Many people think the words assault and battery mean the same thing and there is little difference in meaning whether they are used together or as single words.
Not true. In legal terms, assault is an attempt at, or threat of, force or violence and need not involve any actual physical contact. Battery is the actual employment of force. It is a useful distinction – without it, the holdup man who does not touch his victim might not be guilty of a crime.
Shaking your fist at your neighbor is assault, if he wants to get technical about it. But it’s not battery unless you follow it up by punching him in the nose, at which point it becomes assault and battery.
Each of the 50 U.S. states has a statute addressing assault.
Then there is aggravated assault. This usually is applied to someone who has intent to cause or causes serious bodily injury with indifference to the value of human life, or who causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon, or who attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.
Assault with a deadly or dangerous weapon is an attempt or offer to do bodily harm without justification or excuse by use of any instrument calculated to do harm or cause death. Pointing a loaded gun at someone is an example of an aggravated form of assault or an assault with a deadly weapon.
Generally assault with a deadly weapon requires that the weapon will produce death or grievous bodily harm. A hammer would qualify, as would a bottle, beer glass, rock or piece of pipe. It is not necessary that death or grievous bodily harm be inflicted.
An unloaded firearm
An unloaded pistol, when presented as a firearm and not as a bludgeon, is not a dangerous weapon or a means of force able to produce grievous bodily harm, regardless of whether or not the assailant knew it was unloaded. The key element of proof in that case is that the person responsible must be capable of committing the crime.
For that matter, if a person threatens another with a large knife, if the assailant is on crutches and can’t walk without them, and if the victim remains capable of moving around or escaping and is not trapped in any way, the knife is probably not considered a deadly weapon because the capability of using it for assault is absent.