The understanding and prosecution of assault and battery charges can differ according to jurisdiction. Such aspects include the role of consent, the distinction made between assault and battery, the ranking of various forms of assault and battery, and the widening of definitions of the offenses from the actual promise or performance of physical harm to more general forms of physical offense. Because assault charges can depend on both the intentions of the individual being prosecuted and the perception of the person who was affected, the weight given by a legal system to the two parts of this equation can determine the circumstances under which people are prosecuted for offenses.
The legal systems of countries such as England and India understand assault charges as referring to cases in which an individual feels that another person is posing an immediate and intentional threat through that person’s willed or careless actions.
American assault charges do not have to refer to the specific perceptions experienced by the person who is said to have experienced the assault, but only to the plausible proposal to commit an act of violent or offensive physical contact. In the penal codes of states such as California, where the definition of assault is codified in Penal Code 240 PC, assault is defined as an attempt to commit an act of battery.
An important aspect of the American legal understanding of battery exists in the form of a system of graded battery classified according to the severity of injury suffered and, therefore, the severity of punishment that is due. Simple battery can include any form of unwanted physical force being exerted on one person by another without requiring that any appreciable injury take place. Sexual battery can include any kind of unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature or involving a sexual organ.
Family-violence battery is self-descriptive, and aggravated battery constitutes those instances of battery found to be the most serious. Aggravated assaults will necessarily be considered felonies. Under English and Welsh law, on the other hand, battery is considered as one solid category, with distinctions for battery instead being divided between “assaults occasioning actual bodily harm” and “assaults occasioning grievous bodily harm.”
In order to prevent frivolous or unwarranted battery or assault charges, legal systems with some kind of understanding of assault and battery as an offense will include various exceptions meant to exclude from prosecution instances of the application of physical force being reasonably promised or made. One such defense against battery or assault charges can be found in the finding that consent was given by the target of force.
In the United Kingdom, however, the consensual application of physical force may be considered assault/battery if it exceeds the limits defined as reasonable. The latitude granted to the application or threat of physical force for purposes of self-defense, defense of property and the prevention of crime can also differ according to area. Under Ohio State law, only the detection of a threat by a homeowner is needed to justify the use of force.
In New Zealand, on the other hand, assault and battery charges have been filed against homeowners for actions taken against criminal intruders. Differing cultural and institutional practices help dictate what can be considered permissible, as in the use of caning punishments in Singapore or of corporal punishment by educators in some schools in the United Kingdom