If you’re accused of assault and battery, take these accusations seriously. Our attorneys specialize in aggravated assault and battery, and can help guide you through the process.

Sometimes there’s confusion about the difference between assault and battery. Understanding these differences is vital to your case and its potential outcomes.

Keep reading for clear definitions of these actions, the typical penalties, and how an experienced defense attorney can help.

Battery and Assault Definition

What is assault and battery? It’s important to note that the definition of both crimes – assault and battery – differs from state to state, and in some states they are grouped together.

Here’s what you need to know for the state of Washington.

Assault Definition

The legal definition of assault is an intentional act that gives another person reasonable fear that they’ll be physically harmed or offensively touched.

No physical contact or injury has to actually occur, but the accused person must have intentionally acted in a way to cause that fear.

Even if the accused person didn’t intend to cause any harm or offense, or if they meant the action as a joke or intimidation, their action can still be considered assault.

While the victim may not be able to prove they were afraid, they must have been aware that harmful or offensive contact could occur.

While every case is different, the intentional action of the accused must suggest that they’re about to violate generally accepted social standards about touching other people.

Whether or not the accused and the victim know each other before the incident can come into play here, as can the jurisdiction’s perception of consent.

In the state of Washington, assault is categorized by degree:

  • First degree: Intent to cause great bodily harm with a deadly weapon or force or exposure to a dangerous disease or substance.
  • Second degree: Intent to inflict substantial bodily harm using weapons or force or exposure to dangerous disease or substance (including trying to harm an unborn child by injuring the mother).
  • Third degree: Causing bodily harm through criminal negligence or assaulting police officers, fire fighters, judicial employees, transportation providers, or healthcare providers.
  • Fourth degree: A range of actions that violate social standards but don’t amount to a greater degree of assault.

Again, the victim does not need to be hurt or even touched for the incident to count as assault. Words alone do not count as assault, but coupled with particular behaviors, they certainly can help the case for assault.

One major benefit to having assault charges, even if no harm actually happened, is that law enforcement can intervene before anyone gets hurt.

Battery Definition

The legal definition of battery is intentionally causing harm to, or offensively touching, another person (without their consent or intentional involvement in the action).

Where assault is more about intent and how an action made a victim feel, battery is the completion of assault, where physical contact actually happened.

A victim doesn’t need to be seriously injured, traumatized, or offended for battery to take place. Examples include being spat on or getting hot water poured on you, which could both be considered highly offensive.

However, someone cannot claim battery based on being abnormally sensitive. For example, giving someone a disapproving glare is not likely to result in a battery case. It might be rude, but it doesn’t violate social standards in a way most reasonable people would find harmful or offensive.

Is There a Difference Between Assault and Battery?

Historically, assault and battery were two separate crimes, and they technically still have separate definitions.

Still, over time, they’ve merged into one charge in many places. In Washington, an assault charge covers both offenses.

Assault charges typically involve the threat of violence and inducing fear in a victim. Battery charges are essentially when threats are carried out, and a physical attack occurs.

In Washington, assault charges cover the threat of force as well as the actual use of force. So, if you enact these offenses, you’ll be subject to assault charges, whether a “battery” occurred or not.

Simple Assault vs. Aggravated Assault

The most extreme cases of assault are often considered aggravated assault, or first degree assault.

This typically involves a physical threat of violence with a deadly weapon. It can also reflect significant vulnerability of the victim (pregnant, disabled, elderly, etc.).

So-called “simple” assaults are likely to be misdemeanors, while aggravated assault is far more likely to be a felony.

Aggravated assault might even escalate into an attempted murder or manslaughter charge.

Examples of simple assault include:

  • Raising a fist to punch someone
  • Shoving another person
  • Leaving a bruise from a slap

Examples of aggravated assault include:

  • Shooting a gun at someone
  • Attempted rape
  • A caretaker fondling or hitting an elderly patient

Building a strong, evidence-based defense for aggravated assault is crucial because the charges could permanently damage your reputation.

If you’re facing aggravated assault charges, it’s vital that you work with an experienced defense attorney.

What Are the Penalties for Assault and Battery?

The penalties for assault and battery vary depending on the degree of the crime. The usual punishments include incarceration, financial fines, probation, restraining orders, and restitution.


Spending time in jail or prison for assault and battery is typical. Aggravated, or first degree, assault can mean several years to a life sentence. Second and third degree assault may lead to several months to about four years of incarceration. Fourth degree assault could mean up to 90 days in jail.

Financial Fines

Assaulting someone in any way can end up costing you a lot of money. First degree assault carries a fine of up to $50,000. Second degree assault could cost as much as $20,000. Third degree assault is capped at $10,000.


For first time offenders, probation might be a penalty option. People on probation for assault and battery may avoid time locked away in jail or prison, but will serve their sentence out in the community. Part of the probationary period requirements might include counseling for substance abuse, anger management treatment, maintaining distance from the victim, and money paid to the victim.

Restraining Orders

Regardless of whether an assault sentence includes incarceration, the courts will probably issue a protective or restraining order against the guilty party. This means you may not contact or try to see the victim, even if you’re behind bars. Violating restraining orders is cause for immediate arrest and potentially increased penalties.


If the victim was physically, mentally, or emotionally injured by the assault and battery, or if any of their property was damaged, the accused person might be ordered to pay for medical treatment, counseling, or property damage.

Sometimes restitution comes by way of a separate legal case. For example, someone may be accused of aggravated assault in criminal court and, at the same time, face a recklessness charge in a civil case.

The civil case, which is more about the victim’s injuries than the intent of the accused, might land you with a lawsuit for the victim’s medical costs.

The right defense lawyer will work hard to see that your sentence is fair, and that you get deserved options for fines and community service over jail time.

Defending Against Assault, Battery, and Aggravated Assault

If you have been accused of committing assault or aggravated assault in the state of Washington, you must act now before it’s too late.

At Vindicate Law, our criminal defense attorneys can help you build a strong defense against assault, battery, or aggravated assault charges.

With decades of experience defending clients who have been accused of aggravated assault and battery, our lawyers have a proven track record to back up their distinguished credentials.

You can count on the seasoned attorneys at Vindicate Law to fight for you and help you get your life back now.

Call or text (888) 212-4824 or contact us today, and we will offer you a confidential case evaluation, which will help you determine where you stand legally.