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What Is ‘Battery’ under English Common Law, and Can You Pursue Damages?


Video Transcript

“0:00 What is battery under English common law?

0:02 A battery under the English common law

0:06 is an intentional tort where you

0:08 intentionally cause another person in

0:11 this case the victim a harmful or

0:14 offensive touching which would not be

0:17 something that was socially acceptable.

0:19 For example, if you rushed against

0:21 someone in a subway in New York that’s

0:23 something that would be acceptable and

0:25 normal in the community of New York but

0:29 brushing up against somebody in a subway

0:32 and touching them in a part of their

0:34 body that would not normally be touched

0:37 would be deemed something that could be

0:38 harmful or offensive and therefore you

0:41 would have a cause of action for an

0:42 intentional tort of battery.”

Battery is one of the seven types of intentional torts and can fall under criminal and civil law. Let’s explore what battery is with Ehline Law and personal injury attorneys.

What Is ‘Battery’ under English Common Law?

Battery is an intentional act involving touching or applying force to another person in an offensive or harmful manner. In simple words, battery is harmful or offensive contact with another individual without their consent. If such a contact occurs, it can lead to civil charges, criminal charges, or both. However, if a plaintiff agrees to such an act, the defendant is not liable.

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The court determines whether such an act is offensive by determining if the same act would be offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities.

Elements of Battery

The following are the critical elements of a battery:

  1. Intent: Intent doesn’t necessarily have to be criminal. It could be non-criminal intent to cause physical injury or harm to another.
  2. Contact: It needs to be non-consensual contact with an individual or their clothing. Playing contact sports does not constitute battery because the players in the game consent to the consequences arising from their participation in the activity.
  3. Harm: The battery must result in actual harm, including physical, emotional, or mental harm.

In cases where the plaintiff does not suffer actual damages, they may claim nominal damages.

Types of Criminal Battery

The difference between civil and criminal battery is the intent, and criminal battery requires a criminal intent to do wrong. It is important to note that the victim often sues a person charged with criminal battery in civil courts for the same incident.

Common or simple criminal battery is a misdemeanor, and with repeated offenses or the specific nature of the act, the punishment under criminal law can be more severe. For example, in some states, a second simple battery or a third may lead to a felony charge.

Aggravated Battery

Unlike a common battery, aggravated battery involves the use of a dangerous weapon which is why the penalties are much greater. It involves causing serious bodily injury or permanent disfigurement.

Aggravated battery, in most cases, is a felony. Battery against protected people, such as children, the elderly, and government servants, fall under aggravated battery. 

Other aggravating factors that could turn a misdemeanor into a felony include battery in public places, protected places, or school zones.

Domestic Battery

Domestic battery refers to domestic violence or unwanted physical contact between spouses, family members, children, and those living in the same house. If a person receives a conviction for domestic battery, they may face additional consequences, such as restraining orders, firearm restrictions, and more. 

In cases of domestic violence, even at the victims’ request, many states do not drop battery charges against the perpetrator as there is a risk of a repeat episode.

Sexual Battery

This is the type of crime involving unwanted sexual contact but does not lead to rape. It includes non-consensual touching of an individual’s genitals or intimate parts, with or without clothing, against the victim’s will. Some jurisdictions require a purpose to constitute a sexual battery, including arousal, gratification, abuse, or humiliation of the victim.

Examples of a sexual battery may include:

  • Touching the victim’s buttocks
  • Forcing a kiss on the victim’s mouth
  • Grabbing the victim’s breast
  • Forcing the person to touch the perpetrator’s intimate body parts.

Sexual battery can either be a misdemeanor or a felony. Under the criminal justice system, the defendant may face felony penalties if they physically restrained a person, used fraud to accomplish their sexual goals, or battery against a child.

A misdemeanor for sexual battery may carry a prison sentence of up to one year, and felony charges for sexual battery may have a much longer prison sentence. For example, in Tennessee, the defendant may face up to 30 years in prison for aggravated sexual battery is a class B felony.

Difference between Battery and Assault

The terms assault and battery are sometimes used interchangeably, but the two are different in nature. Unlike battery, which involves harmful or offensive contact, there is no such requirement for assault.

An assault is an act that intends to cause an apprehension of harmful or offensive contact, meaning there must be an intent that causes fear in the victim. Threatening words do not constitute an assault, but if followed by threatening action, it becomes an assault. Under criminal law, acting purposely or knowingly to cause apprehension of harmful or offensive contact is criminal assault.

Depending on the seriousness of the assault, it may be a misdemeanor or a felony. Aggravated assault is a felony across the United States and goes beyond the intention of frightening the victim and involves a much more sinister intent. For example, the intent to kill, rob, or rape a victim falls under aggravated assault.

Pursuing Compensatory Damages for Assault and Battery

Since assault is a threatening action, compensatory damages are typically small unless there is an injury following the assault, for example, running away from the assault and falling down a flight of stairs. 

The cost of pursuing assault lawsuits is not worth the time and money unless the defendant carries out an outrageous act that can lead to punitive damages. It is important to speak to an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your case and possible legal options.

In the case of battery, the victim suffers actual harm, which is why most battery cases lead to civil liability and legal action in courts.

The District Attorney will not compensate the victim for aggravated assault or battery caused by the defendant. Fighting for such acts in civil court is the only way for the victim to recover compensation for their loss.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

If you’ve suffered injuries due to battery, assault, or someone else’s recklessness, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation. Learning more about your rights as an injured victim and discussing with an attorney about recovering compensation is important.

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