What Is Battery Crime?

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The crime of battery is conduct that results in actual offensive or injurious contact between a perpetrator and a victim – though it does not have to cause an injury or leave any visible marks. In some states, battery is called assault. However, historically, assault and battery were two different crimes. Some states still keep them separate. When they are unique crimes under state law, assault is the threat of a harmful or offensive touching, or in other words, an attempted battery.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

You may be charged with a battery crime if you intentionally act in a way that causes a harmful or offensive touching with another person, whether or not that person suffers a physical injury.

Which Is Worse: Assault or Battery?

Whether an assault or battery charge is worse depends on your state law. Assault is often a lesser offense because there is no actual contact between the offender and the targeted victim. A minor assault could be a low-level misdemeanor, while a battery that causes harm could be a higher-level misdemeanor or felony. However, you cannot assume an assault charge will always be lower than a battery charge. If you are accused of threatening someone’s life with a firearm, this can be a felony offense. Meanwhile, in the same state, a battery that does not result in any bodily harm may only be a misdemeanor. Additionally, you are not always charged with one battery or assault offense. You may be charged with assault as a lesser offense along with a battery charge.

What Does It Mean to Be Charged With Domestic Battery?

Some states have the specific offense of domestic battery, which is commonly known as domestic violence or abuse. Domestic battery is typically an act of battery that occurs between individuals who have a personal relationship, such as:

  • family members – by blood, in-laws and by adoption
  • current or former spouses
  • current or former romantic or sexual partners
  • current or former household members
  • individuals who have children together

Domestic battery can bring additional or harsher penalties than a traditional battery offense that occurs between friends, acquaintances or strangers.

Is Battery a Felony?

Battery is usually a misdemeanor offense, unless there are aggravating factors. Common factors that may turn battery into a felony include:

  • Using a deadly weapon, including a knife or firearm
  • Causing serious bodily injury
  • Harming a minor
  • Having a previous record of battery or another violent offense

Whether someone can be charged with a felony battery depends on the aggravating factors as defined in your state's law, and is usually at the prosecutor's discretion. A prosecutor will review the facts of your case and determine whether there is enough evidence to prove you committed a felony battery beyond a reasonable doubt.


About the Author

Victoria E. Langley is a legal content writer living in the Pacific Northwest. She holds a B.A. in philosophy from Northern Illinois University and a J.D. from the John Marshall Law School of Chicago. She has worked as a clerk for a boutique law firm handling breach of contract litigation, a corporate document reviewer, and a legal counselor for a transactional law clinic. She now focuses on translating legalese into everyday language for firms around the country. Her work has appeared on the U.S. News Law Directory and many law firm's sites. Learn more from her website, langleylegalwriter.com