Assault vs Battery: What’s the Difference?
Assault and battery may seem similar, but they actually describe two different legal violations. Not only are the violations different, but so are the potential penalties. If you have been charged with either assault or battery, or in the case that you were charged with both, you will want to know what each charge means and how to best handle your upcoming trial.
At De Castroverde Criminal & Immigration Lawyers, we are committed to our clients. We want to make sure that our clients have an understanding of the charges brought against them, the possible defenses for each charge, and how to get a sentence reduced if necessary. When you are charged with assault or battery and decide to reach out to a lawyer, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys are ready to help you.
Defining Assault and Battery
Assault and battery are two words that are sometimes used interchangeably but actually do not have the same meaning. If you are charged with either, or both, of these crimes, then you could face possible jail time and large fines.
NRS 200.471, which went into effect on January 1, 2022, defines assault and gives the associated penalties. An assault occurs when a person either:
- Unlawfully attempts to use physical force against another person; or
- Intentionally places another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm
With assault, it is important to understand that an injury does not need to occur. Assault means that the intention to harm is there and that the attacker is making the victim feel like they could be in immediate danger.
By using verbal threats, someone is not necessarily committing assault. The threat of immediate injury must be present. Without the threat of bodily harm, words do not amount to what constitutes a charge of assault.
Battery often comes with harsher punishments than assault because it requires physical contact. NRS 200.481 defines battery as any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon another person. Unlike assault, a person must actually make unlawful contact with another party to commit battery.
Battery does not need to be committed with a deadly weapon or result in substantial injuries, though either of these occurrences would result in more serious punishments.
Penalties for Assault and Battery
Nevada state law details how one would be punished for committing either assault or battery. In addition to regular penalties, there are also penalties for committing either crime against a protected class. Protected classes include:
- Fire-fighting agencies
- Police Officers
- Providers of health care
- School employees
- Sports officials
- Taxicab drivers
- Transit operators
The punishment for assault and battery depends on whether the action is considered a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, Category D, C, or B felony. Who the crime is committed against and in what manner will determine how charges are classified.
#1. What Constitutes a Misdemeanor?
If an assault is made without the presence of a deadly weapon, then the charge is a misdemeanor. For a charge of battery to be considered a misdemeanor, there must be no substantial bodily harm present on the other party.
If there is substantial bodily harm or if the battery is committed by strangulation, then it would be classified as a Category C felony. The punishments for a Category C felony are much more severe than punishments for a misdemeanor. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, then you could face penalties that include:
- Imprisonment in a county jail for no more than six months
- A fine of up to $1,000
- A fine and imprisonment
In the event that you are charged with a Category C felony, you could face imprisonment in state prison for a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years. The court could also fine the person found guilty up to $10,000.
If you commit assault against a person from a protected class while they are doing their job, and it is determined that you should have known who they were and that they were trying to conduct their duty, then you could be charged with a gross misdemeanor.
The penalties for gross misdemeanors are stronger than those for misdemeanors. If you are convicted of a gross misdemeanor, you could:
- Face up to 364 days in a county jail
- Be fined up to $2,000
- Be jailed and fined
#2. Assault with a Deadly Weapon
If you commit assault with a deadly weapon or if a deadly weapon is present and able to be used at the time of an assault, then you would be charged with a Category B felony. In this situation, you would either have to:
- Serve a minimum of one year in the state prison, with the potential for a maximum of six years; or
- Pay a fine of up to $5,000; or
- Pay a fine and serve a prison sentence
The punishments are the same whether you assault a civilian or someone in a protected class while they are attempting to conduct their duty. A Category B felony is the most extreme penalty that can be administered due to an assault.
#3. Charges for Battery
The charge for battery depends on who the battery was committed against and the injuries sustained. If a battery is committed without a deadly weapon on a protected class member, then the charge for the offending party is a gross misdemeanor.
In order to be charged with a Category B felony, the person committing battery must:
- Commit the battery against a member of a protected class while they are attempting to conduct their duty
- Cause substantial bodily harm or commit strangulation
- Know that the victim was a member of a protected class
The penalties associated with battery at the Category B level include:
- Imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10 years; or
- A fine of no more than $10,000; or
- A fine and imprisonment
If you commit battery with the use of a deadly weapon and the victim suffers no substantial injuries, then you will be charged with a Category B felony and could face the same punishment as with battery without a deadly weapon.
If battery with a deadly weapon occurs and the victim suffers substantial injuries, then the offender could face up to 15 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
#4. Domestic Violence and Child Abuse
NRS 200.485 explains how battery that constitutes domestic violence is treated differently than other forms of battery. The nature of the crime being committed will determine the initial punishment administered. Each subsequent domestic violence offense carries a harsher punishment, meaning greater prison time and/or a greater fine.
Committing battery against a child, defined as anyone under 18 years of age, is considered child abuse, and thus you would be subject to penalties associated with such an act. These crimes can range from a misdemeanor to a Category A felony. For more information about what constitutes child abuse and the punishments that can occur, reference Chapter 432B of Nevada’s State Law.
Defenses for Assault and Battery
If you have been charged with assault or battery, you may decide to seek the legal assistance of a Las Vegas assault and battery attorney to learn more about your legal options for defense. Once a lawyer has taken you on as a client, they will get to work on determining the defense that fits your specific situation.