The legal term battery refers to the criminal act of intentionally touching or applying force to the body of another person, in an offensive manner and without their consent. Although assault and battery are often used together or interchangeably, these two are separate crimes.
While assault in an attempt or a threat that causes another person to be apprehensive of imminent bodily harm, battery is the actual act of making contact with the other person and causing bodily harm.
In general, simple battery is defined as unauthorized or unlawful use of force to the body of another person, which results 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 doesn’t involve serious bodily harm (like a broken arm).
Battery often occurs in the context of physical altercations but it can 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, or when any unwanted physical contact is made.
The crime of simple battery is governed by individual state statutes, which means 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.
This commonly occurs when the victim is a child, woman, elderly person, or police officer. Aggravated battery may also occur when a deadly weapon is used. 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.
Misdemeanor crimes are those that are considered to be less serious in nature. In most states, misdemeanor crimes are punishable by up to one year spent in a county jail facility, and a fine that is usually capped around the $1,000 mark. The specific punishments for misdemeanor crimes vary from state to state, as well as according to what class of misdemeanor a specific crime falls under.
Generally, simple battery will be a criminal misdemeanor charge. However, as previously mentioned, this can vary by jurisdiction due to the fact that the crime of simple battery is governed by state statutes.
Under common law, which is the system of law based on judges’ decisions and case law, simple battery was considered to be a misdemeanor. Common law serves as a template for criminal charges, and does not generally consider written law. However, individual jurisdictions may alter the common law template which could cause criminal charges to vary from state to state.
Simple battery as a misdemeanor crime will usually result in small criminal fines, and/or a maximum jail sentence of one year. Additionally, misdemeanors may be eligible for expungement from a criminal record after some time, given that the defendant has fulfilled their sentencing terms.
The more severe forms of battery, such as aggravated battery or sexual battery, will usually result in felony charges. Felony charges carry more severe legal consequences and punishments.
What are the Elements of Simple Battery and What are Some Common Defenses to a Simple Battery Charge?
In order to prove the crime of simple battery, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s intent, as well as the existence of these 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.
An example would be a person signing up for boxing classes and signing a waiver or consent form. Should they get hit in the face, there will not be a battery charge because the application of force was consented to, and was not unlawful.
Because of this, there are some defenses that may be utilized to lessen the severity of criminal battery charges, or may even outright erase criminal battery charges. Some of these include:
- Self Defense: A person is usually allowed to utilize sufficient force for protection against apparent harm. However, the use of self defense must be proportional to the threat. Thus, deadly force couldn’t be used in response to a non deadly threat.
- Coercion: This may be used if the defendant was actually coerced to commit the battery under threat of greater harm. An example of this would be if a person told you to punch another person or else they would shoot you.
- Consent: Consent as a defense is commonly used in sports situations, such as the aforementioned boxing class example.
- Intoxication: Although it may only be utilized in a few cases, intoxication may be a valid defense based on the intent element of the battery.
- Lack of Evidence: If the prosecutor is able to prove the above mentioned elements beyond a reasonable doubt, either through presentation of evidence or witness testimony, the charge of simple battery will be unsuccessful.
If you are facing a simple battery charge, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. They can educate you on your state’s specific statutes regarding simple battery. Additionally, they can help you determine if any defenses are available to you given the specifics of your case. Finally, the attorney will also represent you in court as needed.