I threw a book across the room not too long ago. I won’t name it, but I will say that the reason behind it was the author’s obvious failure to do any sort of research whatsoever into the legal profession. The terminology was wrong (and I’m talking basic terminology—the kind anyone would know after watching a single episode of Law and Order), the legal climate was wrong, everything was wrong, and after one egregious mistake too many, my hand flew back and the book went sailing.
(I did pick it back up a few seconds later and ultimately finished it. The ending was quite lovely).
A lot of authors write about the justice system, which I know can be confusing and complicated. Casey Anthony, anyone? Yeah, just kidding. I’m not touching that one. But I did figure I’d do a series on the blog where I break down some of the more commonly used/misused legal terms out there. Hey, I’m still paying bar dues, so I figure I might as well use my law degree for something. First up, let’s talk about the different types of reimbursement contracts between managed care organizations and healthcare providers!
Sorry, that’s what my brain automatically defaults to. Let’s make it a little more interesting and talk about assault and battery, which, IMO, are the two most misused legal terms out there. Think about it. How many times on TV, in movies, in books, in real life, does a person get hit or kicked or beat up and complain about being assaulted? All the time, right? We all accept physical bodily harm as assault … only it isn’t.
Assault: An intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent.
Battery: The offense of battery occurs when a person: 1. Actually and intentionally touches or strikes another person against the will of the other; or 2.Intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.
Do you see the difference? In an assault, there isn’t any physical harm. There’s a threat of physical harm, serious enough to put someone in fear that violence is about to happen, but there is no actual strike or blow to the person’s body. If I stand in front of you, threatening to beat you up, waving my arms around and being otherwise intimidating, I’m assaulting you. As soon as I throw the first punch, I’ve now committed battery. If you go to the police, I can be charged with both crimes—assault and battery.
But what if I have a gun in my hand when I threaten you, and then I pistol whip you? Now I’ve committed aggravated assault and aggravated battery because there’s a deadly weapon involved.
So there you have it: A very, very simplified version of assault and battery. There are, of course, a number of other kinds of battery—felony battery, aggravated battery on a pregnant woman, domestic battery, on and on and on. If you have any questions on those, let me know and I’ll be glad to do my best to answer them. And please be honest: what do you think of this potential series? Helpful? Not helpful? Kind of boring? Any other suggestions?
[Legal disclaimer I have to add: The above was not legal advice, and I am not your lawyer. This was for informative/illustrative purposes only. All definitions are based on Florida law, so while most states use roughly the same definitions, you should always check the statute of the state in which your story is set for the true and correct definition. For further reference on assault and battery in the state of Florida, see Fla. Stats. 784.011-085].