Indiana's law imposes misdemeanor and felony penalties for battery and aggravated battery crimes. Read on to learn how Indiana law defines and punishes battery offenses.
In Indiana, a person can be charged with the crime of battery by intentionally or knowingly
Basically, battery involves a conscious decision to touch another person improperly and without permission.
Battery crimes start as misdemeanor offenses. Several factors can turn the crime of battery into a felony, including when it causes more severe injuries or involves certain types of victims or weapons.
(Ind. Code § 35-42-2-1 (2022).)
Battery is a misdemeanor if the victim wasn't hurt or suffered only minor injuries.
The least serious battery offense is a Class B misdemeanor and involves committing a knowing or intentional but improper touch. Pushing, hair-pulling, poking, spitting on, or bumping another in an angry or insulting manner are all examples of an offensive touch. A person convicted of a Class B misdemeanor faces up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
An improper touch can be charged as a Class A misdemeanor if a victim suffered some physical injury or pain. That is because Indiana law defines bodily injury as "any impairment of physical condition, including physical pain."
Examples of bodily injuries include bruises, physical trauma (such as after a punch or kick), or scratches. Indiana courts have held the physical pain caused by repeated slapping and pushing was a bodily injury, as was a woman's pain that resulted from a defendant twisting her breast.
Class A misdemeanors carry punishments of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Indiana imposes harsher penalties when the defendant harms a protected victim, uses a deadly weapon, or causes or intends to cause serious bodily injuries.
Most felony battery offenses carry Level 5 and 6 felony penalties. Level 6 felonies can be punished by a sentence of six months to 2 ½ years' imprisonment, while Level 5 felonies are punishable by one to six years in prison.
A battery offense increases from a misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony if the victim suffered moderate bodily injuries and a Level 5 felony if the victim suffered serious bodily injury.
Moderate bodily injuries. The law defines "moderate bodily injury" as any impairment of a physical condition that includes substantial pain. Examples can include a laceration or wound requiring stitches, a black eye, a sprain, a hairline fracture, or a split lip.
Serious bodily injury is any injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes unconsciousness, extreme pain, serious disfigurement, permanent or lengthy impairment to a body part or organ, or loss of a fetus. Some examples include stab wounds, broken bones, a broken nose, knocked out teeth, injuries requiring surgery, a concussion, and welts or burns causing pain and scarring.
(Ind. Code §§ 35-31.5-2-204.5, -292 (2022).)
Any battery involving a deadly weapon, when no injury results, is a Level 5 felony. Under Indiana law, deadly weapons include:
If the use of a deadly weapon shows an intent to inflict serious bodily injury, the crime moves up to a Level 3 felony for aggravated battery. For example, a defendant who purposefully shoots someone intended to inflict serious bodily harm. (More on aggravated battery below.)
(Ind. Code § 35-35.1-2-86 (2022).)
Victims who receive special protections under Indiana law include:
Level 6 felony. A conscious, improper touching of a protected victim will be charged as a Level 6 felony rather than a misdemeanor, even if no injury resulted. Improper touching might include offensively shoving or bumping someone. It also includes angrily spitting on, throwing feces at, or otherwise causing bodily fluids or waste to make contact with a protected victim. For example, an inmate who angrily spit on a jailer committed a Level 6 felony. (Coleman v. Indiana, 149 N.E.3d 313 (Ind. App. 2020).)
Level 5 felony. The offense increases to a Level 5 felony if any of the above victims suffers bodily injuries or physical pain. The same Level 5 felony penalty also applies if a defendant causes bodily injuries to a pregnant woman and knows of the pregnancy.
Level 3 or 4 felony. When a battery results in serious bodily harm to a child younger than 14 or an endangered adult, the penalties increase to a Level 3 or 4 felony with prison sentences ranging from 2 to 16 years.
Battery by bodily waste or fluid becomes a felony offense if directed at a protected victim (as described in the above section) or when a defendant knows (or recklessly failed to know) that the bodily fluid or waste placed on another person was infected with hepatitis, tuberculosis, or HIV. There's no requirement that the victim becomes infected—the risk is enough under this section. These offenses are Level 6 felonies. However, if the target of the offense is a public safety official doing their job, the offense involving infected bodily fluids or waste becomes a Level 5 felony.
Aggravated battery is a Level 3 felony and occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly injures someone in a way that causes substantial risk of death, serious permanent disfigurement, lasting impairment, or the loss of the fetus. A person convicted of a Level 3 felony faces 3 to 16 years in prison.
Indiana distinguishes battery from aggravated battery primarily by the defendant's intent. A person commits aggravated battery by causing serious bodily injuries and intending to do so. For the felony battery offenses described above, the prosecution must prove an offensive touching that resulted in serious bodily injury but not that the defendant meant to inflict that level of harm. For example, it would likely be considered aggravated battery if a defendant purposefully shot someone, but it might only be a Level 5 felony if a defendant punched someone who blacked out as a result of the blow.
(Ind. Code §§ 35-31.5-2-292, 35-42-2-1.5 (2022).)
A defendant facing battery charges may try to defend against or seek a reduction in the charges by raising one or more of the following defenses.
Innocence. A defendant might claim that police and prosecutors charged the wrong person. For example, say a bar patron hits another patron in a fight and runs off. The defendant gets picked up later by police based on the victim's description of the bar patron. The defendant might argue that they weren't even at the bar or the victim incorrectly identified the defendant as the attacker.
Self-defense. If the defendant harmed the victim in self-defense, the judge or jury may acquit the defendant. Typically to win on a claim of self-defense, the defendant's actions must have been reasonable in light of the attacker's actions.
Level of injuries. A defendant can argue that the prosecutor didn't prove the requisite level of harm to sustain the charges. For example, a defendant might argue that felony charges can't be proven because the victim's injuries were minor and not moderate or serious.
Lack intent. A conviction for aggravated battery depends largely on the prosecutor proving the defendant intended to cause another serious bodily injury. If the prosecutor fails to show that level of intent, the crime may be reduced to felony battery.
Being charged with a battery crime can result in serious consequences, including jail or prison time, fines, and a criminal record. Talk to an Indiana criminal defense attorney who can explain how your case is likely to fare in court, help you navigate the criminal justice system, and make the strongest arguments on your behalf.