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Assault and Battery - Battery

defendant intent negligence criminal

Battery, which requires physical contact with the victim, is broken down into three separate elements: the defendant's conduct, his mental state, and the harm done to the victim. Although many statutes do not define battery with specificity, or even list these elements, it is a widely recognized principle of law that each of them must be met.

Conduct. A defendant's conduct in a case of battery encompasses the physical acts he performs in committing the crime. Battery may be committed either by directly touching a person or indirectly applying force to him. It is clear that intentionally striking someone should be classified as a battery, but it is less clear that a battery charge should result from an injury not directly caused by the defendant. The latter result is often reached by modern courts, however. Consequently, one may commit a battery by causing injury through poisoning. One may also be liable for directing another person to make a physical contact. Battery, therefore, may result when a person is forced to touch something that is repulsive to him or when one is injured in a dangerous situation intentionally created by the defendant. Additionally, if the other elements of battery are present, some cases have held persons criminally responsible when neglect of a duty to act causes injury to another—for example, when a lifeguard fails to warn swimmers of dangerous undercurrents.

Mental state. A defendant is held to be culpable in a battery charge if he acts with either an intent to injure or with criminal negligence. In some jurisdictions it is sufficient if he commits an unlawful act, regardless of his intent. Culpability is apparent when one acts with intent to injure, but one is usually not liable for committing a battery when he possesses no intent to injure. Hence, it is not a battery to grab someone in order to rescue him or to prevent him from doing something dangerous.

The use of criminal negligence to supply the requisite intent for battery is not always accepted, for negligence is not normally sufficient to prove the mental state needed for the criminal act. Some courts state that criminal negligence supplies the intent, thus equating this negligence with a simple intent to injure. Other states have statutes that make battery a minor misdemeanor when one acts in reckless disregard of the risk of causing injury to another.

If criminal negligence is held sufficient to warrant a charge of battery, the term negligence requires definition. For criminal liability, more than ordinary lack of due care should be required. Most jurisdictions defining batteries based on negligence require actions that create an unreasonable and high risk of harm to others. Although there is no single definition, it is generally accepted that the risk should be one a reasonable person would be clearly aware of, even if the defendant does not perceive it. It may seem wrong to criminally punish someone for harmful acts he does not intend. Nevertheless, one should be responsible for actions that would be recognized as harmful by most persons and that outrage and injure the general public.

In only a few jurisdictions is the unlawful-act standard applied to battery cases. The question of intent is again applicable, in connection with both the injury and the act itself. One who is consciously acting unlawfully should be responsible for the results of his actions, regardless of his intent. However, if he is unaware that he is acting unlawfully, it is more difficult to argue that criminal liability should automatically follow. Some states have dealt with this problem by ruling that liability results if the act is bad in itself (malum in se) but not if it is simply prohibited conduct (malum prohibitum); malum prohibitum acts, however, may be sufficient if the defendant is either criminally negligent or intends to cause injury.

Harm to the victim. The final element necessary for battery is the harmful result to the victim. This element is satisfied by virtually any type of bodily injury; indeed, many states have statutes that permit any offensive touching to qualify as a battery. Some cases have held that forcing a child to touch parts of the defendant's body created criminal responsibility, even when the defendant himself did not do any actual touching. In such situations, the defendant is viewed as having caused the act just as if he had touched the victim, since he initiated and controlled the situation, and the victim felt personally violated by the defendant.

Aggravated battery. The crime of aggravated battery, punishable as a felony and specifically defined by statute, exists in many states. Examples of such crimes are actions taken with intent to kill or to rape. Usually, the defendant must have intended to cause the specific result; otherwise, the crime is considered as a regular battery charge. Batteries based on criminal negligence are generally not considered sufficiently egregious to warrant a felony charge. Where a defendant did not intend to commit a felony, it seems unjust to convict him of the more serious charge.

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almost 7 years ago

i think that you are right about all of this. People these days just don't care at all any more.