What is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?

There is much confusion about the terms battery and assault. Many times, these two terms are used interchangeably. In fact, these are two distinct legal terms and they can have very different results.

Battery, in Florida, occurs when an individual actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against their will or if an individual intentionally causes bodily harm. The person causing the harm must have meant to hit the victim or throw something at the victim.

In Florida, assault is an intentional, unlawful threat (the threat can be by words or actions) to do violence to another person. This individual must have the apparent ability to do the harm. The victim must have a reasonable fear that imminent harm is about to occur. ‘Imminent’ means that the harm must be immediately about to happen, it cannot be a threat made to cause harm at a future time or date. As compared to battery, the victim does not need to be physically harmed, rather they must show there was an immediate threat of harm.

Even though the two terms are quite distinct in their meaning, the legal process for both assault and battery is actually very similar. First, there can be criminal charges brought against the wrongdoer for either assault or battery. A report will be filed and then the state attorney will determine whether to prosecute the individual or not. Potentially, the culprit could face jail time for assault or battery. Next, the victim could file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator. This would allow the victim to have the opportunity to recover damages for their personal injuries suffered. This proceeding would take place in civil court, and the only issue being discussed would be regarding how much monetary compensation the victim would be receiving from the offender. Potentially, the victim could recover their medical expenses, the potential loss of earning capacity, and of course pain and suffering. This is a complex area of law and should only be handled by experienced personal injury attorneys.