If you are like most Wisconsin residents, you probably think that assault and battery is a term that refers to a single crime. This, however, is not the case. In point of fact, assault and battery constitute two separate, albeit similar, crimes.

To convict you of either, the prosecutor, of course, will need to prove that you intended to commit that crime. But other than your intent, (s)he will have to prove different things for each crime.

Assault

Assault is a crime committed with words and threatening actions. You need not actually harm someone in order to receive an assault conviction. But the words you say and the threatening gestures you make must put your alleged victim in a state where (s)he fears for his or her safety or life unless (s)he complies with your demands.

Ordinarily, you cannot commit an assault with words alone. You must couple your words with a threatening action. However, most juries will convict you of assault if you yell, scream or curse at your alleged victim or if you brandish some sort of a weapon such as a gun, knife, club, etc. while “speaking.”

Battery

Battery is a crime of deliberate touching without first obtaining the permission of your alleged victim. Again, you need not actually harm him or her via your deliberate touch. The touch itself represents the battery. Keep in mind, however, that your intent is of the utmost importance. If you did not intend to touch your alleged victim, even though you accidentally did so, you cannot receive a battery conviction. For instance, if you accidentally knock someone down while rushing out the door of a building, you did not batter that person, even if you hurt him or her.