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Battery is use of force against another, which results in harmful or offensive contact. [1] Generally a battery results from an act intended to cause such contact. There are three basic elements to criminal battery: 1) the defendant's conduct (act or failure to act); 2) his mental state (i.e. intent to kill or injure, criminal negligence, etc.); and 3) the harmful touching of the victim.[2] Like assault, there may be different types of battery, with the most common being simple battery, aggravated battery, and sexual battery (e.g. rape).

Simple battery is not accompanied by aggravating circumstances and does not result in serious bodily harm. A simple battery is usually categorized as a misdemeanor, but may be considered a felony in certain situations (i.e. if the victim is a minor).[3]

Aggravated battery is a criminal battery that occurs in circumstances that make the crime more severe. Such aggravating circumstances include the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of the battery or the fact that the battery results in serious bodily harm. Aggravated assault is usually classified as both a misdemeanor and a felony.[4]

Model Penal Code

The Model Penal Code consolidates battery with various offenses involving danger to the person. Therefore, rather than having an individual section that addresses battery, the Code intertwines battery with assault, murder, kidnapping, or sexual offenses.[5]

Variation by Jurisdiction


California defines battery under section 242 of Title 8, Chapter 9 of its Penal Code as any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.[6] In general, under section 243, a battery is punishable by a fine of $2,000 USD and/or by imprisonment not exceeding six months.[7] However, if the battery is committed against a peace officer in the performance of the officer's duties, a guilty defendant may be fined up to $10,000 USD and/or imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year or state jail for up to three years.[8] Furthermore, if the battery results in serious bodily harm, the defendant is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for up to one year or state jail for up to four years.[9] Section 243(e) addresses spousal battery, giving a general punishment of a fine up to $2,000 USD or imprisonment in county jail for not more than one year. This section also includes alternative conditions of probation (i.e. the defendant must reimburse the victim for reasonable expenses related to the crime).[10]

California addresses sexual battery under section 243.4. This section states that "[a]ny person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery."[11] Anyone guilty of sexual battery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year and a fine not exceeding $2,000 USD, or by imprisonment in a state jail for up to four years and a fine not exceeding $10,000 USD.[12]

New York

Under the New York Penal Code, battery is consolidated with assault. For example, under section 120.10 (Assault in the First Degree), the Code outlines first degree assault as assault "[w]ith [the] intent to disfigure another person seriously and permanently, or to destroy, amputate or disable permanently a member or organ of his body, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person."[13]

Common Defenses

Battery shares many defenses in common with assault.

Foreign Jurisdictions

See Crimes



  1. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009)
  2. Wayne R. LaFave & Austin W. Scott Jr., Criminal Law § 7.15, at 685 (2d ed. 1986)
  3. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009)
  4. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009)
  5. Model Penal Code §§ 210-213 (2009)
  6. CA Penal Code, § 242, Battery Defined (2008)
  7. CA Penal Code, § 243(a) (2008)
  8. CA Penal Code, § 243(c)(2) (2008)
  9. CA Penal Code, § 243(d) (2008)
  10. CA Penal Code, § 243(e) (2008)
  11. CA Penal Code, § 243.4, Sexual Battery (2008)
  12. CA Penal Code, § 243.4, Sexual Battery (2008)
  13. NY Penal Code, § 120.10 (2009)