The crime of battery is the unlawful application of force to another, resulting in either bodily injury or offensive contact. Battery is generally punished as a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor is generally punishable by up to one year of jail time.  

What Are the Elements of Criminal Battery?

To prove that criminal battery has occurred, the prosecution must demonstrate the following:

  • The defendant engaged in a voluntary physical act; 
  • The voluntary physical act involved the application of force to another person; 
    • The defendant need not apply the force directly. The force may be applied indirectly, such as when a defendant decides to “sic” an attack dog on the victim; and 
  • The application of force resulted in contact that was either harmful or offensive to the victim;
    • The application of force need not be significant. A small amount of force suffices, provided the resulting contact is harmful or offensive;
    • Whether a contact is offensive or harmful  depends upon the circumstances. If society finds the contact offensive or harmful, the contact is a battery.  Not all contact is considered offensive or harmful. For example, giving an enthusiastic hug to a close relative is not regarded as offensive or harmful. Doing the same thing to a stranger, however, can be considered offensive or harmful. 

The crime of battery is a general intent crime. This means that the defendant must be aware that they are acting contrary to law. The defendant need not intend a specific result. The general intent required to commit a battery is a general attempt to harm or offend. 

For example, if a defendant intended to harm another by striking that person in the face, but ended up striking the person on the arm, the defendant can still be convicted of battery.

What is the Difference Between Criminal Battery and Criminal Assault?

There is a relationship between criminal battery and criminal assault.  Criminal assault is a specific intent crime. The perpetrator of a specific intent crime commits an act with a specific intent. The specific intent for assault is the attempt to commit a battery. 

Criminal assault is an incomplete or attempted battery. For instance, it can happen when defendant commits an incomplete battery when the they intend to apply force to the victim, but “swings and misses,” or otherwise is unable to apply the force. A defendant also commits assault when the defendant intentionally creates a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the victim, of imminent bodily injury. Mere words are insufficient to create the apprehension.

What is the Punishment for Criminal Battery?

Criminal battery is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense. A misdemeanor offense carries a penalty of up to a year in jail. Defendant can also be fined or ordered to perform community service. 

A more serious type of battery is known as aggravated battery. The elements of the offense of aggravated battery include the elements of the offense for battery, plus one or more of the following:

  • In the course of committing a battery, defendant uses a weapon, such as a knife or gun;
  • The victim is a child, an elderly individual, a pregnant woman, or a law enforcement officer;
  • The defendant intends to commit murder, rape, sexual assault, or robbery; or
  • The bodily harm is serious.   

Aggravated battery may result in punishment as a felony. A felony is punishable by over a year in prison.

Are There Defenses to the Crime of Battery?

The crime of battery requires intentional commission of an act. If the defendant can demonstrate the act was not intentional, defendant may have a defense to the crime. The defendant may demonstrate the act was unintentional by showing:

  • The defendant was intoxicated, and therefore did not have the intent to commit the act constituting the criminal battery;
  • The defendant was acting under duress. A defendant acts under duress when another person forces defendant to act against defendant’s wishes by threatened or actual force. Duress can negate (erase) the intent to commit the act;
  • The defendant was acting in self-defense. The law permits an individual to act in self-defense by applying a level of force proportionate to that used on the individual. A defendant may plead self-defense by arguing that they committed a battery to defend themselves. The defense of self-defense will not be successful if the defendant used an amount of force significantly greater than that used against them. 

Do I Need the Help of a Lawyer to Defend Against a Battery Charge?

If you have been charged with criminal battery, you should contact a criminal defense attorney. An experienced lawyer near you can explain your rights, assist you in preparing a defense, explain your rights, and represent you in court. 

If you believe you have been the victim of a criminal battery, you should contact a criminal defense attorney in your area. The attorney can review your claim and advise you as to your rights and remedies.