Criminal battery is the unlawful touching of another person. A common example of battery would be hitting someone after getting into an argument. However, even the lightest touch could be considered battery if it was done with the intent to harm, injure, annoy, or offend.
Assault and battery are often used together, but in some states, they may be separate criminal offenses. The difference between assault and battery is that assault does not need to include touching or physical contact. However, someone could be charged with both assault and battery, depending on the circumstances and the state's laws.
Depending on the jurisdiction, criminal battery charges generally involve intentionally or unlawfully touching someone else. For example, under California law, battery is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon" another person.
Physical contact with another person does not have to cause serious injury for battery to occur. Unlawful touching can include the lightest touch of the victim's clothing. Even if there was no intent to harm someone, offensive contact, like groping someone over their clothing, could be considered battery. Even if the touching was not direct, like throwing something, spitting, or pushing someone else into the victim, it could be considered battery if the defendant caused the contact.
Simple battery is generally a misdemeanor. Depending on the state law, a conviction for battery may result in up to a year in jail and a fine. Any criminal conviction will go on your criminal record, and a background check will show you were found guilty of battery. Talk to your criminal defense lawyer for legal advice about plea negotiations to keep your record clear.
Battery can be elevated to a greater offense and be charged as a felony. Situations that may be aggravating circumstances involving battery could include:
When battery causes serious bodily injury, it may result in felony criminal charges. The severity of the injury's effect on the charges will depend on the jurisdiction and could include any serious impairment or harm, including:
A felony conviction could mean facing more than a year in jail and fines. A felony conviction for aggravated assault or battery has more serious consequences and could limit your rights to own a gun, make it harder to get a job, or limit where you can live.
Domestic violence is among the most common types of criminal battery. Domestic battery is often a separate criminal charge because of the close relationship between the alleged victim and perpetrator. Depending on the state, domestic violence can involve battery between:
Many jurisdictions have a mandatory arrest policy, where the police have to make an arrest if there is evidence of domestic violence. A domestic battery arrest may also lead to confiscation of your firearms. In many jurisdictions, the prosecutor and judge can take action against you, even without the alleged victim's help or consent.
After an arrest or conviction, you could also be subject to a protective order or restraining order to limit contact and keep you out of your home. The penalties for a domestic battery conviction can include:
There are legal defense options for anyone accused of assault or battery. In some cases, defendants may be victims of false accusations by former partners. However, even if you did hit or assault the alleged victim, you may still have an affirmative defense against criminal charges.
Self-defense or defense of others is generally an affirmative defense to assault and battery charges. If the defendant reasonably believed they were in immediate danger of harm, and used no more force than necessary, they may have a valid claim of self-defense.
Defense of others may also be an affirmative defense, even if you were mistaken. For example, if you saw someone getting hit and punched the striker, and then someone stepped out with a camera and said they were making a movie, you may still have a valid defense claim if you had a reasonable belief that someone else was in danger.
Talk to your criminal defense attorney about the best defense strategies for your case. Experienced criminal defense lawyers can identify the weaknesses in the prosecutor's case against you and negotiate for reduced charges or challenge the evidence in court.