Friday, July 3, 2015

Civil vs. Criminal (Assault and Battery)

The fact that both assault and battery show up both in civil law (Torts) as well as in Criminal Law makes these topics tricky if the distinctions are not known well. Based upon what I've seen in practice questions, the following should be known about each:


In Torts, assault is an intentional tort that requires an act by the defendant creating a reasonable apprehension in plaintiff of an immediate harmful or offensive contact to plaintiff's person. In addition, causation is required, but damages are not required.

In Criminal Law, there are two ways to commit the crime of assault. One way is nearly identical to the definition set forth above in Torts. A criminal assault is an intentional creation of a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the victim of imminent bodily harm. But there is another definition of criminal assault to note carefully. Assault is also an attempt to commit a battery. This is a specific-intent crime so be sure to apply all the rules you've learned regarding specific-intent crimes to criminal-assault. In addition, note that a person can be guilty of criminal assault even if the plaintiff was not put in apprehension of harm because all that is required is that defendant intended to commit a battery upon plaintiff.


In Torts, battery is harmful or offensive conduct to plaintiff's person with both intent and causation. Once again, damages are not a required element.

In Criminal Law, battery is an unlawful application of force to the person of another resulting in either bodily injury or an offensive touching. Importantly, unlike in Torts, criminal battery need not be intentional. Unlike criminal assault, criminal battery is a general intent crime.

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