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Assault vs. aggravated assault vs. battery

On Behalf of | Nov 14, 2017 | Blog

While many people use the terms “battery” and “assault” interchangeably, there is a significant difference. This is why it is so important to learn the legal definitions of both in the state of Pennsylvania.

In some cases, an attorney will attempt to reduce the charges. For example, if a person faces charges for battery, then a lawyer may attempt to reduce the charges to simple assault, which is still serious but carries less harsh penalties. Here are the ways to differentiate assault, aggravated assault and battery.


Assault occurs when a person tries to intentionally cause bodily harm to another individual. It does not actually have to entail physical harm. The intent needs to exist for assault charges to come to the table. For example, a person walking around with a pocket knife in the jacket pocket is not committing assault. However, if that same person gets into an argument with another individual and takes out the pocket knife, then the court may view that as assault and potentially aggravated assault.

Aggravated assault

Aggravated assault is also commonly known as assault with a deadly weapon. An assault charge often becomes upgraded once a weapon becomes involved or when the perpetrator exhibits an extreme lack of concern for human life. For instance, a person driving a car while intoxicated may face aggravated assault charges in addition to DUI charges because he operated a motor vehicle and could have significantly hurt others. A threat can also become aggravated assault if it happened against a police officer even if a weapon did not come into play.


Battery occurs when the person actually harms another. Therefore, a person may face both assault and battery charges if he threatened another individual first and then followed through and punched the other person.

There are many defenses for any of these charges. An attorney may try to prove a fight was consensual instead of one-sided. Self-defense and involuntary intoxication often come up, too.