The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the Northern Hemisphere and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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.
Specific rules regarding battery vary among different jurisdictions, but some elements remain constant across jurisdictions. Battery generally requires that:
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.
Battery is not defined in the Canadian Criminal Code. Instead, the Code has an offense of assault, and assault causing bodily harm.
Battery is a common law offence within England and Wales.
As with the majority of offences in the UK, it has two elements:
As such, even the slightest of touches can amount to an unlawful application of force. However, it is assumed that everyday encounters (such as making contact with others on public transportation) are consented to and not punishable.
Much confusion can come between the terms 'assault' and 'battery'. While in everyday use the term assault may be used to describe a physical attack, this is indeed a battery. An assault is causing someone to apprehend that you will commit a battery. This issue is so prevalent that the crime of sexual assault would be better labelled a sexual battery. This confusion stems from the fact that both assault and battery can be referred to as common assault.
There is no separate offence for a battery relating to domestic violence, however the introduction of the crime of "controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship" in Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, has given rise to new sentencing guidelines that take into account significant aggravating factors such as abuse of trust, resulting in potentially longer sentences for acts of battery within the context of domestic violence.
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.
See Crown Prosecution Service Sentencing Manual for case law on sentencing.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.