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Elements of Criminal Battery

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What Is Criminal Battery?

Battery is a crime defined as the unlawful or unauthorized application of force to another person, resulting in contact that is either harmful or offensive to the victim. The crime of battery is usually connected with the crime of assault, which is an incomplete or attempted battery.

The crime of battery is usually classified as a misdemeanor crime, which results in the legal consequences of monetary fines and/or jail time of up to one year. Some types of battery crimes are considered felonies, such as aggravated battery

Battery is also considered to be a general intent crime. This means that the defendant need not intend any specific type of harm to the defendant. Rather, they must simply demonstrate a general intent to harm or offend the person in order to be found guilty. For example, if the defendant intended to strike the victim’s head but instead struck their arm, they could still be found guilty of battery.  

What Are the Elements Required to Prove Battery?

If a defendant is facing criminal charges of battery, the prosecution must present evidence that proves their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution must persuade the jury that the following elements have been satisfied:

  • “Unlawful or unauthorized application of force”: The defendant’s acts must be unlawful or unauthorized. If the victim has consented to the defendant’s actions, it will negate this element. Also, the application of force need not be severe; even a minimal application of force or contact will often satisfy this requirement.
  • “to another person”: The crime of battery only refers to contact with another person, although in some instances the victim recover damages to property which was attached or connected in some way to their body (for example, if they received damage to their suitcase which they were holding during the battery).
  • “Resulting in harmful or offensive contact”: The defendant’s acts must result in some form of harm or conduct that is considered to be offensive. Obvious examples of this are if the defendant has struck the victim’s body, or if they have engaged in inappropriate contact such as unwanted kissing or hugging.

When proving battery in a court of law, the jury must also consider the victim’s background when analyzing the above elements. Certain conditions may make the defendant’s actions harmful or offensive, even if they would not normally be considered to be so under normal circumstances. 

For example, giving a close friend or relative a hug might not considered a battery, as this is not normally thought of as offensive contact. However, hugging a stranger or a co-worker may be considered a battery, because in that social context a hug might be considered offensive.  

Are There Any Defenses to a Battery Charge?

One of the basic requirements of battery is that the defendant intended to commit the act in question. Therefore, any conduct or circumstances that would negate or cancel out the defendant’s intent would serve as a defense to battery. Some types of defenses that operate in this way include intoxication or insanity (the defendant is unable to make an intentional act due to the intoxication or insanity).

Another defense that may be available in a battery claim is self-defense or defense of property. According to this defense, it is possible that the above elements may have all been fulfilled and the victim may have actually suffered injury. However, the defendant will not be found guilty if they acted while defending themselves or their property. It is usually required that the defendant apply the same amount of force that they have been threatened with.  

Should I Hire a Lawyer to Pursue or Defend My Battery Charges?

If you have been the victim of a battery, you should contact a lawyer immediately. Your lawyer will be able to review the elements for battery and determine whether or not your claim would survive in court. Likewise, if you are being charged with battery, a criminal attorney can review the facts of the case in relation to the elements described above.

 

Photo of page author Adam Vukovic

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 10-18-2016 06:55 PM PDT

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