In legal terms, battery refers to a specific type of criminal charge which involves the unauthorized application of force against another person’s body. This unauthorized application of force results in offensive touching, or actual physical injury. It is common that a charge for battery will result in misdemeanor criminal charges.
What this means is that battery is generally punishable by criminal fees, as well as time spent in jail. Misdemeanor battery generally carries a jail sentence of less than one year, which is to be served in a county jail facility and not in a federal prison facility. More serious examples of battery, or repeat instances of battery, will most likely carry more serious legal consequences. An example of this would be receiving felony charges instead of simple misdemeanor charges, which results in longer sentences and higher fines.
There are different types of battery. These differences are based on each state’s laws regarding assault, battery, and the like. In general, these different types of battery are classified by the class of the victim. Some common examples of such classification include, but may not be limited to:
- Battery against law enforcement;
- Battery against a minor;
- Battery against a spouse; or
- Battery against the elderly.
Battery charges can also be considered aggravated, depending on the victim’s class. And, battery can be further classified into different categories depending on defining factors. These categories are:
- Simple Battery: Simple battery is considered to be any unauthorized contact, or use of force against another person, which results in offensive touching and/or injury;
- Aggravated Battery: As previously mentioned, aggravated battery refers to battery against a victim who belongs to one of the aforementioned classes. Aggravated battery can also be used to refer to battery resulting in severe injury; or, if the defendant used a deadly weapon in order to commit the act of battery. Most jurisdictions state that the defendant must have intended to cause injury or harm in order for them to be charged with aggravated battery; and/or
- Medical Battery: Most states have instituted laws which require that doctors obtain informed consent from the patient, before they provide any non-emergency treatment. Medical battery is a term that refers to the unauthorized touching or handling of a patient’s body by a doctor, or other medical professional.
To reiterate, as this is a defining factor, the defendant must have intended for the contact to occur. What this means is that unintentional or accidental contact will not generally constitute criminal battery charges.
It is also important to reiterate that battery charges are not always required to involve a malicious or violent attitude. Most statutes include offensive touching when defining what constitutes elements of proof for battery.
What Are The Elements Of Criminal Battery?
In order to prove that criminal battery has actually occurred, the prosecution will be tasked with proving the following elements:
- The person accused of criminal battery engaged in a voluntary physical act;
- This voluntary physical act involved the application of force to another person. It is important to note that it is not required for the defendant to apply this force directly. The force used can be applied indirectly; an example of this would be when the defendant directs an attack dog to harm the victim; and
- This application of force resulted in contact that was either harmful or offensive to the victim. Again, the application of force does not need to be significant. A small amount of force will be sufficient for these purposes, provided that the resulting contact is harmful or offensive.
Whether a form of contact is considered to be offensive or harmful largely depends upon the circumstances. If general society finds that the contact is offensive or harmful, the contact is a battery. However, it is worth mentioning that not all contact is considered to be offensive or harmful. An example of this would be how giving an enthusiastic hug to a close relative is not generally regarded as offensive or harmful; the same applied to a stranger could be considered offensive or harmful.
Once again, as a crime, the crime of battery is categorized as a general intent crime. What this means is that the defendant must be aware that their actions are in violation of the law; they did not need to intend for a specific result. The amount of general intent required to commit a battery is a general attempt to harm or offend. An example of this would be if the defendant intended to harm another person by striking them in the face. However, they ended up striking the person on the arm instead. The defendant could still be convicted of battery under these circumstances.
What Are Some Defenses To Criminal Battery? How Are These Defenses Proven?
There are some cases in which the defendant can claim a defense to the charge of battery. Some examples of potential defenses include:
- Self Defense: When claiming self defense as a defense to battery charges, the defendant must have only used an equal amount of force that was used against them in order to be successful. Additionally, the defendant could not have acted first, but rather in retaliation;
- Intoxication: In order for intoxication to serve as a successful defense, the intoxication must generally be involuntary intoxication. This means that the defendant was not responsible for their intoxication and therefore their actions;
- Coercion: If the defendant was forced to commit a battery because they were under threat of harm, either to themselves or a loved one, this fact could serve as a defense;
- Privilege: Specific classes of people are granted the right to commit battery, simply by virtue of their job. An example of this would be how police officers can get away with committing battery when they claim that it was essential to performing their job as directed; and/or
- Consent: A person cannot charge another person with battery if they authorized the offensive or harmful touching. A common example of this would be participating in contact sports, such as American football.
Defense of property can sometimes be used as a successful defense for battery charges. However, deadly force cannot be used to defend one’s property, unless the intruder has first used or threatened to use deadly force.
Proving criminal battery can be accomplished in the following ways:
- Physical Evidence: An example of this would be how marks found on a person’s belongings can help recreate the scene or progression of the battery incident;
- Witness Testimony: Bystanders and witnesses may be able to provide insight regarding how the incident occurred. This testimony is considered to be especially helpful when attempting to prove which party involved escalated the conflict with physical force;
- Victim Statement: The victim’s own statements may confirm a defendant’s innocence, such as if they provide contradictory statements;
- Police Reports: Police reports are generally considered to be reliable. However, it is imperative to read over the report and ensure all facts are correct before relying on such a report to prove a person’s guilt or innocence; an/or
- Medical Reports: Medical reports and testimony provided by expert medical witnesses can reveal defining details, such as whether a weapon was used and the total extent of the damage caused. Again, it is important to verify the factuality of all reports before relying on them to prove someone’s guilt or innocence.
Do I Need An Attorney For Criminal Battery Defenses?
If you are being accused of committing criminal battery, you should consult with an experienced and local criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A local and experienced criminal defense attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your state’s specific laws regarding battery.
An will also be able to determine whether there are any legal defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case. Finally, an attorney will be able to represent you in court, as needed, while protecting your rights.