Although these two terms are closely related, they are two distinct criminal offenses.  In order to understand the crime of assault, you must also understand the crime of battery.   Illinois law defines assault as “conduct which places another person in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.”    So what is battery?  Battery is either conduct that causes bodily harm to another or other unwanted physical contact.

Assault

Basically, assault is the threat to commit a battery or an incomplete battery.  The crime of assault doesn’t require any physical touching of another person.  It could involve making threats or chasing after someone in a threatening manner.  A basic assault charge is typically considered a Class C misdemeanor and carries a possible sentence of 30 days in jail and up to a $1,500 fine.

Aggravated assault is far more serious and could result in much harsher penalties.  Assault becomes aggravated when a weapon is used, the accused conceals their identity in some way (wearing a mask, hood, or some other disguise), or the victim is a certain person, like a cop, security guard, fireman, or the elderly, or in a certain place, like a public roadway or park.

The punishment for aggravated assault is either a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a possible jail sentence of 1 year and fines up to $2,500 or is a Class 4 felony.  A felony charge could result in up to 3 years in prison and fines up to $25,000 if the victim is one of the designated people identified in the statute.

Battery

Unlike assault, battery does require some form of physical contact.  This is either physically harmful or touching that is offensive or provoking, like poking someone or groping them.  The punishment for simple battery reflects the seriousness of the contact itself, with the typical charge being a Class A misdemeanor carrying a potential sentence of up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,500.

Aggravated battery is the most serious of the offenses here, which is charged when the harm caused is great or a permanent disability/disfigurement results or using a deadly weapon during its commission.  Knowingly causing great bodily harm or permanent disability/disfigurement to an unborn child is considered aggravated battery in Illinois.  This is considered a Class 3 felony and could result in 2-5 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

Neither assault nor battery can be committed by accident.  The statute requires that the conduct be committed either intentionally or knowingly.  This means that you must either harm (or threaten to harm) someone on purpose or do the harmful or offensive act with full awareness that your actions will likely cause harm or offense.

There are defenses to the above crimes that may justify offenders’ actions.  These include self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property.  Considering the risks of imprisonment and hefty fines, it is important to understand the potential consequences for these offenses.  Even more important is to consult a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney to protect your rights if you ever face these charges.