Assault and Battery
Humans are aggressive and violent by nature. There are people who are capable of committing serious acts of violence against their own kind. Since the beginning of civilizations, crime has remained an integral part of our society and will continue to plague it. In order to harness the violent nature of mankind, societies evolved rules and regulations commonly known as the laws. Any person found violating these laws is subjected to punishment which not only curtails the criminal’s freedom but also serves as a deterrent for others.
Law is a complicated subject but ignorance of law is no excuse. A common person generally has some knowledge about criminal law because incidents related to crime and delinquency remain on forefront of media. The other types of law do not form any sensational news and therefore remain in background. The purpose of this paper is to focus on civil law (commonly known as Tort Law) and analyze the implications of Assault and Battery by identifying the differences between the two and quoting suitable examples of each.
To understand the Tort Law, we need to comprehend as to what makes it different from Criminal law (also known as penal law). The Criminal Law is the body of statutory and common law that deals with crime and the legal punishment of criminal offenses. The criminal law is based on four theories of criminal justice: punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation. The purpose of criminal law is to retain a peaceful social order. Criminal law deals with two types of crimes; misdemeanors which have a maximum sentence of one year or less and felonies which have a minimum sentence of one year which can go up to a life time (Melchior, pars. 1-5).
The Civil Law on the other hand, deals with the disputes between two parties that are not of significant public concern. Civil law enforces governing relations between private individuals. (“Civil Law,” pars. 1-2). In USA, civil law is commonly known as Tort Law. According to US Tort Law, the torts are of three types. First the ‘intentional torts,’ which include intentional and voluntary actions. The second is ‘tort of negligence,’ which occurs due to an individual’s failure to perform his/her duty through an act or omission. Third type is ‘strict liability torts,’ that are related to ultra-hazardous activities, for which the defendant will be held liable even if there was no negligence on his/her part (“US Tort Law,” pars. 2-5).
Assault and Battery are types of international torts. As described earlier, intentional torts are usually offenses committed by a person who attempts or intends to do harm to another person. Important thing to remember is that for the ‘intent’ to exist, the individual must be aware that his/her act will cause injury/harm to other person. In the context of criminal law, “assault and battery” are typically components of a single offense. However, in tort law, “assault” and “battery” are separate, with an assault being an act which creates fear of an imminent battery, and the battery being an unlawful touching. Assault and battery are intentional torts, meaning that the defendant actually intends to put the plaintiff in fear of being battered, or intends to wrongfully touch the plaintiff. The wrongful touching need not inflict physical injury, and may be indirect such as contact through a thrown stone, or even spitting (Larson, pars. 1-5). For example, if a person picks up a chair and threatens to hit another person, assault has occurred. If the person then actually hits the second person, battery has occurred. Both assault and battery can occur if a person threatens another, causing apprehension and fear (assault), and then actually strikes the other, resulting in actual injury (battery).
When we go in depth, the assault comprises of three elements. First, an intentional, unlawful threat or “offer” to cause bodily injury to another by force; Second, creating circumstances which induce well-founded fear of imminent peril in the other person and third, when there are all the likely chances of a person to carry out the act if not prevented. Keeping all these facets of assault in mind, it can be deduced that an assault can be completed even if there is no actual contact with the plaintiff, and even if the defendant had no actual ability to carry out the apparent threat. For example, a defendant who points a realistic toy gun at the plaintiff may be liable for assault, even though the defendant was fifty feet away from the plaintiff and had no actual ability to inflict harm from that distance (Trindade 211).
When analyzing battery, it is the willful or intentional touching of a person against that person’s will by another person, or by an object or substance put in motion by that other person. An important aspect of the battery is that the offensive touching or throwing the object can constitute a battery even if it does not cause injury, and could not reasonably be expected to cause injury. Simplest of the examples of battery can be a defendant who pokes the plaintiff in the chest with his/her index finger or a defendant who spits on a plaintiff, even though there is little chance that the poking finger in the chest or spitting will cause any injury other than to the plaintiff’s dignity. In both these examples, the defendant has committed a battery although the damages awarded may well be nominal (Trindade 212).
The most important aspect of assault and battery is that the defendant must lack privilege to assault or batter the plaintiff. A good example of the privilege is where a defendant has the plaintiff’s consent to commit an act of assault or battery, like in sports. The intentional foul in basketball, or the tackle in football, are an anticipated part of the game. Similarly, a police officer is privileged to apply the threat of force, or if necessary to apply actual force, in order to effect a lawful arrest. In addition, assault or battery conducted as an act of self defense is also exonerated from prosecution. However, an act of self-defense must ordinarily be proportionate to the threat. There are few other privileges as well such as defense of others which is similar to the self defense, a combat or fight with mutual consent, use of some amount of threat or force to protect own property from theft or damage, and when trying to inculcate discipline in children by parents or in students by the teachers (Larson, pars. 3-9).
To further elaborate the concept of assault and battery, we take the example of two coworkers names Smith and John. Both work in the same office and Smith is John’s supervisor and has been giving him a hard time about being late every day for the last week. On Saturday, they join in an impromptu company softball game. John is pitching, and Smith is at bat. John unintentionally hits Smith with the ball. Smith grabs his bat and rushes the mound yelling. When Smith approaches the mound, he swings his bat at John who ducks down and then kicks the Smith at his groin, who after getting the kick gets unconscious. This is a good example to explain assault and battery keeping in view the privileges in mind. John’s hitting Smith with the ball is covered under privilege and does not constitute any reason for Smith to react. Smith’s shouting and running towards the mound is not part of the game and therefore amounts towards ‘assault.’ Further, when the Smith swings his bat to hit John, is attributed towards ‘battery’ even though the bat did not physically hit John. When the John kicks Smith in a reaction is a privilege of ‘self-defense,’ and can not be tried under battery.
This paper has explained the concept of assault and battery under the Tort Law. Both are intentional torts and are treated separately. For any assault or battery to take place, there must be no privileges. In nutshell, an ‘assault’ is a threat to induce fear and apprehension of injury and ‘battery’ is the physical attempt to cause injury/harm to other person. Both the concepts have been explained in detail in this paper with suitable examples.
“Civil Law.” Wikipedia. 2006. November 27, 2006, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_law
Larson, Aaron. “Assault and Battery.” Expert Law. 2006. November 26, 2006, http://www.expertlaw.com/library/personal_injury/assault_battery.html
Melchior, Deon. “What is the difference civil law and criminal law.” 2006. November 27, 2006, http://www.articleclick.com/civil-law.html
Trindade, F. A. “Intentional Torts: Some Thoughts on Assault and Battery.” Oxford Journal of Legal Studies. 2.2(Summer, 1982): 211-2.
“United States Tort Law.” Refernce.com. 2006. November 27, 2006, http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/United_States_tort_law