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Which Is More Serious: Assault or Battery?

The terms assault and battery are often used together. However, in Illinois, they are two distinct offenses. Committing either assault or battery is serious, as you face criminal penalties, including incarceration and/or fines.

That said, in the eyes of the law, battery is considered the more severe of the two. Although both simple assault and simple battery are misdemeanors, the latter falls under a higher classification. Additionally, aggravated assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, but aggravated battery will always be charged as a felony.

Let's explore these offenses in more detail and the possible penalties associated with each.

What Is Considered Assault in Illinois?

In Illinois, a person commits assault when they put someone in fear of being physically injured. Note that it is causing the fear of harm that constitutes an offense. Causing actual physical contact is not necessary for charges to be levied. To be more precise, making harmful physical contact with another person would be considered battery, not assault.

In essence, assault is doing something that may lead to battery. The law specifically states that an assault occurs when someone places another in "reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery" (720 ILCS 5/12-1). To illustrate, pulling back a bat as if you are going to swing it at someone may be considered assault.

Illinois law also enumerates the elements for aggravated assault. Aggravated assault is an assault under circumstances that make the offense more severe.

According to 720 ILCS 5/12-2, the following are the situations in which someone may be charged with aggravated assault:

  • The offense was committed in a public place,
  • The alleged victim was:
    • Physically disabled,
    • 60 years of age or older
    • A teacher or school employee
    • A park district employee
    • A peace officer, firefighter, emergency management worker, emergency medical personnel
    • A corrections officer or correctional institution employee
    • A state employee
    • A transit employee
    • A sports official
    • A process server
  • The offense involved:
    • The use of a deadly weapon
    • The discharging of a firearm from a motor vehicle
    • Wearing clothing to conceal the alleged offender's identity
    • Using a firearm against a police officer
    • Operating a vehicle in a way that would make a person fear getting struck
    • Recording the offense with the intent to disseminate the video or audio

What Is Considered Battery in Illinois?

As alluded to earlier, battery involves making actual contact with another person. ILCS 5/12-3.05 provides that an offense is committed when someone causes physical injury to another or when someone contacts another person in a manner considered provoking or insulting.

Returning to the previous example of someone gearing up to swing a bat, if they actually strike the other person, the conduct now becomes battery.

As with assault, battery can also be charged as an aggravated offense.

The circumstances in which that could happen include:

  • The alleged offender causes great bodily harm or permanent disability,
  • Causes harm by administering a deadly substance,
  • Causes great bodily harm to a:
    • Police officer
    • Community policing volunteer
    • Firefighter
    • Private security officer
    • Person 60 years of age or older
  • Commits the offense in:
    • A public place
    • Sports venue
    • Domestic violence shelter or
    • Place of worship
  • Commits the offense against:
    • A person 60 years of age or older,
    • Pregnant person
    • Person with a physical disability
    • Teacher or school employee,
    • Peace officer, community policing volunteer, firefighter, correctional institution employee
    • Judge
    • Emergency medical services personnel
    • Utility worker
    • State officer or employee
    • Transit employee
    • Taxi driver
    • Merchant detaining someone for shoplifting
    • Process server
    • Nurse
  • Commits the offense by discharging a firearm and causing injury to others
  • Commits the offense with a machine gun or firearm equipped with a silencer

What Are the Sentences for Assault and Battery?

As we noted at the beginning of this blog, battery is a more serious offense than assault. Accordingly, battery carries harsher penalties than assault. The punishments that can be imposed for either crime depend on the facts of the case.

In Illinois, simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor. This is the lowest misdemeanor classification. The penalties upon a conviction include not more than 30 days in jail and/or $75 to $1,500 in fines.

In contrast, simple battery is a Class A misdemeanor. This is the highest misdemeanor classification. A conviction can be penalized by less than 1 year in jail and/or $75 to $2,500 in fines.

Depending on the type of conduct involved, aggravated assault can be charged and penalized as follows:

  • Class A misdemeanor
    • Less than 1 year in jail and/or
    • $75 to $2,500 in fines
  • Class 4 felony
    • 1 to 3 years in prison and/or
    • $75 to $25,000 in fines
  • Class 3 felony
    • 2 to 5 years in prison and/or
    • $75 to $25,000 in fines

Aggravated battery carries the most severe charges and penalties.

These include:

  • Class 3 felony
    • 2 to 5 years in prison and/or
    • $75 to $25,000 in fines
  • Class 2 felony
    • 3 to 7 years in prison and/or
    • $75 to $25,000 in fines
  • Class 1 felony
    • 4 to 15 years in prison and/or
    • $75 to $25,000 in fines
  • Class X felony
    • 6 to 30 years in prison

For some Class X felony battery offenses, greater minimum and maximum prison terms exist. For instance, committing the crime by administering a harmful substance, the minimum term is 6 years, and the maximum is 45 years. If the offense involved discharging a firearm and injury a person in a specified status, the minimum is 15 years, and the maximum is 60 years.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Lawyer

If you have been charged with a violent crime like assault or battery in Chicago, speak with our criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Steven Fine. We are ready to help seek a favorable outcome in your case.

Call (312) 436-0638 or submit an online contact form today.