Aggravated Battery Laws and Penalties
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The crime of battery is the intentional touching of another in an angry manner or the intentional use of force or violence against another. Grabbing someone’s arm, pushing or punching a person or striking a victim with an object are all crimes of battery.
Simple and Aggravated Battery
Simple battery is the least serious form of battery and usually involves only minor injury, if any, and usually is a petty misdemeanor. Aggravated battery involves circumstances that make the crime more serious and usually is charged as a full misdemeanor or as a felony.
Examples of aggravated battery include:
- striking a person with a weapon or dangerous object
- shooting a person with a gun
- battery resulting in temporary disfigurement
- battery resulting in permanent disfigurement or other serious physical injury, and
- battery against a member of a protected class, such as a police officer, healthcare provider, social services worker, or developmentally disabled or elderly person.
Battery with a deadly weapon is treated as an aggravated battery in some states, and requires that the offender have used a deadly weapon in the commission of the crime. An object is a deadly weapon if it likely can cause death or great bodily harm. A gun and a large knife are, by definition, deadly weapons because they are inherently dangerous and even designed to cause injury.
Other objects, such as rocks, bricks, or even a boot can constitute a deadly weapon if the object is used in a manner likely to cause serious bodily injury or death. A person wearing a heavy, steel toed boot, for instance, could cause serious injury or even death by kicking another person with them. Beating someone with brass knuckles or a metal pipe also constitutes battery with a deadly weapon because the object used likely could cause death or severe injury.
Serious Physical Injury
Aggravated battery based on physical injury usually requires permanent disfigurement, such as permanent scarring to the face or other body part, or significant physical injury. The requirement of serious physical injury most often is listed as great bodily harm or substantial bodily harm and is defined as a serious risk of death, loss of or serious injury to a limb or bodily organ, or injury requiring surgery and/or a long rehabilitation period.
Proving the Case and Possible Defenses
In order for a defendant to be convicted of aggravated battery, the prosecutor or district attorney must prove every aspect of the crime (called the “elements” of the crime) beyond a reasonable doubt. The evidence must show:
- that the defendant intentionally applied physical force upon the victim, and
- that the attack was committed with a deadly weapon, or
- that the attack caused temporary disfigurement or serious physical injury.
If the battery was aggravated based on physical injury, the prosecutor must present specific evidence of the injury and its severity. In the case of temporary disfigurement, the evidence could include photographs of temporary injuries like bruises or scratches. In the case of more serious injury, the prosecutor may present testimony from a doctor about the injuries and treatment required, or testimony from the victim about the pain and recovery process.
If the battery was aggravated based on use of a deadly weapon, the prosecutor’s case must include specific evidence about the weapon and how it was “deadly.” If not a deadly weapon by definition, evidence of the object used and the serious injury inflicted may be enough to establish use of a deadly weapon – for instance, evidence that an attack by a defendant wearing heavy work boots resulted in serious internal abdominal injuries would establish the boots as a deadly weapon.
Defendants charged with aggravated battery have the usual defenses available to all defendants, starting with “You’ve got the wrong person, it wasn’t me.” In addition, a defendant can claim self defense or defense of others and present evidence that the defendant was defending himself or another person from an attack by the alleged victim. That defense may involve showing that a weapon actually was in the victim’s possession or that the victim struck the first blow.
Other possible defenses are that the defendant’s actions were purely accidental and that he had no criminal intent; or an insanity defense – that the defendant is mentally ill and did not have the capacity to control his behavior or to understand what he was doing or that his actions were unlawful.
Penalties for Aggravated Battery
Aggravated battery based on temporary disfigurement is a misdemeanor, which usually is punishable by up to one year in jail. Aggravated battery based on serious physical injury or use of a deadly weapon is a felony punishable in a wide range from one to twenty-five years in prison, depending on the specific provisions of each state’s sentencing statute or sentencing guidelines. Normally, the judge has some discretion on the length of the sentence and whether to allow the defendant to serve any portion of the sentence on probation rather than in prison.
Factors that judges consider
In determining a sentence, judges usually consider defenses the defendant presented at trial, circumstances surrounding the crime, the extent of any injuries incurred, the type of weapon used, the accused’s prior criminal record, and, in some situations, the victim's background or relationship to the defendant.
In some states, battery against a special victim like a police officer or elderly person carries more severe penalties or is subject to sentence enhancement, which permits the court to add extra time to the sentence for the underlying crime. In many states, there also are more severe penalties or sentencing enhancement provisions if the deadly weapon used in an assault or battery is a firearm. Finally, in some states, the penalties are even more severe for certain types of firearms such as automatic weapons, machine guns, or guns that shoot metal-resistant bullets.
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Aggravated battery is a very serious felony charge; conviction of this crime can seriously affect your life. You could face a lengthy prison sentence and the stigma of being a convicted felon. Convicted felons cannot vote or possess firearms and often have difficulty finding employment. A competent criminal defense attorney can help you fight an aggravated assault charge, protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome. An attorney will thoroughly investigate your case, aid you in asserting any possible defenses, and guide you through the criminal court process.