ⓘ Battery (crime)


ⓘ Battery (crime)

Battery is a criminal offense involving unlawful physical contact, distinct from assault which is the act of creating apprehension of such contact.

Battery is a specific common law misdemeanor, although the term is used more generally to refer to any unlawful offensive physical contact with another person, and may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Battery was defined at common law as "any unlawful and or unwanted touching of the person of another by the aggressor, or by a substance put in motion by him." In most cases, battery is now governed by statutes, and its severity is determined by the law of the specific jurisdiction.


1. Generally

Specific rules regarding battery vary among different jurisdictions, but some elements remain constant across jurisdictions. Battery generally requires that:

  • the actor intends or knows that their action will cause the offensive touching.
  • an offensive touch or contact is made upon the victim, instigated by the actor; and

Under the US Model Penal Code and in some jurisdictions, there is battery when the actor acts recklessly without specific intent of causing an offensive contact. Battery is typically classified as either simple or aggravated. Although battery typically occurs in the context of physical altercations, it may also occur under other circumstances, such as in medical cases where a doctor performs a non-consented medical procedure.


2. Specific countries


Battery is not defined in the Canadian Criminal Code. Instead, the Code has an offense of assault, and assault causing bodily harm.


There is no distinct offence of battery in Scotland. The offence of assault includes acts that could be described as battery.


2.1. Specific countries Canada

Battery is not defined in the Canadian Criminal Code. Instead, the Code has an offense of assault, and assault causing bodily harm.


2.2. Specific countries Whether it is a statutory offence

In DPP v Taylor, DPP v Little, it was held that battery is a statutory offence, contrary to section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. This decision was criticised in Haystead v DPP where the Divisional court expressed the obiter opinion that battery remains a common law offence.

Therefore, whilst it may be a better view that battery and assault have statutory penalties, rather than being statutory offences, it is still the case that until review by a higher court, DPP v Little is the preferred authority.


2.3. Specific countries Mode of trial and sentence

In England and Wales, it is a usually tried as a summary offence under section 39 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. However, where section 40 applies, it can be an additional charge on an indictment.

It is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.

See the Crown Prosecution Service Sentencing Manual for case law on sentencing.


2.4. Specific countries Russia

There is an offence which could be loosely described as battery in Russia. Article 116 of the Russian Criminal Code provides that battery or similar violent actions which cause pain are an offence.


2.5. Specific countries Scotland

There is no distinct offence of battery in Scotland. The offence of assault includes acts that could be described as battery.


2.6. Specific countries United States

In the United States, criminal battery, or simple battery, is the use of force against another, resulting in harmful or offensive contact, including sexual contact. At common law, simple battery is a misdemeanor. The prosecutor must prove all three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • to the person of another
  • resulting in either bodily injury or an offensive touching.
  • an unlawful application of force

The common-law elements serve as a basic template, but individual jurisdictions may alter them, and they may vary slightly from state to state.

Under modern statutory schemes, battery is often divided into grades that determine the severity of punishment. For example:

  • Aggravated battery generally is seen as a serious offense of felony grade. Aggravated battery charges may occur when a battery causes serious bodily injury or permanent disfigurement. As successor to the common law crime of mayhem, this is sometimes subsumed in the definition of aggravated assault. In Florida, Aggravated Battery is the intentional infliction of great bodily harm and is a second degree felony, whereas battery that unintentionally causes great bodily harm is considered a third degree felony.
  • Simple battery may include any form of non-consensual harmful or insulting contact, regardless of the injury caused. Criminal battery requires intent to inflict an injury on another.
  • Sexual battery may be defined as non-consensual touching of the intimate parts of another. At least in Florida, "Sexual battery means oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object": See section 794.011.
  • Family-violence battery may be limited in its scope between persons within a certain degree of relationship: statutes for this offense have been enacted in response to increasing awareness of the problem of domestic violence.


2.7. Specific countries Kansas

In the state of Kansas, battery is defined as follows:

Battery. a Battery is: 1 Knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm to another person; or 2 knowingly causing physical contact with another person when done in a rude, insulting or angry manner.

2.8. Specific countries Louisiana

The law on battery in Louisiana reads:

§ 33. Battery defined Battery is the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another; or the intentional administration of a poison or other noxious liquid or substance to another.

3. Jurisdictional differences

In some jurisdictions, battery has recently been constructed to include directing bodily secretions i.e., spitting at another person without their permission. Some of those jurisdictions automatically elevate such a battery to the charge of aggravated battery. In some jurisdictions, the charge of criminal battery also requires evidence of a mental state mens rea. The terminology used to refer to a particular offense can also vary by jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions, such as New York, refer to what, under the common law, would be battery as assault, and then use another term for the crime that would have been assault, such as menacing.


4. Distinction between battery and assault

The overt behavior of an assault might be Person A advancing upon Person B by chasing after them and swinging a fist toward their head. The overt behavior of battery might be A actually striking B.

Battery requires 1 a volitional act that 2 results in a harmful or offensive contact with another person and 3 is committed for the purpose of causing a harmful or offensive contact or under circumstances that render such contact substantially certain to occur or with a reckless disregard as to whether such contact will result. Assault is an attempted battery or the act of intentionally placing a person in apprehension of a harmful or offensive contact with their person.

In some places, assault is the threat of violence against another while aggravated assault is the threat with the clear and present ability and willingness to carry it out. Likewise, battery is undesired touching of another, while aggravated battery is touching of another with or without a tool or weapon with attempt to harm or restrain.

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