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What are the differences between assault and battery?

If you are a Kentucky resident who has been charged with assault and battery, you may think that these are two words that mean the same thing. FindLaw explains, however, that while assault and battery are related offenses, they are separate and distinct from each other. The reason why most people confuse them is because they most often are charged together. In fact, some states, of which Kentucky is not one, have combined them into one crime.

To be convicted of either assault or battery, you must have had the requisite intent and you must have committed one of the specific requisite acts. Both the intent and the act are different for each alleged crime.


An assault is the attempt or threat to harm someone. In order to commit an assault, you need to have a general intent to do so. While there is no such thing as an accidental assault, your intent need be only to commit the assault act. In other words, if you intend to frighten someone, that is sufficient intent.

As to the required assault act, you need only to act in a manner that would lead a reasonable person to be afraid for his or her safety. Threatening words alone usually are not sufficient to rise to the level of an assault; you must actually do something. However, acting in a manner that a reasonable person would consider to be dangerous is sufficient to constitute an assault, even if you did not intend to harm anyone in particular.


While assault is the attempt to harm someone, battery is the actual harm. To be convicted of battery, you must have done all three of the following things:

  1. Intentionally touched someone
  2. Touched him or her in an offensive or harmful way
  3. Failed to obtain the consent of the person you touched

Your intent to touch the person is the only intent required to convict you of battery. You need not have intended to harm the person, only to touch him or her. This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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