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Differences between assault and battery

There is a common misconception that assault and battery are the same thing, but they are legally different in South Carolina and in other states. Assault means placing someone in fear of physical harm while battery involves actual contact. For example, a person commits assault if they raise their fist as if they are going to strike someone while battery involves making physical contact.

When a charge is "aggravated" assault or battery, it involves more serious harm or fear of harm. Displaying a deadly weapon in a manner that appears threatening may constitute aggravated assault. Aggravated battery involves serious injuries or the use of a deadly weapon.

To prove a crime, the state must prove that the person charged had the intent to commit the crime and that they took an overt action to commit it. Each and every element of the crime charged must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

In order to prove that a person committed assault, the state does not need to prove that the defendant intended harm toward a specific person, only that they committed an action that was threatening and caused the victim fear. Threatening words are not sufficient to sustain an assault charge unless they are combined with an action that causes another person to fear imminent physical harm. To prove that a defendant committed battery, the state needs to prove that the defendant intended to have physical contact with the victim and had harmful or offensive contact.

A criminal defense attorney may be able to help individuals who have been charged with serious felonies like assault and battery. Most felonies are punishable by fines, probation, community service or possibly a prison sentence.

A defense attorney may be able to negotiate serious charges down to lesser charges during the plea bargaining process. In some cases, an attorney may be able to win the case through a dismissal or an acquittal if the state cannot meet its burden of proving every element of the charge.

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