In both criminal and civil law, the term “battery” refers to any intentional act of touching or applying force to the body of another person in a harmful or offensive manner and without consent.

The term covers a wide range of physical contacts and each state has specific statutes which govern battery.

What is the Difference between Assault and Battery?

Although the terms battery and assault are often lumped together, there are distinct differences between battery and assault.

Battery refers to any intentional act which causes harmful or offensive contact while assault is based on threatening battery or causing another individual to fear or be apprehensive of an impending or immediate battery. In most cases, assault is followed by battery and the defendant can be charged with both.

What are the Different Types of Battery?

Battery is classified into different categories such as:

  • Simple Battery: This refers to any unauthorized contact or use of force against another individual which results in offensive touching or physical injury.
  • Aggravated Battery: This refers to battery which results in severe injuries and a defendant can be charged with this type of battery in certain cases such as when deadly weapons are used. In most jurisdictions, the defendant must have intended to cause injury or harm in order to be charged with aggravated battery.
  • Medical Battery: Most medical malpractice claims involve some form of negligence but nearly all states have laws which require the doctor to obtain a patient’s informed consent before providing non-emergency treatment. 
    • If the doctor fails to adequately inform the patient and obtain their consent, they can be held liable for a medical battery for the unauthorized touching or handling of the patient’s body.

What is the Difference between Civil and Criminal Battery?

If an individual commits the act of battery, they can face both civil and criminal liability for that one act. A civil battery is an intentional tort in which even though the defendant had no intent to cause injury, they still had the knowledge that the act could result in harm to another individual.

Regardless of the outcome in a criminal trial, the plaintiff can file a civil lawsuit against the defendant for compensatory damages. Thus, the elements of civil battery are:

  1. The intent to commit the act even if there was no intent to cause injury;
  2. Making non-consensual contact; and
  3. The harm which resulted from the contact which includes not just physical harm but also mental harm or emotional harm.

Even if the plaintiff did not experience major harm, they can still recover compensatory damages and these damages can be assessed by a jury.

Criminal battery is different from civil battery and the difference is often based on intent. The perpetrator must have intended to cause harm to victim in order to be charged with criminal battery while in civil battery, the perpetrator must have only had the intention to perform the act which resulted in injury or harm. Depending on the specifics of the crime, criminal battery can be either a misdemeanor or felony.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you were in any situation which involved battery, it is important to immediately consult with a local personal injury lawyer or criminal law attorney who can inform you of the various laws covering battery which can vary from state to state and also represent you in court if necessary.