The Difference Between Assault and Battery

Understanding Washington’s Assault Laws

Assault and battery are similar offenses often penalized as separate crimes in several states across the country. However, in Washington, battery simply falls under the umbrella of assault crimes. Still, it’s worth recognizing the distinction in definitions, and the way assault crimes are punished.

Typically, battery involves offensive or harmful touching, whereas assault is an offense where one attempts to commit battery using threats. These definitions and consequential penalties vary by state.


Assault charges are categorized based on the level of harm the defendant intended to inflict. First-degree assault is the most severe and carries the strictest penalties.

First-degree assault is an act in which the offender is intending to inflict significant bodily harm. It is a Class A felony punishable by:

  • Up to life in prison
  • Up to $50,000 in fines

Second-degree assault includes crimes in which the actor intentionally caused harm to a pregnant woman and her child, intended to commit a felony, exposed someone to a destructive substance, strangled someone, or inflicted torture. It is a Class B felony punishable by:

  • Up to 10 years in prison
  • Up to $20,000 in fines

If there is evidence of sexual motivation, the crime is elevated to a Class A felony.

Third-degree assault occurs when an individual harms another with criminal negligence. It also covers crimes in which an actor assaults firefighters, law enforcement officers, public transportation workers, judicial officers, or health providers. It is a Class C punishable by:

  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Fourth-degree assault covers any unwanted touching. It’s a gross misdemeanor, and can be punished by up to 1 year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.

While battery isn’t explicitly named in Washington’s laws, the crime is nonetheless addressed with the state’s assault charges. If you’ve been accused of assault, contact Hester Law Group. Our attorneys will work diligently to build your case and fight the allegations. Call us at (253) 300-3034 to discuss your case during a free consultation.