The term battery refers to a specific type of criminal charge involving the unauthorized application of force against another person’s body. This unauthorized application of force results in offensive touching, or actual physical injury. Generally speaking, a charge for battery will result in misdemeanor criminal charges.
What this means is that battery is generally punishable by criminal fees, as well as time spent in jail. For misdemeanor battery, this is usually less than one year, to be served in a county jail facility and not a federal prison facility. More serious forms of battery, or repeat instances of battery, will likely result in more serious legal consequences. An example of this would be receiving felony charges instead of simple misdemeanor charges.
There are different types of battery, based on each state’s laws regarding the matter. Generally speaking, these different types of battery are classified according to the class of the victim. Some common examples of this concept include, but may not be limited to:
- Battery against law enforcement;
- Battery against a child;
- Battery against a spouse; or
- Battery against an elder.
Battery charges may be considered aggravated, depending on the victim’s class. Additionally, battery can be further classified into different categories. These categories include:
- Simple Battery: Simple battery is considered to be any unauthorized contact or use of force against another person, resulting in offensive touching and/or injury;
- Aggravated Battery: To reiterate, aggravated battery refers to battery against a victim who belongs to a specific class. Aggravated battery may also refer to battery which results in severe injury; or, if the defendant utilized a deadly weapon to commit the act of battery. Most jurisdictions have determined that the defendant must have intended to cause injury or harm in order to be charged with aggravated battery; and
- Medical Battery: Nearly every state maintains laws which require that doctors obtain informed consent from the patient, prior to providing any non-emergency treatment. Medical battery refers to the unauthorized touching or handling of a patient’s body by a doctor, or other medical professional.
Is There Any Difference Between Criminal Battery And Civil Battery?
To reiterate, the determining difference between criminal battery and civil battery is the defendant’s intent. The defendant must have intended to cause harm to the victim, in order to be charged with criminal battery; alternatively, civil battery requires that the defendant only intended to perform the act, which then caused injury or harm. Another way of putting it is that civil battery is an intentional tort; although the defendant may not have intended to cause injury to the plaintiff, they still had the knowledge that the specific act could result in harm to the victim.
Regardless of the outcome of the criminal trial, the plaintiff may file a civil lawsuit against the defendant. The purpose of doing so would be to pursue compensatory damages, as assessed by a jury, even if the harm experienced by the victim was not considerable. Although the exact definition of what constitutes civil battery varies from state to state, the general elements of civil battery include:
- The intent to commit the act, even if they did not intend to cause harm;
- Making non-consensual contact; and
- The harm resulting from the contact can be classified as either physical harm, mental harm, and/or emotional harm.
Are There Any Defenses To a Battery Charge?
Available legal defenses for a battery charge will vary, generally based on whether the claim of battery is being pursued with a civil lawsuit or as a crime. Each state has its own laws associated with battery. However, some general defenses that are used for battery cases include:
- The Claim Cannot Be proven: Each element of the battery must be proven. Once again, the defendant must possess intent. If it can be proved that the aggressor did not have intention, battery cannot be proven;
- The Defendant Was Involuntarily Intoxicated: The defendant might have been unable to form intent if they were intoxicated, due to alcohol or drugs. However, voluntary consumption would not be a defense; this defense may only work if the person unknowingly became intoxicated;
- Temporary Insanity: Mental illness or some other medical condition which creates an incapacity for forming intent may serve as a defense. However, a plea of insanity is unlikely to succeed. A successful claim would likely result in the defendant being committed to psychiatric care;
- Simple Mistake: The defendant may not have meant to commit battery at all, and the incident was an accident;
- Self Defense: If the defendant can prove that they verbally threatened to harm or actually harmed the person claiming to be their victim, this assertion could serve as a defense. The person claiming self defense must prove that they were legitimately afraid that they would be harmed. They must also prove that they did not act first, and that they had no other choice but to retaliate and commit battery;
- Defense of Others: Instead of proving that they themselves were afraid of being harmed, the defendant must prove that they had a reasonable fear that someone else would be harmed if they did not act with battery;
- Defense of Property: The defendant will need to prove that they had a reasonable fear that their property would be damaged, if they did not act by committing battery;
- Consent: If the defendant can prove that the alleged victim consented to the act of battery, this could serve as a defense. An example of this would be contact made while playing a sport;
- Privilege: Some people are granted the privilege to commit battery, simply based on their profession. An incredibly common example of this would be how a police officer is allowed the privilege to choose to use force as part of their job duties; and/or
- Mistaken Identity, Or Alibi: If the accused proves that they were not at the scene of the battery, and they have an alibi to prove their claim, this assertion could serve as a defense. Another defense would be if the alleged victim misidentified their attacker.
How Is Battery Different From Assault?
While battery and assault are generally mentioned together, there are distinct and considerable differences between the two terms. Assault only involves the threat of harm, while battery results in actual physical contact between the assailant and their victim. Battery refers to any intentional act causing harmful or offensive contact, while assault is defined by the threat of battery. Another way of defining assault would be causing another person to reasonably fear or be apprehensive of impending or immediate battery.
Generally speaking, assault precedes battery; as such, the defendant may be charged with both assault and battery. Some jurisdictions further define assault as an attempted battery; or, as intentional creation of fear of harm in the victim.
Battery charges are often commonly combined with assault charges in order to form a single charge. This charge is labeled as assault and battery. Each state has its own criminal statutes associated with assault and battery. What this means is that both acts could result in prosecution by state courts. Additionally, criminal statutes may vary in terms of the specific conduct and intent necessary for the act to be prosecuted as a crime.
Do I Need An Attorney For Battery Charges?
If you are being accused of battery, you should consult with an experienced and local criminal lawyer as soon as possible. A local criminal defense attorney will be best suited to helping you understand your rights and legal options according to your state’s specific laws.
Your criminal defense attorney will also be able to determine whether any legal defenses are available to you,based on the specifics of your case. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.