While many people string these two terms together into one phrase, the law assigns them distinct meanings. You may face both assault charges and battery charges based on the same incident, but these are two separate crimes.
Generally, battery means intentionally using force against another person with the purpose of inflicting physical harm. Assault means intentionally making another person fear you are about to physically harm him or her but does not have to entail an actual attack.
Assault and intent
Both your state of mind and that of the other person play a significant role in dealing with assault charges. Generally, the prosecutor must show you intended to make the other person think you were going to attack and the other person must have actually thought that. Did you commit assault if you told someone you were going to kill them? That can depend on the context. People may say this phrase jokingly, in such a manner that no one even thinks of physical violence. On the other hand, someone who shouts this phrase angrily and picks up a heavy object may face a stronger case.
Types of battery
Battery is also a crime that involves intent. Injuring someone accidentally would not support battery charges. Battery charges may vary in seriousness from misdemeanor to an E felony.
The gravity of battery charges depends largely on whether it involved a weapon and the seriousness of the resulting injuries. Minor injuries such as bruises usually give rise to misdemeanor charges. Substantial injuries, such as fractures, concussions or burns, can result in Class I felony charges. Penalties may include as many as three and a half years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. In the event that the injuries threaten the person’s life or cause permanent disfigurement, the offense escalates to a Class E felony, which can entail up to 15 years of imprisonment along with substantial fines.
Battery upon a person who belongs to a specific protected category can also significantly increase penalties. In Wisconsin, this class of persons includes people with disabilities, members of one’s family, witnesses in a legal matter, school workers, law enforcement officers, emergency room personnel, people aged 62 or older, and people with disabilities.