One of the most confusing aspects of the law is the way in which certain words are used. In many instances, the legal definition of a word may be very different from its everyday meaning to the average person. The primary reason for this reality is that, under the law, words must be defined very carefully and in such a way that they can be understood throughout a given jurisdiction. Failure to do so can cause significant confusion for law enforcement, judges, attorneys, juries, and defendants. A common example of a word used differently in casual conversation and legal terminology is the word “assault.” The meaning of assault according to the Illinois Criminal Code is not exactly what you might think it is.
When you talk about an assault in a normal conversation, you are most likely referring to a situation in which one party—an individual, military squad, or other group—attacked and inflicted violence on another party. “I saw the man assault that girl.” “The SWAT team conducted a nighttime assault on the suspect’s compound.” In most cases, its intended definition is pretty clear.
The criminal offense of assault, however, is much different. The casual definition that most people use for assault actually encompasses two separate offenses when considered from the perspective of the Illinois Criminal Code. What you consider assault is actually more likely to be assault and battery, and the legal meaning of assault depends on that of battery.
Assault and Battery
According to the law in Illinois, assault means knowingly placing another person “in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” So what is a battery? Battery is committed when a person knowingly and without justification “(1) causes bodily harm to an individual or (2) makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.” In short, battery is the actual violence inflicted, while assault is merely the actions leading up to the violence, causing the victim to believe that he or she is about to receive a battery.
Separate but Related Charges
While the two are often prosecuting in conjunction with one another—hence the common phrase “assault and battery”—they may also be charged separately. For example, if you, without provocation, throw a punch at another person, but your intended victim ducks out the way, you could still be charged with assault for your actions. You did not make physical contact, so no battery was committed, but the case could be made that your target was reasonably apprehensive about being punched.
On the other hand—continuing with the simplified example of a punch—if you throw a punch at a person whose back is turned and is unaware of your presence, and your punch lands, you could certainly be charged with battery. Assault, however, might be tougher, as your target simply received the battery without you creating reasonable apprehension.
Get the Legal Help You Need
Charges for assault or battery can range from a Class C misdemeanor all the way to a felony, depending on the circumstance of the case. If you have been charged, the impact to your life can be very serious. For assistance with your assault case, contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation at the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today.