Criminal Battery


The difference between battery as a crime and battery as a civil tort is merely in the type of intent required. A criminal battery requires the presence of mens rea, or a criminal intent to do wrong, i.e., to cause a harmful or offensive contact. Accordingly, a defendant found guilty of the crime of battery is often sued by the defendant in a civil action for the same offense/incident.

Simple criminal battery is most often prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Repeat offenses or the specific nature of the offense may warrant more severe treatment. For example, in some states, a second or third offense against the same individual is a felony. In cases of domestic violence, many states do not permit battery charges to be dropped against the defendant, even at the request of the victim, because of the potential for repeat or escalated harm.

Most sexual crimes include elements of battery (since they are basically non-consensual contacts), and some states actually have penal codes listing the specific crime of “sexual battery.”

Aggravated battery is a simple battery with an additional element of an aggravating factor. This is most often the addition of a weapon (whether use was real or merely threatened), and is almost always a felony offense. Other aggravated batteries include those committed against protected persons (children, the elderly or disabled, or governmental agents); those in which the victim suffers serious in-jury; or those occurring in a public transit vehicle or station, or school zone, or other protected place. These are all aggravating factors that will enhance simple misdemeanor batteries to the level of felonies.