The crime of battery is defined as a deliberate harmful or offensive touching of someone else without his or her consent. Although we tend to think of battery as a violent act, such as a punch in the nose or a kick to the stomach, a light brush of the hand can be battery in some cases. A man who deliberately rubs his hand across a woman’s breast without her consent, for example, commits battery, even if the woman isn’t physically injured, because the touching is highly offensive to the woman.
There are several definitions of a criminal assault. In some states, an assault is defined as attempted battery, plus the ability to actually carry out that battery. Other states define assault as a deliberate threat to commit battery, even though the person doesn’t intend to carry out the battery.
Suppose Adam intends to scare Steve by jumping out of the bushes at him as though he were going to hit him. Adam does not intend to hit Steve, nor does he touch Steve at all. In states that define assault as attempted battery, Adam is not guilty of assault, since he never intended to touch Steve—that is, he never intended to commit battery on Steve, only frighten him. But in those states that apply the second definition, Adam is guilty of assault because he deliberately threatened to commit battery on Steve.
Robbery is the use of force, or the threat of immediately using force, to take money or property from a person. Shoving s gun into someone’s ribs and demanding all of his or her money is an obvious example of robbery, in this case armed robbery. The force can de directed against either the victim or a member of his o her family. For example, a father and daughter are walking down a street one night and are accosted by a robber. The robber threatens to hurt the daughter if the father doesn’t hand over his wallet. This is a robbery, although the force is directed at the daughter, not at the father.
Stealing a wallet from an unconscious person generally isn’t considered a robbery (unless the thief knocked the person out), since the victim doesn’t surrender his or her money in the face of any force or threats. This doesn’t mean that it’s not a crime.