For many people, the crimes of Oklahoma assault and battery are indistinguishable if not interchangeable; frequently when non-lawyers use these terms they often refer to them together, almost as if they were one a single charge of “assault-and-battery”. From a legal perspective, however, these two charges are distinct from each other; and this can make a real difference for anyone on the receiving end of such accusations.
It is understandable how the confusion between what constitutes an assault and what constitutes a battery can arise. Although assault in often a precursor to the crime of criminal battery, in some contexts it can sound like an act of violence in itself (e.g., sexual assault). What we will address in this post is how to tell assault apart from its cousin, battery.
“Any willful and unlawful attempt or offer with force or violence to do a corporal hurt to another”
There are two variations of assault: one is civil in nature, meaning that you can be sued for it even if law enforcement is not involved, and the other is criminal assault. We will look at the latter of these two variants.
The definition of assault is the act of placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical harm. What the law looks for in determining whether an assault has taken place takes into account considerations including:
- The threatening act must be intentional.
- No actual physical contact actually takes place (we will cover this in battery, below).
- The reasonableness of the belief that one is about to be harmed. For example, threatening words alone cannot be an assault.
- The act of placing someone in apprehension of harm must involve some outward menacing behavior, such as the closing of a fist, or moving toward the other person in a threatening manner, even if no words are spoken.
“Any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another”
What makes the crime of battery different from an assault is that battery involves actual physical contact with the victim. Elements to look for include:
- The contact need not be violent in nature (e.g., spitting on another person is a form of battery).
- The act must be purposeful.
- The victim needs to suffer some form of harm, but the threshold is very low. “Harm” can consist of taking offense to the contact.
Although assault and battery are separate crimes, and you can be charged with one or the other, it is possible to be charged with both (hence the “assault-and-battery” conflation). An assault that leads to physical contact causing harm can lead to both assault and battery charges being leveled against you.
Assault is generally a misdemeanor, punishable by as many as 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $500, or both. A simple battery in combination with an assault can be treated as a more serious misdemeanor, with the fine increasing to as much as $1,000 and the jail time going up to as many as 90 days.
Penalties for both assault and battery can increase in severity if the acts are committed against special classes of people who have been statutorily defined, including:
- Law enforcement and emergency medical personnel during the performance of their duties;
- School employees while acting in that capacity, or students attending school or who are engaged in a school activity;
- Judges and court officers, and jurors for up to six months after having served on jury duty;
- Sports officials and referees; and
- Corrections officers who are assaulted or physically contacted by people in custody.
Although Domestic Assault and Battery is still assault and battery, there are different statutes and requirements for Oklahoma Domestic abuse charges.
If you or a loved one has been charges with assault and/or battery in Oklahoma, contact the Hunsucker Legal Group for a free consultation.