While assault and battery are often used interchangeably to refer to the same crime, assault and battery are actually two separate crimes. A charge of assault and battery refers to a crime in which both of these separate crimes are committed.
Under criminal law, the crime of assault and battery is a combination of two crimes that generally arise simultaneously. As such, it is helpful to discuss the differences of the two crimes (assault and battery) before further discussing the combined crime of assault and battery.
Assault generally refers to the criminal act of intentionally causing another person to reasonably fear imminent bodily harm, or offensive contact. While this definition is subject to the specific laws of the jurisdiction hearing the case, the general standards include:
- The defendant must have intended to cause reasonable fear of harm in the victim, meaning that an accidental act will not generally result in assault charges, as the act must be intentional;
- The victim must have reasonably believed that they would be harmed or offended by the defendant’s conduct, meaning that the victim must be aware of or be able to appreciate the defendant’s potential to harm or offend them;
- This belief of impending injury must be both reasonable, and one that creates a sense of immediate and physical danger; meaning, this belief cannot be based on a future act, and must be more than a verbal threat; and
- The defendant must show a present intention to harm or offend the victim through use of a physical act.
Some common examples of assault include:
- Attempting to spit on the victim;
- Miming the act of hitting, punching, and/or kicking;
- Wielding a weapon in such a way that suggests the victim will be hit with that object; and
- Pointing a gun at the victim, regardless of whether the gun is loaded.
Battery involves the unauthorized application of force against another person’s body which results in offensive touching or actual physical injury. There are various types of battery dependent on each state’s laws, which are grouped according to the class of victim. An example of this would be how battery can be subdivided into the following categories:
- Battery against law enforcement;
- Battery against children;
- Battery against spouses; and
- Battery against the elderly.
Depending on the victim’s class, some battery charges are considered to be aggravated charges. Such charges will result in felony charges, instead of misdemeanor charges.
What Is A Simple Battery?
Simple battery is generally defined as unauthorized or unlawful use of force to the body of another person, resulting in an offensive touching or some other physical injury. Essentially, simple battery can be described as a less aggravated form of the battery crime, as it does not involve serious bodily harm.
Battery frequently occurs in the context of physical altercations, but it may extend to several other instances. An example of this would be when a doctor performs a non-emergency medical procedure without the patient’s consent.
The crime of simple battery is governed by individual state statutes, meaning that the severity of the crime is determined by your local jurisdiction. Additionally, a charge of battery may be elevated to a charge of aggravated battery if the victim’s injuries are considered to be severe, or if the victim belongs to one of the previously mentioned groups.
Aggravated battery may also occur when a deadly weapon is used. It is important to note that in most jurisdictions, an aggravated battery charge is contingent upon the defendant’s intent to cause the injury or harm that resulted from their actions.
In order to prove the crime of simple battery, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s intent, as well as the following three elements:
- There was an unlawful application of force;
- That made contact with another person without their consent; and
- That contact resulted in either bodily injury or offensive touching.
When Does a Simple Battery Become a Felony Battery?
To reiterate, simple battery is generally considered to be a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, a person may receive up to one year in county jail, and/or be required to pay a criminal fine. Felony battery, however, is a more serious criminal offense.
Felony battery is an unlawful use of force on another person which causes physical injury or an offensive touching. What makes this battery different from a simple battery is the seriousness of the injury, as well as whether another aggravating factor applies.
In a felony battery case, the application of force causes severe to permanent injuries, rather than minor injuries. Examples include, but may not be limited to:
- Broken bones;
- Severe cuts, lacerations, and/or stab wounds, frequently resulting in scarring;
- Unconsciousness or coma;
- Paralysis; and/or
- Burns, including chemical burns.
If the victim dies as a result of an attack, the charges will generally fall under the category of homicide crimes. However, this may depend on the actual circumstances of the incident.
A charge may increase from simple battery to felony battery if certain “aggravating factors” are present when the battery is committed. As was previously mentioned, aggravating factors can include:
- Batteries involving a dangerous weapon, such as a knife or a gun;
- Battery on a police officer, woman, elder, or child;
- Batteries involving a major discrepancy in physical size between the attacker and the victim; and
- Instances in which the attacker has had special training in combat or other uses of force.
It is important to note that felony assault is not the same as felony battery. Felony assault, or aggravated assault, is a criminal act committed with the intent to create reasonable apprehension of fear of offensive contact or injury. Unlike with felony battery, there does not need to be actual physical contact with the victim in order to be considered felony assault. In other words, the mere attempt to cause physical harm to the victim is enough to be charged with felony assault.
What Are The Legal Penalties For Felony Battery? Are There Any Defenses?
As a felony crime, felony battery charges can result in serious legal and criminal consequences, such as a sentence in a federal prison facility of one year or more. Depending on the severity of the battery, there may also be criminal fines.
A person who has been convicted of a felony, such as felony battery, may also face other consequences with a criminal record. It is important to note that it is considerably difficult to get a felony expunged, and it can impact the rest of your life such as affecting your right to vote and finding a job.
A person facing felony battery charges may have some legal defenses available to them, depending on the circumstances associated with their case. Some of these may be complete defenses to the charges, while others may result in a partial reduction of the sentence or criminal consequences. Examples of legal defenses include:
- Intoxication: In some cases, it may be a defense if the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the battery, especially in cases in which the person no longer has control over their actions due to the intoxication. This defense is generally applied as a reduction in sentencing;
- Self-Defense: It may be a defense to the battery charges if the person was acting in self defense. In order to claim this defense, the person must have been attacked first, and they must only respond with the same amount of force that was used against them;
- Duress: It may be a defense if a person was under duress, such as when someone was forcing or coercing them under the threat of harm. An example of this would be when a person is held at gunpoint and forced to commit a battery upon another person; and
- Prevention of Crime: Some jurisdictions provide a defense for felony battery if it was done in an effort to prevent another crime from occurring.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Felony Battery Lawyers?
You should contact a criminal lawyer near you regarding your felony battery charge immediately. Your attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options under your state’s specific laws, and can determine whether any defenses apply to your specific case. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.