How is battery defined?

Battery is defined as the offensive contact or intentional use of force or violence upon another person. The crime of battery can be classified as either simple or aggravated. Simple battery is a misdemeanor, whereas aggravated battery is generally categorized as a felony. If you need legal help for simple battery or aggravated battery charges, use the free tool below.

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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...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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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.

Now that you learned how is battery defined and what is battery legally, keep reading to find out the different classifications of battery.

If you’ve been arrested or charged with battery, just enter your ZIP code to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.

How is battery classified?

So, how bad is a battery charge? 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 offensive contact 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 harm upon the victim. In most cases, aggravated battery involves the use of a deadly weapon. Under state law, serious bodily harm 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. In most jurisdictions, aggravated battery requires the defendant to have had the intent to cause injury or harm.

Battery is often divided into two additional grades that determine the severity of punishment. Sexual battery may be defined as non-consensual touching of the intimate parts of another. Domestic violence or domestic battery refers to the crime of committing battery or bodily harm upon a spouse, domestic partner, or another family member in the same home. Sexual battery may also include forcing another person to touch an intimate body part of the perpetrator, which also incites sexual arousal.

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What are the elements of battery?

While each state has different criminal law statutes, here are the elements of battery in the United States:

  • Offensive physical contact with the victim by the defendant
  • the defendant’s knowledge that the action would result in offensive contact

What is the difference between assault and battery?

Battery and assault are usually combined together, but there is a difference between battery and assault. Battery includes intentional touching or applying force to another, while assault is only threatening battery or putting another person in fear that they will inflict physical harm. In most cases, assault is followed by battery, which results in multiple charges, such as assault and battery charges.

What are the elevating factors of aggravated battery?

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.

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What are possible exceptions?

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

What are some aggravated battery examples?

  • striking or threatening to strike a person with a weapon or dangerous object
  • shooting a person with a gun or threatening to kill someone while pointing a gun at the victim
  • battery with the intent to commit another felony crime such as robbery or rape
  • battery resulting in serious physical injury, including permanent disfigurement
  • battery against a member of a protected class (peace officers, healthcare providers, social services workers, or disabled and elderly person)

Battery is a very serious charge, and a conviction for this crime can seriously affect your life. You could face a lengthy prison sentence and be a convicted felon. A criminal defense lawyer can help you fight battery charge by investigating your case and asserting any possible defenses.

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