battery (law) | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminal Law

Battery is a crime defined by unwanted physical contact, most often requiring that some harm be done to the victim.

Battery is a crime that is often associated with physical violence, but it can also include non-violent actions that cause harm to the victim. The concept of battery has evolved over time and varies by jurisdiction, but in general, it involves intentional and unwanted physical contact with another person.

The actus reus, or the physical element of the crime, in battery, is the unwanted touching or striking of another person. This can include anything from a light tap on the shoulder to a severe beating that causes serious bodily injury. The level of harm inflicted on the victim is a key factor in determining the severity of the crime.

In many jurisdictions, it is classified into different degrees based on the level of harm caused to the victim. For example, a battery that causes only minor injuries or no injuries at all may be considered a misdemeanor, while one that results in serious bodily injury may be classified as a felony.

In addition to the actus reus, the mens rea or mental state of the offender is also an important element. To be guilty of battery, the offender must have acted intentionally or recklessly, with knowledge that their actions would cause harm or offense to the victim. If the offender acted accidentally or without intent, they may not be found guilty.

It is worth noting that some jurisdictions recognize a form called “sexual battery,” which involves non-consensual sexual contact with another person. This crime can carry severe penalties, including imprisonment and lifetime sex offender registration.

Battery is often confused with the related crime of assault. While assault involves the threat of physical harm or the creation of fear in the victim, battery involves actual physical contact. However, some jurisdictions have merged the two concepts, creating a single offense of assault and battery.

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Last Modified: 04/10/2023


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