Civil Battery Defenses

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 What Is Battery?

Battery is a specific type of criminal charge which involves the unauthorized application of force against another person’s body. This force results in offensive touching, or actual physical injury. Generally speaking, battery will result in misdemeanor criminal charges, which will be further discussed later on.

What this means is that battery is generally punishable by criminal fees, and/or time spent in jail. This is generally less than one year, which is to be spent in a county jail facility and not a federal prison facility. However, it is important to note that more serious forms of battery or repeat instances of battery generally result in more serious legal consequences. Additionally, they can often result in felony charges instead of simple misdemeanor charges.

Not all jurisdictions define “battery” in the same way. Some jurisdictions define assault as an attempted battery, or as the intentional creation of a fear of harm in the victim. Because of this, battery charges are generally grouped together with assault in order to form a single charge, which is labeled as assault and battery.

To further define the distinction between assault and battery, an assault only involves the threat of harm, while battery requires actual physical contact to occur between the assailant and the victim.

There can be various types of battery, depending on the state and its specific laws which govern battery. These are generally grouped according to the class of victim. An example of this would be the crime of battery can be subdivided into other categories, such as:

  • Battery against a police officer;
  • Battery against a child;
  • Battery against a spouse; or
  • Battery against an elderly person.

Depending on the class of victim, some types of battery charges are also considered to be “aggravated” charges. What this means is that they will result in felony charges instead of misdemeanor charges. Examples of felony battery include battery against the previously mentioned groups of people, as well as battery that involves the use of a deadly weapon.

What Is a Civil Battery?

To reiterate, battery is generally defined as the intentional act of causing offensive contact or physical harm to a person, without that person’s consent to do so. Unlike an assault, you must actually make contact with the other person in order for a battery to occur. While battery is a crime, it is also a tort, which can expose you to civil liability in addition to criminal liability.

If you are being sued for civil battery, you must meet the elements of the tort in order to be found liable. Additionally, you may have a defense to the civil battery claim, which will be further discussed below. Generally speaking, if you are found liable for civil battery, you may be ordered to pay damages to the plaintiff for your actions.

While the definition of battery varies between the states, the following general elements must be met:

  • Intent to make contact with the victim; and
  • Taking action in order to cause physical harm or offensive touching.

Once again, battery can address a considerably wide variety of actions. An example of this would be how you can still be found liable for battery if you make contact with something that is connected to the person, which could include pulling on someone’s clothing. You could also be found liable for battery for spitting in someone’s face.

What Are Some Civil Battery Defenses?

If a lawsuit is filed against you for civil battery, you may have various defenses to the claim. This will largely depend on your state’s specific laws, and whether you have an excuse for the alleged battery.

One defense to civil battery would be that you were acting in self-defense. Self-defense is a broad term that is used to describe a person’s use of force, including deadly force, in order to protect themselves from an active threat or attack. Self-defense can also describe the use of force in order to protect one’s property from an ongoing robbery or burglary, which will be further discussed below.

Defense of others is also covered by self-defense principles if the person who is using such force is doing so in order to protect or aid a third party from an active attack. In order for the defense to become applicable in criminal law, the defendant must be charged with a crime of assault, battery, or murder and raise self-defense as a justification for their actions. Self-defense can also apply in civil lawsuits in which a defendant is being sued for assault, battery, and/or wrongful death.

Another defense would be that you were defending property. However, it is imperative to note that deadly force is generally not allowed. Defense of property is an affirmative defense that is used by a person in a lawsuit in order to state that they used reasonable force when protecting their property from harm. If the defendant can prove that they injured the plaintiff only because they reasonably believed that their property would be harmed if they did not injure them, the defendant may not be held liable for damages even though they admit that they injured the plaintiff.

Some other examples of common defenses to civil battery include:

  • You were acting to defend another person, as was previously mentioned when discussing self-defense;
  • You had consent to carry out your actions;
  • Denial that one or all of the battery elements occurred, including lack of intent;
  • You were performing a duty, such as when a police officer apprehends a suspected criminal; or
  • The plaintiff assumed the risk. What this means is that the plaintiff both knew and voluntarily accepted the risks and dangers associated with the conduct, and proceeded to engage in the conduct. An example of this would be when a person agrees to play contact sports.

What Are Some Civil Battery Penalties?

The plaintiff in a case for civil battery may be awarded compensatory damages. A plaintiff will generally be requesting some form of financial compensation from the party that is responsible for causing the accident. This is known as compensatory damages because they are compensating the recipient for the injuries that they suffered.

Generally speaking, there are two types of compensatory damage awards. Special damages and general damages are intended to restore the injured party to the position they were in before the harm or injury occurred. This most commonly includes damages that can be calculated, such as:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Property damage;
  • Loss of wages or earnings; and
  • Other quantifiable losses.

General damages may be awarded for losses that are not easily determined through monetary calculations, such as losses connected with:

State laws can vary considerably in terms of compensatory damages. An example of this would be how some states place limits on compensatory damages, especially general damages. As such, the amount that is awarded can vary based on your state laws, as well as the severity of the battery. Additionally, as the defendant, you could face punitive damages, which are intended to prevent the same conduct from happening again in the future.

Do I Need A Lawyer For Civil Battery Defenses?

If you have been sued for civil battery, it is advised that you work with an experienced personal injury attorney. Your personal injury lawyer can inform you of your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and potentially provide you with civil battery defenses. An attorney can also represent you in court as needed.


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