Assault vs Battery: Full Guide in 2022

You may be wondering what the difference is between assault and battery. In Canada, there actually isn’t a criminal differentiation between assault versus battery, as battery is not defined in the Canadian Criminal Code. Battery is not a legal concept in Canadian Criminal Law.  Instead, it might be better to consider the difference between assault and assault causing bodily harm.

What is Battery (Assault Causing Bodily Harm)?

Battery is a criminal offence in a number of countries. In the UK, battery is a common-law offence where according to Actus reus, a defendant unlawfully applied force to a victim, and as with men’s rea, the defendant applied unlawful force recklessly or intended to do so. If charged with battery in the UK, it would appear as ‘assault by beating’. In the US, battery is defined as the use of force against another that results in offensive or harmful contact. The term battery is commonly used in media and television, which is why many Canadians associate it and compare the term battery with assault.

Assault Causing Bodily Harm

In Canada, the criminal offence Assault Causing Bodily Harm (Section 267 of the Canadian Criminal Code) is the most comparable criminal offence to battery. Assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm is an indictable offence that is liable for up to 10 years in prison. Defendants charged with assault causing bodily harm have either: carried, used, or threatened to use a weapon (or weapon imitation), caused bodily harm to the complainant, or choked, suffocated, or strangled the complainant. Bodily harm is defined as any damage that interferes with a person’s health and wellbeing for more than a transient nature, such as requiring medical care or a leave from work.

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What is Assault?

The legal definition of assault, as defined in section 265 of the Canadian Criminal Code, is when a person applies, attempts, or threatens to apply force  to another person without their consent. Assault does not have to end in physical force being applied to another person, as the threat of force or actively carrying a weapon is enough to lead to the offence of assault, as assault can be both physical or psychological.

Assault is classified as a criminal act, whether the threat was carried out or not. Because all that is legally required for an assault charge to be laid is the threat of nonconsensual force being applied, assault charges have a wide array of defences and consequences. If you have been charged with assault, visit our article on How to Beat an Assault Charge in Canada.

Difference between Assault and Assault causing bodily harm?

One difference between assault and assault causing bodily harm is the absence of consent. A person cannot consent to assault causing bodily harm, so, for example, if two adults agreed to participate in a fight those actions and the use of physical force are consensual; however, if one party was to cause bodily harm to the other, that could lead to a charge of assault causing bodily harm. Consensual fights are not considered assault, even though there would be force applied to one another. Fighting programs such as MMA or Boxing are not considered assault, as both parties consent to the fight and are supposed to stop before any serious bodily injury occurs. If a consensual fight progressed to causing serious bodily harm, the hurt party is no longer able to consent to that. Bodily harm is defined as any hurt or injury that interferes with the health or comfort of an individual. Examples of bodily harm may include broken bones, cuts and lacerations, head injuries, and other injuries of this nature. 

Another key difference between assault and assault causing bodily harm is that the crime is physical force and injury, not psychological damage. If someone were to threaten bodily harm to another, this would be considered assault, not assault causing bodily harm. 

What to do if charged with assault causing bodily harm in Alberta?

Assault causing bodily harm is a hybrid offence, meaning the Crown Prosecutor decides whether to charge the defendant as a summary or indictable offence. An indictable offence leads to much more serious punishments with up to 10 years imprisonment. If you have been charged with assault causing bodily harm, the first thing you should do is contact a trusted Alberta defense lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to talk you through the case and gain the best outcome.

Brian McGlashan is a criminal defence lawyer with over 25 years of experience in navigating the Alberta criminal courts. Contact McGlashan and Company if you’re charged with a criminal offence. We’re here to help.

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Brian McGlashan
Brian McGlashan, co-founder of McGlashan & Company was called to the Alberta Bar in 1995. Brian has appeared in all levels of Alberta Courts. Brian practices criminal law with a primary focus on Impaired Driving charges (DUI). Brian is a member of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association.

McGlashan & Company is an Edmonton Criminal Law Firm located just south of Edmonton’s historic Whyte Avenue.

Brian McGlashan has been defending DUI/Impaired Driving charges in Edmonton for over 20+ years.