LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Vijay Ratan Sharma | Nov 16, 2010

Assault and Battery

Here’s a basic one. Assault and Battery are always used together. Quite simply, they are not the same things.

An Assault is a Class C Misdemeanor. It occurs when “a person commits an assault when, without lawful authority, he engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery." The statute is 720 ILCS 5/12-1(a).

Now, under 720 ILCS 5/12-3 “[a] person commits battery if he intentionally or knowingly without legal justification and by any means, (1) causes bodily harm to an individual or (2) makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual." Battery is a Class A misdemeanor.

Because you’ve read my prior blogs, you know that a Class C misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days incarceration and a fine of up to $1,500.00. A Class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days incarceration and a $2,500.00 fine.

So let’s say that John Doe is at a bar. He gets into an argument with a guy. While screaming, some of John’s spit accidently hits the guy. The guy takes a swing at John and John ducks. He takes a second swing and John’s too slow to move and it hits him. Then the police come in and break up the fight.

So we have John accidently spitting on the guy. Spitting can be a battery. It is “physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature." In the same way, if you knock something out of someone’s hand or forcefully pull a clipboard away from someone, that is a battery. But in this case, it was accidental. A battery needs to be intentional or knowing.

I had a client that was bleeding from a cut and then pointed at something. My client didn’t even know he was cut. But when he pointed, blood got on a bystander. He was arrested for battery. We went to court and the case was dismissed because the State couldn’t prove intent to commit a battery.

So the spitting is not a battery. What about the first swing that the guy takes at John and misses? This didn’t hit John, so it’s not a battery. But it did make John reasonably believe he was about to get punched in the face. Because it put him in this reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery, this is an assault. An assault is basically an incomplete battery. So the guy has one count of assault on him.

The next is fairly obvious at this point. The punch that the guy lands on John is definitely a battery. It causes bodily harm to John. This is a classic battery.

Now what happens if we replace the guy with John’s wife Jane? Then, under 720 ILCS 5/12-3.2, this is a domestic battery. Domestic battery is a Class A misdemeanor also. The difference is that John will probably be able to get an order of protection and special conditions of bond preventing contact between the two.

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