The following questions were submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the Champaign News Gazette.
What’s the difference between assault and battery? What are the penalties? If I’m convicted, can the record ever be expunged?
They’re two different things. You can commit an assault, or a battery, but they’re separate, distinct offenses. There is no such offense as “assault and battery.”
The Illinois Criminal Code divides crimes into two main categories: “offenses directed against property,” and “offenses directed against the person.”
Offenses against property include things like theft, robbery, burglary, arson, and disorderly conduct.
The main offenses against people include homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses, and “bodily harm.” Assault and battery are the two basic “bodily harm” offenses.
The Code says an assault is committed when someone “engages in conduct which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a battery.” It’s a threat—real or implied—of a battery, or an incomplete battery.
A battery is committed when someone “causes bodily harm to an individual,” or “makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.” To be criminal, the person must act “intentionally or knowingly without legal justification.”
Intent, then, is specifically required for a battery. You can’t inadvertently batter someone. Or, as Justice Holmes put it, “even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.”
Although it’s classified as a “bodily harm” offense, just contact can be enough. One case says a finger poke in the chest is a battery.
Simple assault is a Class C misdemeanor (maximum $500 fine and 30 days in jail). Aggravated assault, involving a long list of possible factors, is a more serious misdemeanor, or sometimes a felony. Some of those aggravating factors are assault committed with a firearm, while hooded or masked, against certain victims, or at certain locations.
Some victims that can make it aggravated assault are those age 60 or older, teachers, coaches, and athletic officials. Some of the aggravating locations, among others, are “public property” and NCAA events.
Simple battery is a Class A misdemeanor (maximum $1,000 fine; 6 months to 1 year in jail). It’s aggravated battery if there’s “great bodily harm,” or involves an aggravating factor. Most of the factors that can aggravate an assault can also aggravate a battery. All aggravated batteries are felonies. The public property factor, some say, turns too many simple batteries into felonies.
When a criminal record is expunged, it’s physically destroyed. It’s gone, so nobody can see it anymore. Such an extreme remedy is only possible if there’s no convictions anywhere on your record. Court supervision isn’t considered a conviction.
This means that supervision for misdemeanor assault or battery are the only records where you were fined or otherwise “sentenced” that you could possibly expunge. You can’t get supervision for a felony, and anything more than supervision is a conviction that prevents an expungement.
Sometimes, if a record can’t be expunged, it can be sealed. Sealing closes a record to the general public, but leaves it accessible to law enforcement. Because it’s less extreme than expungement, sealing misdemeanor convictions is often possible.
Except, you can’t seal convictions for “crimes of violence” like assault and battery, even if they were misdemeanors.
If it’s usually easier to seal than expunge, how can you expunge a record that can’t be sealed? Because your record’s cleaner—there’s no convictions.