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Is there a difference between assault and battery?

When you watch TV shows chronicling police officers or lawyers, you may hear the phrase "assault and battery." This is usually used to describe one person physically harming another by striking him or her with something.

In Colorado, the terms assault and battery mean two different things and bring unique consequences. What difference is there between a charge of assault or battery?

Battery (now menacing) is the threat of harm

Under Colorado law, battery is now considered menacing. It means making someone fearful through the threat of imminent bodily harm. An example is telling an adversary that you will come back and beat him or her up. If the person calls the police and there is evidence supporting the fearfulness, you may receive a battery charge. If you use a weapon or say you will, even if you do not have one, it elevates the charge to a felony.

The sentencing for menacing is as follows:

  • Class 3 misdemeanor, resulting in up to six months in jail and a fine levied maxing out at $750
  • Class 5 felony resulting in up one to three years in prison and a max fine of $100,000

Assault is the act of harm

Assault is the physical act that causes harm and injury. If you went home and actually beat up the person who you threatened, you have committed assault. When charged with assault, it is essential to know there exist varying degrees of the crime, each carrying a separate and loftier sentence.

Third-degree assault is a misdemeanor resulting in up to 18 months in jail and a fine of $1,500. First- and second-degree assaults classify as felonies. They range from Class 6 which carries the least amount of jail time (1.5 years) down to Class 3 which gets you up to 12 years in prison.

Knowing what qualifies as assault and menacing helps you understand why you receive charges under one and not the other, or both. 

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