Battery Basics

For criminal and civil law, “battery” refers to the intentional contact with or touching of, or the use of force to, the body of another individual in a harmful or offensive way and without permission. The battery is usually confused with an assault, which is an act of threatening a battery, or of putting the other person in fear or apprehension of a forthcoming and immediate battery. The battery is mostly followed by an assault, which is why the terms are always used transitionally or the combined of, as in “assault and battery.”

The person commits a battery when he acts intentionally whether to cause harm or offensive contact or to do imminent apprehension of that contact and a dangerous or offensive contact happens. Offenders may have to face both criminal charges and civil liability for one act. Read Assault, Battery, and Intentional Torts to know more.

Civil Battery or Tort

A battery is considered an intentional tort, which differs to an act that leads from negligence. The elements to create the tort of battery are similar to criminal battery, except that the criminal intent may not be present. The following are the elements of civil battery:

  • Intent, which means there is no criminal intent to injure or harm but the intent to commit the act;
  • Contact which refers to non-consensual contact with the person or his/her effects like clothing; and
  • Harms/Damages which mean that the battery that caused the actual injuries but not restricted to physical harm only.

The essential intent is just to touch or make contact without permission to make a tortuous battery to happen. It does not be an intention to commit mistake and the wrongdoer do not need to intend to cause the specific harm that is inflicted. Non-consensual touching or making contact with is all that matter.

A battery can be as direct as striking or hitting somebody in the face with one’s fist or as indirect as setting a trap that endangers the person hours or days after it is established. The battery can also be unwanted sexual contact or other non-consensual making contact that causes the harm. The damages that are granted in the battery cases differ and they depend on the severity of the harm or injuries.

Criminal Battery

The difference between the battery as a crime and battery as a civil liability is with the kind of intent that is needed. The criminal battery need to have the mens rea, or the criminal intent to do wrong, such as to cause harm or offensive contact. A defendant who is found guilty of the crime of battery is usually sued by the defendant in a civil action for similar offense or incident. A simple criminal battery is generally prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The repetition of the offenses or the nature of the offense may merit more serious treatment. For instance, in some states, a second or third offense against the same person is a felony. For domestic violence cases, many states do not allow battery charges to give up against the defendant, although at the request of the victim due to probable repetition or escalated harm.

Many sexual crimes involve the elements of battery because they are non-consensual contacts and there are several states with penal codes about particular crime of “sexual battery.”

Aggravated battery refers to the simple battery with another element of an aggravating aspect. This is the addition of a weapon, whether it is used as to threaten or real, and it is always a felony offense. Other aggravated batteries are when they are committed against the protected persons such as the children, the disabled, older persons, or the government authorities and agents; people who are victims of severe injury; or individuals who are happening in a public transit vehicle or station, school zone, or other protected place. These are all irritating aspects that will enhance simple misdemeanor batteries to the felony levels.

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