Wisconsin Battery Laws and Charges

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law
Updated April 13, 2023

In Wisconsin, the crime of battery can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on how serious it is. Read on to find out about battery charges in Wisconsin.

What Constitutes a Battery in Wisconsin?

Under Wisconsin's laws battery is defined as causing bodily harm to another person (which can include an unborn child) either intentionally or without the other person's consent. Bodily harm means physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of the body.

(Wis. Stat. § § 939.22, 940.19, 940.195 (2023).)

Misdemeanor Battery in WI

Battery is normally a misdemeanor in Wisconsin if it doesn't cause "substantial" bodily harm or worse (more on that below). For example, bruises, cuts, and scrapes that result during a minor scuffle would likely be considered bodily harm, but probably wouldn't be substantial enough to be a felony.

Felony Battery in WI

Various circumstances can make a battery a felony, including the level of injury, the type of victim, and the use of weapons.

Substantial Bodily Harm (Substantial Battery)

In Wisconsin, the crime of substantial battery is committed by causing substantial bodily harm to someone by an act that's intended to cause such harm. Substantial bodily harm includes:

  • Lacerations (cuts) that require staples, stitches, or tissue adhesive
  • bone fractures and broken noses
  • tooth losses and fractures
  • burns
  • petechia (ruptured blood vessels in the skin, eyes, eyelids, or mucous membranes), and
  • concussions and temporary losses of consciousness, sight, and hearing.

(Wis. Stat. §§ 940.19, 940.195 (2023).)

Great Bodily Harm (Aggravated Battery)

The felony is more serious if the battery causes great bodily harm, which is an injury that creates a risk of death or causes permanent disfigurement or lasting loss or impairment of any body part. A person commits aggravated battery by doing any of the following:

  • intentionally causing great bodily harm
  • causing great bodily harm by an act intended to cause mere bodily harm, or
  • intentionally causing mere bodily harm by an act that creates a significant risk of great bodily injury.

Stabbing someone in the chest is an example of intentionally causing great bodily harm (it might also be considered attempted murder, and of course would be homicide if the person died).

A punch in the face that causes the victim to fall back and crack their skull would probably be considered an act intended to cause mere bodily harm that caused great bodily harm.

If the victim is over age 62 or has an obvious or known physical disability, Wisconsin law assumes that the battery created a substantial risk of great bodily injury and the defendant must show at trial that it didn't.

(Wis. Stat. § § 939.22, 940.19, 940.195 (2023).)

Batteries Committed by or Against Certain Types of People

A battery becomes a felony when it's committed by certain people or the victim belongs to a particular class of people.

A battery is a felony in Wisconsin when it's committed by:

  • a prisoner in any state prison or jail
  • someone institutionalized as a sexually violent person
  • someone under a restraining order issued for harassment or domestic violence, when the battery is against the person who got the restraining order.

A battery also becomes a felony when it's committed against:

  • law enforcement officers, firefighters, and commission wardens
  • parole, probation, extended supervision, and aftercare agents
  • school district or technical college employees and officers, and
  • emergency room workers, emergency medical technicians, first responders, and ambulance drivers.

A felony can also result when the battery is committed against certain people under specific circumstances. Battery is a felony when it's against:

  • a juror because of a verdict or indictment
  • a public officer as a result of, or to influence, official actions
  • an employee of a county, city, town, or village who is conducting an inspection or enforcing building codes or zoning regulations, and
  • an operator or passenger of a public transit vehicle, after the defendant forces the victim to leave the vehicle, or while the defendant is preventing the victim from entering the vehicle.

(Wis. Stat. §§ 813.12,, 813.125, 813.128, 940.20, 940.208, 980.065 (2023).)

Batteries (or Threats of Battery) Against Public Officials or Witnesses

It's also a felony to commit battery or make threats of battery against particular public officials and their family members (spouses, children including stepchildren and foster children, parents, and siblings) during, or because of, the victim's official acts. These officials include judges and employees of the Department of Revenue, Department of Safety and Professional Services, and the Department of Workforce Development.

A battery is also a felony when committed against witnesses and their family members (or people who live with the witness) if the battery happens because they attended or testified in court.

For the battery to be a felony, the defendant must know or have reason to know that the victim is an official or a witness (or a relative of an official or witness).

(Wis. Stat. § § 940.201, 940.203, 940.205, 940.207 (2023).)

Battery Involving a Weapon

People convicted of battery can get a longer sentence if they used a dangerous weapon during the offense (more on sentences below).

Dangerous weapons include firearms (loaded or unloaded), Taser guns and similar items, ligatures and other devices used to strangle or suffocate, and any object designed to be a weapon that's capable of causing death or great bodily harm.

And things that aren't normally considered weapons can be considered dangerous weapons under the law: Dangerous weapons include any object used (or intended to be used) as a weapon that is likely to produce death or great bodily harm. For example, a baseball bat or a hammer would likely be considered a dangerous weapon if used to hit someone in the head.

Punishment for Battery

The punishment for battery in Wisconsin can vary significantly depending on the circumstances of the crime.

Misdemeanor Battery

Misdemeanor battery is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to nine months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

The court can impose an additional jail term of up to six months if the defendant uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon.

(Wis. Stat. § § 939.51, 939.63 (2023).)

Felony Battery

The punishment for a felony battery can range from three and a half years to 15 years imprisonment, depending on the class of the felony.

The maximum prison sentence for most felonies in Wisconsin includes a portion of time spent on post-release supervision. For example, a class E felony carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, five of which are spent on supervised release after the defendant has served 10 years. For more information on how felony sentencing works in Wisconsin, see Wisconsin Felony Crimes by Class and Sentence.

Aggravated Battery

Aggravated battery that intends to cause and causes great bodily injury is a Class E felony, carrying up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $50,000.

Other types of aggravated battery are Class H felonies, which are punished by up to six years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Other types of battery punishable as Class H felonies include:

  • battery by a prisoner or a person institutionalized as a sexually violent person
  • battery against a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or commission wardens, parole, probation, extended supervision, and aftercare agents, jurors, emergency room workers, emergency medical technicians, first responders, and ambulance drivers
  • battery or threats of battery against judges, witnesses, and employees of the public agencies noted above (and their relatives).

Substantial Battery

Substantial battery is a Class I felony, punishable by up to three and a half years, and a fine of up to $10,000.

Other types of battery that are punished as Class I felonies include battery by someone under a restraining order, and battery against a public official, a school district employee, a public transit operator or passenger, or a county, city, town, or village employee.

Extra Punishment for Use of Dangerous Weapons

For Class E and H felonies, the court can add up to five years to the sentence if the defendant uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon. And for Class I felonies, the court can impose an additional term of four years.

(Wis. Stat. §§ 939.50, 939.63, 940.19, 940.195, 940.20, 940.201, 940.203, 940.205, 940.207, 940.208 (2023).)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

If you're charged with battery or any other crime, you should contact a Wisconsin criminal defense attorney immediately. A conviction could result in a lengthy prison sentence, a substantial fine, and a serious criminal record. An experienced lawyer should know whether you have a shot at getting the charges reduced or getting some other plea deal. A local criminal defense attorney should also be able to tell you what to expect in court and how your case will likely be treated based on the facts and the judge and prosecutor handling your case.

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