UNDERSTANDING ASSAULT AND BATTERY
Tom and Jerry are involved in a heated argument. Tom stabs at Jerry with a knife. Fred tries to quell the argument but Tom punches him in his mouth. Almost immediately, the police arrive and arrest Tom. They lay charges against Tom for assault, in respect of Jerry, and assault and battery, in respect of Fred.
An assault is any act which intentionally or recklessly causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful violence to his person. So, a direct threat made by one person to another, without lawful justification, with the result that the person who made the assault has put the other person in fear of imminent physical contact, is an assault. There need not be any physical contact for an assault to be committed. Therefore, in this case where Tom, intentionally and without lawful justification or excuse, stabbed at Jerry and put Jerry in fear of immediate danger of bodily injury, Tom would be liable for assaulting Jerry, even though he did not come in physical contact with his person.
In most cases, words said by one person to another might not be sufficient to constitute an assault. However, when the threat is so direct and menacing so that it leaves little doubt in the mind of the person to whom the threat is made that if he does not cooperate or obey the command given to him, the threat of physical harm would be carried out, it would be deemed an assault.
Although assault is an independent crime and is to be treated as such, assault is generally synonymous with the term 'battery'. Battery is the actual intended use of unlawful force to another person without his consent. So battery, by definition, is a deliberate and direct act of one person that cause contact with the body of the other without the other's consent and which is done without lawful justification or excuse. So in the case of Fred, the assault would also involve a battery when Tom punched him in his mouth.
Battery also extends to circumstances where one person unlawfully uses an object to come into contact with the body of another. So for instance, where a person use a baton or piece of stick to hit another it would still be battery.
The following are some other examples of battery: taking someone's fingerprint without an order of the court or the consent of the person; kissing a woman against her will; pushing someone in an aggressive manner and kicking someone.
To constitute an assault or battery, some intentional act must have been performed and so a mere omission to act cannot amount to an assault.
Self defence, consent and the execution of a lawful arrest are usually good defences to a charge of assault and/or battery.