Criminal battery is defined as the unlawful application of physical force to another person’s body, which results in harmful or “offensive” touching. Generally speaking, the defendant must have intended for the contact to occur; that is, unintentional or accidental contact will not constitute criminal battery charges.
Note that battery charges don’t always have to involve a malicious or violent attitude; most statutes also include offensive touching when defining the elements of proof for battery. Battery is usually a misdemeanor charge, resulting in criminal fines and jail sentence of up to one year. Aggravated, or felony, battery (i.e., battery with a deadly weapon, battery with the intent to commit another crime such as robbery, or battery on a woman, child, or police officer) can result in felony charges.
While battery is a serious criminal offense, there are certain situations when a person can claim a defense to the charges. These can include:
- Self-defense: Self-defense is usually a defense to battery charges; however, person can only use an equal amount of force that was used against them.
- Intoxication: Intoxication is sometimes a defense (especially involuntary intoxication, where the defendant was not responsible for their intoxication)
- Coercion: It may be a defense if the defendant was forced to commit a battery under threat of harm to themselves or a loved one
- Privilege: This is where the battery is “justified” because the person was in the process of making a citizen’s arrest
- Consent: A person can’t charge another with battery if they have authorized the offensive or harmful touching. For example, if a person says “you can hit me”, they cannot then file charges if the person actually hits them
Also, defense of property can sometimes be a defense for battery charges. However, deadly force can’t really be used to defend one’s property, unless the intruder has first used or threatened to use deadly force. Some states and jurisdictions may list other types of defenses.
Criminal battery defenses can be proved through a number of different evidentiary devices and methods. These can include:
- Physical evidence: For example, marks on a person’s belongings can sometimes help the police to “recreate” the scene or progression of a battery incident
- Witness testimony: By standers and others can often provide insight as to how the altercation or incident unfolded. This is especially helpful when trying to prove which party escalated a conflict into physical force
- Statements by the victim: The victim’s own statements can sometimes confirm a defendant’s innocence
- Police reports: These are generally reliable, since they are typically made at the scene of a crime or at the precinct shortly thereafter
- Medical reports: Medical reports and testimony by expert medical witnesses can reveal important information such as whether a weapon was used, and the total extent of the damage
Criminal battery laws are one area of law that can vary widely from place to place. Different regions may enforce different standards, especially when it comes to legal theories such as self-defense or defense of one’s property.
Because criminal battery defense laws can be so different in each area, it’s in your best interest to hire a criminal attorney if you need help defending against criminal battery charges. Your attorney can assist you by researching the criminal statutes in your area and by examining all the evidence related to your case. A qualified lawyer can also inform you as to your legal options in terms of having the charges dropped or the sentences reduced.