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What are the differences between assault and battery?

If you are a Tennessee resident charged with assault and battery, you may think that these two words mean the same thing. As FindLaw explains, however, while they are similar, and an assault often leads to a battery, they are separate and distinct crimes

The prosecutor must prove your intent to commit the crime and your specific act whereby you committed it in order to convict you of either crime. Nevertheless, the intent and the act are different for assault than they are for battery.


If you intend to threaten of harm someone, that is the sufficient intent to convict you of assault. For instance, intending to frighten or harm the person is all the intent the prosecutor needs to prove. In terms of your assault act, you do not have to actually come into contact with the person. If you make him or her feel afraid and/or fear for his or her safety, that is sufficient action on your part to convict you.

Under normal circumstances, words that come out of your mouth are not considered an assault. Usually you must do something more. Nevertheless, you would do well to control your temper when you are angry with someone. If the words you say to them are threatening enough that, combined with your expression and your body language, such as saying them while you are clenching your fists or holding a weapon, a judge or jury could find you guilty of verbally assaulting the person.


When you batter someone, you actually come into contact with him or her and cause offense or harm. To convict you of battery, the prosecutor must prove all of the following:

  • That you intentionally touched someone
  • That he or she did not consent to the touching
  • That your touch was offensive and/or harmful

In addition, the prosecutor must prove that you intended to touch the person, not that you necessarily intended to harm him or her via your touching. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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