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What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?

What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?

Most people consider assault and battery to be the same thing. While the two crimes have a lot of crossover, several key differences could affect your case. Keep reading to find out more about the difference between assault and battery.

What Is Assault?

Assault is the act of causing fear of imminent harm. This means that a person uses the threat of violence or harm to instill fear in another person. The fear must be to the degree that any reasonable third party would be fearful and perceive those actions as a threat.

For example, someone threatens to hit their partner if they do not go along with what they want. To most people, this is not a rational or reasonable way to communicate with a partner and any fear would be justified.

Simple vs. Aggravated Assault

There are different degrees of assault that are defined by the degree of harm implied, the context of the threats, and aggravating factors. For example, a threatening phone call, while alarming, is a lower degree of assault than being accosted and threatened with a gun.

In South Carolina, there are two primary classifications of assault: simple and aggravated result. Simple assault is attempting to commit a violent injury on another party or putting them in a situation where injury could be likely. In a simple assault case, physical touch is not necessary for the crime to count as assault. Words are enough to warrant criminal charges.

Aggravated assault on the other hand is a much more serious crime. A person may be charged with aggravated assault if they do any of the following:

  • Use a deadly weapon, object, device, or instrument to intimidate or threaten harm
  • Shoot a firearm within a close distance of a vehicle and passengers
  • Threaten someone with the intent to murder, rob, or rape


The penalty for assault depends on the degree of the threat. In South Carolina, simple assault is punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000 along with probation and restitution in some cases. Simple assault may be elevated to a higher degree or aggravated assault.

Once an assault charge becomes aggravated, the penalties are enhanced by adding one more year and a fine of up to $5,000. A case becomes aggravated if the assault is committed against a pregnant woman, public transportation, public school employees, senior citizens, or a family member. Enhancement can also occur if the assault included a firearm. Aggravated assault is a felony punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison, fines, and restitution.

What Is Battery?

Assault is the threat of harm, but battery is the harmful result. Battery is the actual wrongdoing and/or physical harm that was implied through assault. Using the previous example, if a person threatens to hit their partner for not going along with their plan and follows through by hitting them, they could be charged with battery.

Because battery is the “follow-through,” most battery crimes are combined with assault. In many cases, assault and battery are hand in hand and happen simultaneously. In escalating situations, threats may turn into action as more threats enter the equation.


South Carolina punishes simple battery with up to 1 year in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000, probation, and restitution. Simple battery charges can also be elevated to a more serious charge like assault. Once simple battery becomes aggravated, it can be punishable by one to 20 years in prison or more and fines.

It is important to note that assault and/or battery committed based on prejudice or bias is considered a hate crime. The state does not allow those charged with hate crimes to be released until they have served 90% of their full sentence.

If you have been accused of assault or battery, contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC.


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