Felony Battery Laws in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, the crime of battery (intentionally causing injury to another person, including an unborn child) will be punished as a felony when it causes substantial or great bodily harm, or is committed by or against certain people.

(Wis. Stat. § § 940.19, 940.195.)

Batteries that merely cause bodily harm (that isn't "substantial" or "great") are punished as misdemeanors. For more information on these crimes, see Battery Laws in Wisconsin.

Substantial Bodily Harm (Substantial Battery)

In Wisconsin, the crime of substantial battery, a felony, is committed by causing substantial bodily harm to someone by an act that's intended to cause such harm. Bodily harm means physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of the body.

Substantial bodily harm includes:

  • lacerations the 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. § § 939.22, 940.19, 940.195.)

Great Bodily Harm (Aggravated Battery)

It is also a felony in Wisconsin, called aggravated battery, to:

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

Great bodily harm is an injury that creates a risk of death or causes permanent disfigurement or permanent or lasting loss or impairment of any body part.

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

Cutting off a person’s ear and stabbing someone in the chest are examples of great bodily harm. If a defendant punched someone in the face and the victim fell over and the victim’s skull cracked, that would probably be considered an act that was intended to cause mere bodily harm but caused great bodily harm.

Disabled or Elderly Victims

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

(Wis. Stat. § 940.19.)

Using and Threatening to Use Dangerous Weapons

Courts can impose additional prison terms on any person who commits felony battery and uses or threatens to use a dangerous weapon.

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

(Wis. Stat. § § 939.22, 939.63.)

For example, a baseball bat would likely be considered a dangerous weapon if it was used (or intended to be used) to strike someone in the head.

Batteries By and Against Certain People

Wisconsin punishes more severely battery committed:

  • by a prisoner in any state prison or state or local detention facility against any officer, employee, other inmate, or visitor
  • by a resident institutionalized as a sexually violent person against an employee, officer, visitor, or other resident
  • by a person under an restraining order issued for domestic violence or harassment against the person who sought the injunction
  • against a grand juror or trial juror because of a verdict or indictment
  • against a public officer as a result of or to influence official actions
  • against a county, city, town, or village employee who is lawfully conducting an inspection or enforcing building codes or zoning regulations, or
  • against 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. § § 806.247, 813.12, 813.125, 940.20, 940.208, 946.41, 980.065.)

Protected Employees

In certain situations, the battery will be punished more severely only when the victim is a protected employee, acting in an official capacity, and the defendant knows or has reason to know that the victim is an employee. Protected employees include:

  • 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.

(Wis. Stat. § 940.20.)

Public Officials or Witnesses

Wisconsin law also punishes more severely battery and threats of battery made against particular public officials and their family members (spouses, children including stepchildren and foster children, parents, and siblings) during or because of official acts:

  • department of revenue, department of safety and professional services, and department of workforce development employees, and
  • judges.

Finally, battery against witnesses and their family members (spouses, children including stepchildren and foster children, parents, siblings, and grandchildren) or people who live with witnesses are also punished more severely if they occur because the witness attended or testified at a court proceeding.

For the increased punishment to apply, the defendant must know or have reason to know that of the victim is an official or witness or a relative of an official or witness.

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

Punishment for Felony Battery

The punishment for felony batter can range from three and a half years to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Class E felony

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

Class H felony

Other types of aggravated battery are Class H felonies, punishable 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, and
  • battery or threats of battery against judges, department of revenue, department of safety and professional services, and department of workforce development employees, and witnesses, and their relatives.

Class I felony

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

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

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

Dangerous weapons

For Class E and H felonies, the court can impose an additional term of up to five years 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. § 939.63.)

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

If you are charged with felony battery, 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. Or, most likely with the assistance of a lawyer, you may be able to obtain a not guilty verdict at trial, get the charges reduced or dismissed, or receive a lesser sentence than the maximum allowed by law. An experienced attorney will be able to tell you what to expect in court and how your case is likely to be treated based on the facts and the judge and prosecutor handling your case.

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