The Difference Between Assault and Battery

In Illinois, what is the difference between assault and battery?

According to the Illinois Compiles Statutes, “[a] person commits an assault when, without lawful authority, he engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” 720 ILCS 5/12-1. Battery, on the other hand, occurs when a person “intentionally or knowingly without legal justification and by any means, (1) causes bodily harm to an individual or (2) makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.720 ILCS 5/12-3.

Here is an example how this might work. Let’s assume that you decide to punch me and I haven’t given you authority to punch me. Let’s further assume that you act on your decision and take a swing at me. Finally, let’s assume that you don’t land the punch because I see it coming and duck. Since you don’t land the punch, you neither cause me to suffer bodily harm nor make physical contact of any kind — let alone insulting or provoking contact. Thus, you do not batter me. But, I see you swing at me — and I duck so you won’t hit me. So, you assault me because you place me “in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.”

If your punch hits me, regardless of whether I get hurt, that is insulting or provoking contact. As a matter of fact, I might direct a nasty word or two in your direction.

So, in summary, assault is where you swing and miss; battery is where you swing and hit.

Jeremy J. Richey, Attorney at Law
© Jeremy J. Richey and The East Central Illinois Criminal Law & DUI Weblog, 2008-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.