Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Under the criminal law in most states, battery is the intentional touching of – or use of force to touch – another in an offensive or injurious manner. Some of the states as well as the Model Penal Code also define battery to include situations where the actor knew or had reason to know his actions would cause the contact. For example, an actor who sets his dog upon another individual causing injury is guilty of battery.

Classifications of Battery

The crime of battery can be classified as either simple or aggravated. Simple battery is the knowing or intentional use of force to cause injury or an offensive touch, and is generally a misdemeanor. For example, one punch from a perpetrator that causes mild bodily injury is usually considered simple battery. Likewise, holding a victim in order to touch them in a non-consensual, sexual way is considered simple sexual battery.

Aggravated battery is generally classified as a felony and involves the intentional or knowing infliction of serious bodily injury upon the victim. Under state law, serious bodily injury involves death, extreme pain, disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of a bodily function. Punching another repeatedly causing injury and extreme pain is usually considered to be serious bodily injury under most statutes.

Aggravated Battery – Elevating Factors

Certain factors under state law can be used to elevate a battery to an aggravated one, even when serious bodily injury is not present. When the victim is a member of a protected class, such as a police officer, teacher, judge, prosecutor or child, the crime will be charged as an aggravated battery, regardless of the injury caused. Likewise, if the battery occurred in a public place such as a school zone or a transit station, or involved a deadly weapon, the battery will be considered an aggravated one, even if there was no serious injury.


Some states, like Pennsylvania, do not charge battery as a separate offense under their crimes code. Instead, battery in both the simple and aggravated forms has been incorporated into the laws dealing with assault.