Assault and Battery Penalties and Sentencing

The penalties and sentences for an assault and battery conviction vary widely between the states. Punishments may range from fines to imprisonment. The punishments often depend on the offense's severity and the offender's criminal history. State law and each case's circumstances also affect the potential criminal charges.


This article describes assault and battery. It summarizes potential penalties resulting from assault and battery convictions.

What Is Assault and Battery?

Before diving into criminal charges related to assault and battery, you should understand the differences between the two crimes. Consider reading FindLaw's Assault and Battery Overview article for more in-depth information about assault and battery.


An assault involves threats of imminent bodily harm. Assaults don't require actual contact with another person. Instead, it's enough that the threat places a person in reasonable fear of imminent harm. For example, if someone approaches you with their hands raised and threatens to hit you, they have assaulted you.

Although state laws differ, they generally separate assaults into the following two categories:

  • Simple assault: A simple assault threatens a small amount of harm. For example, if someone threatens to throw eggs at you, they have likely committed a simple assault. The threat of harm must be imminent. Even if they threw the eggs and hit you, there is almost no risk of great bodily harm. Most states classify simple assaults as misdemeanor assaults.
  • Aggravated assaultA person commits aggravated assault when they threaten to cause serious bodily injury to another. Aggravated assaults often involve a weapon or a significant threat of force. For example, if someone points a gun at you, they have likely committed an aggravated assault, as it may reasonably put you in fear of serious bodily harm. Most states classify aggravated assaults as felony assaults.

Some states separate different types of assault into categories, such as first-degree and second-degree assault. For more information about your state's laws, check out FindLaw's State Assault and Battery Laws article.


A battery involves making intentional and offensive physical contact with another person without their consent. For example, if a stranger approaches you on the street and kicks you in the stomach, they have committed battery.

Like assault, some states differentiate between different levels of unlawful contact. Often, the physical harm caused — and the use of force involved — determines the resulting criminal charges. Generally, battery crimes fall into the following categories:

  • Simple battery: Typically, a simple battery involves a person causing minor physical harm to the victim. For example, if the batterer grabs the victim's arm and causes a bruise, they have likely committed a simple battery. Most states classify simple battery as a misdemeanor.
  • Aggravated battery: A person commits aggravated battery when they cause serious physical injury to another person. Aggravating factors include using a weapon or significant force to cause the injury. For example, if a person hits another person with a baseball bat, they likely committed an aggravated battery. Most states classify aggravated battery as a felony.

Some states combine assault and battery into one crime. Texas, for instance, makes no distinction between the two. A charge of "assault and battery" usually refers to both threats of bodily harm and the resultant physical contact.

Penalties for an Assault Charge

Whether a state considers assault a separate crime from battery or not, all states and the federal government have laws that make it a crime. The threat's seriousness and the surrounding circumstances make the assault charge a felony or misdemeanor.

States divide assault into misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor carries a potential jail term of less than one year. Felony offenses subject someone to imprisonment for a year or more.

An assault involving no weapon and no serious injury is likely a misdemeanor. Some states treat an assault as an infraction. Infractions are less serious offenses than misdemeanors. Infractions generally involve a fine or brief jail time.

Penalties escalate rapidly if a person uses a weapon to assault someone. For instance, in New York, a first-degree assault involves using a deadly weapon and threatening serious injury. It has a prison term of up to 25 years and a fine of $30,000.

Penalties for a Battery Charge

Like assault, battery charges may lead to a misdemeanor or a felony conviction. The distinction between the two classifications depends on the following:

  • The seriousness of the injury
  • Whether the battery involved a weapon
  • The person injured

State and federal laws provide more serious punishments based on the victim's status or occupation. For example, some states protect the following victims based on their jobs, among others:

Other states have more severe penalties if the victim is a minor or a vulnerable adult.

The penalties for misdemeanor and felony battery vary between the states. Some provide for misdemeanor charges of less than 30 days. Felonies may include life imprisonment. States usually describe the possible range of sentences in their laws. For example, a battery conviction in Texas is subject to the following sentencing schedule:

  • Class C misdemeanor: A fine of up to $500
  • Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail, plus a fine of up to $2,000
  • Class A misdemeanor: Up to one year in jail, plus a fine of up to $4,000
  • Third-degree felony: Between two to 10 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000
  • Second-degree felony: Between two to 20 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000
  • First-degree felony: Between five years to life in prison, plus a fine of up to $10,000

Contact a criminal defense attorney for more specific information about your state's criminal penalties.

Aggravated Assault and Battery

The potential penalties rise dramatically for aggravated assault because it constitutes a felony in all states. The crime of assault and battery becomes an aggravated assault and battery based on the following:

  • Whether the assailant used a deadly weapon
  • Whether the alleged victim is part of a protected class
  • The perpetrator's intent
  • The seriousness of the injury

The type of weapon used may make a difference in sentencing. States like Michigan do not single out particular weapons for different treatment. California specifies different punishments for different types of weapons. For example:

  • Assault with a caustic chemical is punishable by two to four years in prison.
  • Using deadly weapons is punishable as a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • An assault with a machine gun is punishable by four, eight, or 12 years in prison.
  • An assault with a semiautomatic firearm is punishable by three, six, or nine years in prison.

Prosecutors and courts also consider the victim's status when determining criminal charges and prison sentences. Many states, such as Colorado, increase the punishment for an assault and battery committed against public servants, such as police officers and firefighters.

Similarly, laws may carry harsher penalties for assaults or batteries committed against family members or others living with the offender. Such crimes may overlap with domestic abuse or violence laws.

More Questions About Assault and Battery Penalties and Sentencing? Ask an Attorney

Assault and battery are serious offenses. Sentencing varies depending on state statutes, the facts of a given case, and several other factors. If you're facing assault and battery charges, a criminal defense lawyer can help you identify potential defenses and a plan to minimize criminal penalties. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide critical legal advice on the following:

  • A defense strategy for pending charges of assault or domestic violence
  • Mitigating factors in your case that can reduce potential prison time, such as self-defense or consent
  • General information about criminal law and violent crimes
  • How criminal penalties may differ for a first-time offender compared with someone with an extensive criminal record

Get started today and find a qualified criminal defense attorney near you.

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