will define assault and battery, examine the differences between the two, and provide insight into how a criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong legal defense against either charge. 

Assault | Georgia Code §§ 16-5-20, 16-5-21 

In Georgia, a person can face simple or aggravated assault charges. Simple assault occurs when a person attempts to violently injure someone or causes someone to believe they are at risk of suffering injuries. A person can be charged with simple assault even if they do not physically touch the other party as it includes the use of threats and intimidation. 

For example, if you tell someone that you are going to choke them in a threatening, aggressive manner, they may reasonably fear for their lives. This incident can lead to you being charged with simple assault. This offense is considered a misdemeanor offense in Georgia, and the penalties can include fines of up to $1,000, probation, and/or up to 12 months in jail. 

Aggravated assault is an assault that involves:  

  • the intent to murder, rape, or rob another party,  

  • the use of a deadly weapon or any instrument, object, or device that when used can (or does) cause serious bodily injury, or  

  • the shooting of a firearm from inside a motor vehicle towards other people.  

In Georgia, a person can face felony charges if they commit aggravated assault. Penalties for this offense include up to 20 years of imprisonment, fines, and restitution.  

Battery | Georgia Code §§ 16-5-23, 16-5-24  

Similar to Georgia assault charges, there are two types of battery offenses—simple and aggravated battery. However, battery involves the actual use of force or violence against another person.  

In Georgia, simple battery is defined as intentionally making physical contact with another person in a way that causes harm or offense. Simple battery is also considered a misdemeanor and can be enhanced if the alleged victim is a person who is:  

  • Pregnant  

  • Over the age of 65  

  • A school employee  

  • A police officer  

  • A care giver  

  • A household or family member (i.e. if the offense is domestic) 

Aggravated battery involves causing serious bodily harm or disfigurement while committing simple battery. This offense is also a felony, which is punishable by decades in prison and hefty fines.  

Battery vs. Assault Example 

It is important to note that in some cases, assault and battery charges can occur simultaneously. For example, if you threaten someone with a weapon and then physically contact and harm them, you can be charged with both assault and battery. It is essential to work with a criminal defense lawyer to determine the best legal strategy to defend against these charges. 

Georgia Hate Crimes  

You can face more severe penalties if you commit an assault or battery against a person because of prejudice or bias, as this would be considered a hate crime. In Georgia, a hate crime is defined by the Georgia Hate Crimes Act (O.C.G.A. § 17-10-17). A hate crime occurs when a person intentionally selects their victim, or targets their property, based on the victim's actual or perceived:  

  • race,  

  • color,  

  • religion,  

  • national origin,  

  • sex,  

  • sexual orientation,  

  • gender,  

  • mental disability, or  

  • physical disability. 

To classify an act as a hate crime under Georgia law, the following elements must be present: 

  • The defendant committed a crime. 

  • The defendant intentionally selected the victim or targeted their property. 

  • The selection or targeting was based on the victim's actual or perceived protected characteristic (as mentioned above). 

In prosecuting a hate crime case, the prosecution must prove the elements of the underlying crime as well as the hate crime enhancement elements. This may involve presenting evidence of the defendant's motive, such as:  

  • statements,  

  • writings,  

  • symbols, or  

  • other actions that show they targeted the victim due to their protected characteristic. 

When a criminal offense is raised to hate crime status, it may result in enhanced penalties. Under the Georgia Hate Crimes Act, if a person is convicted of a crime and it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they intentionally targeted the victim based on a protected characteristic, the following enhancements apply: 

  • For misdemeanors, a person can face an additional 12 months of imprisonment and/or a fine up to $5,000. 

  • For felonies, a person can face an additional two years of imprisonment and/or a fine up to $5,000. 

Defenses Against Assault or Battery Charges 

One potential defense to assault or battery charges is self-defense. If you reasonably believed that you were in danger of physical harm and used force to defend yourself, you may be able to argue that you were acting in self-defense. However, there are strict requirements for proving self-defense in Georgia, and it is essential to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the facts of your case and build a strong legal defense. 

Other possible defenses include:  

  • Defense of others. Like self-defense, a person may use force to protect someone else from imminent harm. The defender must have a reasonable belief that the person they are protecting is in immediate danger, and the force used must be proportional to the threat.  

  • Defense of property. In Georgia, a person may use force to protect their property from theft or damage. However, the use of deadly force is generally not allowed unless it is in self-defense or defense of others. 

  • Consent. If the alleged victim consented to the physical contact, it might be a defense to assault and battery charges. However, consent may not be a valid defense if the conduct was illegal, such as in a case of an organized fight or if the victim was incapable of giving consent. 

  • Alibi. Providing evidence that the defendant was not at the scene of the crime when it occurred can be a strong defense against assault and battery charges. 

  • Lack of intent. Since assault and battery require intent, demonstrating that the defendant did not intend to cause harm or fear can be a defense. This may include showing that the contact was accidental or that the defendant was mistaken in their actions. 

Get Legal Help  

If you are facing assault or battery charges in Georgia, it is important to take these charges seriously and work with a qualified criminal defense lawyer who can help you understand the charges against you and the potential penalties. A criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong legal defense, negotiate with prosecutors, and protect your rights in court.  

Balbo & Gregg, Attorneys at Law, PC is backed by over 40 years of collective legal experience. If you or a loved one have been charged with assault and/or battery, you can trust our attorneys to help you develop a personalized strategy for your defense. Don't wait until it's too late – reach out to our trusted criminal defense attorneys today to start building your defense strategy. Call (866) 580-3089.