The Difference Between Assault and Battery in New Jersey

Many people who have watched Law & Order or any other crime drama have heard of “assault and battery” charges but probably don’t understand what they mean. Just because you hear it on the television doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a comprehensive understanding of the criminal law itself. 

In most cases, assault and battery are combined, but they are separate charges in the legal code with different criteria. Here’s how assault and battery work in New Jersey:


Assault charges can be levied against a person who is threatening to or has caused harm to another person. What you get charged with depends on the circumstances around the assault itself.

A simple assault can occur when you attempt to cause or do cause (either intentionally or through reckless behavior) bodily harm to someone. You can also be charged with this if you’re menacing another person by threatening imminent physical harm but don’t actually carry it out.

In New Jersey, if you’re charged with simple assault, you can be held in jail for up to six months and have to pay a $1,000 fine if convicted.


Battery charges are a little more straightforward. Battery always requires physical contact with a person or an extension of themselves, like a piece of clothing or something they hold in their hand.

In battery cases, you’ll often be charged with what is sometimes referred to as “aggravated assault” or is simply listed as a second, third, or fourth-degree assault. The degree to which you’re charged depends entirely on the severity of the crime committed.

Something you should understand when differentiating between the two is that you can be charged with assault if you commit battery, but you aren’t necessarily charged with battery because you committed an assault.

What if I Fight Back?

Whether you need to worry about an assault or battery charge depends on your circumstances and the evidence available in the case. In general, though, you can still be charged with assault and battery, even if you’re defending yourself in a fistfight, though New Jersey treats such situations with greater leniency.
To find out more about what differentiates assault from battery or discuss your case with one of our criminal lawyers in Hamilton Township, NJ, call The Law Office of Zapicchi & Liller LLP today!