How is battery defined?
Under the criminal law in most states, battery is the intentional touching of - or use of force to touch - another in an offensive or injurious manner. Some of the states as well as the Model Penal Code also define battery to include situations where the actor knew or had reason to know his actions would cause the contact. For example, an actor who sets his dog upon another individual causing injury is guilty of battery.
Classifications of Battery
The crime of battery can be classified as either simple or aggravated. Simple battery is the knowing or intentional use of force to cause injury or an offensive touch, and is generally a misdemeanor. For example, one punch from a perpetrator that causes mild bodily injury is usually considered simple battery. Likewise, holding a victim in order to touch them in a non-consensual, sexual way is considered simple sexual battery.
Aggravated battery is generally classified as a felony and involves the intentional or knowing infliction of serious bodily injury upon the victim. Under state law, serious bodily injury involves death, extreme pain, disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of a bodily function. Punching another repeatedly causing injury and extreme pain is usually considered to be serious bodily injury under most statutes.
Aggravated Battery - Elevating Factors
Certain factors under state law can be used to elevate a battery to an aggravated one, even when serious bodily injury is not present. When the victim is a member of a protected class, such as a police officer, teacher, judge, prosecutor or child, the crime will be charged as an aggravated battery, regardless of the injury caused. Likewise, if the battery occurred in a public place such as a school zone or a transit station, or involved a deadly weapon, the battery will be considered an aggravated one, even if there was no serious injury.
Some states, like Pennsylvania, do not charge battery as a separate offense under their crimes code. Instead, battery in both the simple and aggravated forms has been incorporated into the laws dealing with assault.