Assault vs Battery: Understanding the Legal Differences

Assault vs Battery: Understanding the Legal Differences

Are you confused between assault and battery? Then you’re not alone! Although these two crimes have several fundamental differences, many people confuse them.

Battery and assault are two serious criminal offences with different consequences. Sentences also vary according to the laws of the jurisdiction. 

Let’s explore Assault vs Battery and discuss how the law treats each one differently.

What is Assault?

Assault is a criminal offence that involves threatening another person. It may be verbal threats, waving a weapon in anger or excitement, or other options that cause another person to fear for their life. This does not have to involve physical contact to qualify as assault.

Different Types of Assault and the Punishment for Committing

There are different types of assault in the Criminal Code of Canada. These are described in detail below:

Simple Assault

One of the most frequent charges brought against someone in Canada is a simple assault. It may take the form of a minor push or something more serious, like a brawl with a person.

In more severe situations, it may be tried as an indictable offence, which carries a maximum of 5 years jail sentence.

Assault with a Weapon or Harming Body Parts

An assault happens when a person uses these weapons to threaten someone or cause bodily harm. Almost anything can be used as a weapon. It can be a pencil, bottle, knife, or gun.

Bodily harm is done to somebody when physical force has been applied and someone gets hurt. It can be a few scratches to broken bones on the body.

For an indictable assault with a weapon in Canada sentence is maximum 10 years in prison or 18 months in jail for a summary conviction.

Aggravated Assault

Aggravated assault is an extreme case scenario in the criminal code of Canada. It causes permanent and severe issues to the body. The victim can suffer the possibility of death or life-changing injuries.

The maximum punishment for aggravated assault is 14 years in jail. 

Sexual Assault

It is a serious crime. It occurs when a person makes sexual contact with another person without taking consent. There are many forms of sexual assault, including sexual abuse, rape, or groping.

It becomes more serious when a weapon is involved in the crime to cause bodily harm. If a person commits a sexual offence but not holding a weapon is also considered guilty of this offence. Sometimes, aggravated sexual assault occurs when the victim is wounded or puts lives at risk.

For summary conviction, the sentence is up to 18 months in prison. If the victim is under 16, the punishment ranges from 6 months to 2 years in prison.

For an indictable offence, the punishment is 10 years in prison. For those who are charged under the age of 16, the sentence ranges from 1 to 14 years in jail.

For those who cause sexual assault with a weapon or aggravated sexual assault, the minimum sentence is 5 years, and the maximum sentence is life in prison.

Read Also: How do I get a sexual assault charge dropped?

Threatening a Police Officer

The role of police officers is vital in society. There are three types of assault for conducting an assault on a police officer. Assaulting a police officer, assaulting a police officer with a weapon, and aggravated assault of a police officer. As they are the ones who protect and maintain the laws for society, these laws are designed to protect them.

The punishment against an officer results in a summary conviction, and the maximum is 14 years in prison.

What is Battery?

In an assault, when a person makes physical contact with another person is considered as battery. This offence involves punching, hitting, or even touching someone intending to damage or injure them.

Various Forms of Battery Crimes

The Criminal Code in Canada considers battery a serious criminal offence. The various forms of battery are narrated below-

Common Battery

It is the most common form of battery and entails using physical force directly or indirectly on another person without that person’s consent.

Bodily harm Battery

This type of battery involves inflicting physical harm on another person. Physical wounds, including cuts, bruises, and fractured bones, fall under this category.

Aggravated Battery

This sort of battery is purposefully inflicting severe bodily injuries on another person, such as permanent disfigurement or life-threatening wounds.

Sexual Battery

Sexual battery involves unwanted sexual contact with another person, including touching, grabbing, etc.

Domestic Battery

This battery affects violence or threats against a current or former spouse, partner, or family members.

Penalties for Battery Crimes

Depending on the severity of the crimes, the sentence for the battery varies. The sentence for battery crimes ranges from 6 months of jail time to substantial fines. 

In addition to facing criminal consequences, the victims found guilty of battery offences may also be sued in civil court for the harm they caused the victim.

Assault vs Battery: Difference Between Assault & Battery

The main difference between battery and assault is not having consent for another person. For assault, there is no involvement of physical contact. On the other hand, battery happens when a person commits an act that inflicts physical harm to another person.

Another distinction is that a battery can involve any harm or force but not psychological harm. An assault is comparable to an attempted battery, but a battery is comparable to a successful assault.

Here is a table summarizing assault vs battery in Canada:

Assault Battery
Definition The intentional use of force or threat of force against another person, without their consent, that causes them to reasonably fear for their safety The intentional use of force against another person, without their consent, that results in bodily harm or injury
Offense Criminal Criminal
Level of Offense Generally considered less serious than battery Generally considered more serious than assault
Punishment Up to 10 years in prison Minimum 6 Months
Examples Threatening to punch someone without actually doing so Punching someone in the face
Evidence The victim’s perception of the threat, along with any physical evidence of force used Evidence of physical harm or injury to the victim
Defenses Self-defense, defense of property, consent Self-defense, defense of property, consent

Raise a Legal Defense for a Defendant

To defend any charge of assault or violence, the defendant may take the challenge against legal protection. An effective defence can attempt to reduce or even justify a criminal charge. However, it is best to have an experienced lawyer who can fight and raise a defence on behalf of the accused.

For assault, there are four defences to consider- 

  • They did not attempt to use force
  • They reacted to protect themselves.
  • They did not behave steadfastly.
  • They were falsely accused. 

For battery, there are four defences to consider-

  • They didn’t touch or push another person.
  • They did not act willfully.
  • They acted in self-defence.
  • They were stopped because they lacked a valid excuse.


Understanding the legal differences between assault and battery is crucial for everyone. Though the two crimes are interrelated, there are different penalties and consequences. It is always advised to seek the advice of a criminal lawyer who will help to guide and understand the rights of the accused.

FAQs: Assault vs Battery

What are the four types of homicide?

There are four types of homicide. These are – 

  1. Capital Murder
  2. Murder
  3. Manslaughter
  4. Criminally Negligent Homicide

What is the highest felony degree?

According to the criminal code of law, first-degree felonies are the most serious ones. They include rape, murder etc.

Why is it called the 3rd degree?

3rd-degree murder is charged as a crime of the depraved mind or heart. The murderer did not intend to kill anyone in this case. For instance, this accusation might be made if someone fires a gun into a crowd without intending to kill anyone.

What is an example of manslaughter?

Manslaughter means when a killer acts in the heat of the moment. The emotional context plays a vital role in this regard. For example, when a husband comes home from work and finds out his wife is committing adultery.

How many years do you get in jail for manslaughter?

The maximum sentence for manslaughter is imprisonment for life. The judge can impose other sentences like community service or suspended imprisonment.

© 2022 Merv Nidesh, KC & Linh Pham.