In New Mexico, offensive physical contact, such as punching or pushing another person or hitting someone with an object, is a battery. Battery crimes start as petty misdemeanors but increase to felonies if the defendant intends to harm the victim, does harm the victim, uses a deadly weapon, or targets a protected victim. Read on to learn more.
New Mexico defines battery as the "unlawful, intentional touching or application of force to the person of another, when done in a rude, insolent or angry manner." Striking another person with a fist during an argument or pushing someone are examples of battery. Other examples would be touching another in a sexual manner through their clothing without consent or grabbing someone forcefully.
To be considered battery, the physical contact must be intentional. If the defendant accidentally tripped and knocked over the victim, the contact wasn't intentional and isn't a crime. On the flip side, a victim doesn't need to suffer injuries for a crime to be battery. Any unwanted touching done in a rude, insolent, or angry manner is battery. So shaking someone angrily, even if no injuries result, is a battery offense.
(N.M. Stat. § 30-3-4 (2023).)
Committing battery against a protected victim raises the crime to a misdemeanor or fourth-degree felony. A person who commits battery against a sports official faces a misdemeanor penalty and up to 364 days in jail. If the victim is a school employee or health care worker, the penalty increases to a fourth-degree felony with a basic sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
(N.M. Stat. §§ 30-3-4, 30-3-9, 30-3-9.1, 30-3-9.2 (2023).)
A person commits aggravated battery by touching someone in an offensive or angry manner with the intent to injure the victim or another person. The penalties for aggravated battery depend on the level of harm involved, whether the target was a protected victim, and whether the defendant had a deadly weapon.
Protected victims. Like above, protected victims include school employees, health care employees, and sports officials who are engaged in their duties.
Level of harm. For battery offenses, New Mexico distinguishes between injuries that result or could result in great bodily harm or risk of death versus other bodily harm that causes temporary pain or disfigurement. Examples of great bodily harm are those that involve permanent or protracted injuries, such as broken bones, severe burns, strangulation, and deep lacerations. Bodily harm causing temporary pain or disfigurement may include bruising, sprains, road rash, cuts, or bites.
Deadly weapon. Deadly weapons can include loaded or unloaded firearms, daggers, brass knuckles, knives, bludgeons, and any weapon or object that can inflict dangerous wounds or cuts by how it's used (such as a tire iron, screwdriver, baseball bat, or steel-toed boots).
The penalties for aggravated battery range from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
An aggravated battery that results in bodily injuries (short of great bodily harm) is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. This same aggravated battery committed against a school employee, a sports official, or a health care worker is a fourth-degree felony. A conviction for a fourth-degree felony means a basic sentence of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Aggravated battery that results in great bodily harm or could result in great bodily harm or death is a third-degree felony. This offense doesn't have an enhancement for protected victims. The same third-degree penalty applies when the victim is a sports official, health care worker, or school employee. A person convicted of a third-degree felony faces a basic sentence of three years' incarceration and a $5,000 fine.
A person who commits aggravated battery with a deadly weapon is guilty of a third-degree felony. The resulting injuries or potential injuries don't have to reach the level of great bodily harm for a conviction of this offense. If a defendant had a switchblade knife and gave a victim a minor cut, the offense is still aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. A third-degree felony carries a basic sentence of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
(N.M. Stat. §§ 30-3-5, 30-3-9, 30-3-9.1, 30-3-9.2 (2023).)
New Mexico law provides certain sentencing enhancements and parole requirements for battery crimes involving aggravating factors.
New Mexico judges can increase a defendant's basic sentence (those listed above) by up to one-third if aggravating factors were involved, such as the defendant committing the crime in a cruel or brutal manner, targeting an elderly victim, or showing a lack of remorse. (N.M. Stat. § 31-18-15.1 (2023).)
A defendant who commits battery motivated by hate can face enhanced penalties. The judge can add a year to a defendant's sentence for a first felony hate crime and two years for a second felony hate crime.
If the offense was a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor, the judge may require the defendant to complete community service hours, receive treatment, or attend educational classes. (N.M. Stat. § 31-18B-3 (2023).)
New Mexico law increases the basic sentence for repeat felony offenders by the following amounts:
The judge cannot suspend or defer the enhanced sentence. (N.M. Stat. § 31-18-17 (2023).)
Inmates serving time for a third-degree felony must complete a two-year parole period. The parole period is one year for inmates serving time for a fourth-degree felony. (N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-21-10 (2023).)
Common defense strategies in battery cases include raising the issue of self-defense, challenging the prosecution's case, or seeking a reduction in the charges.
Self-defense. The judge or jury may acquit the defendant if the defendant harmed the victim only in self-defense. Typically to win on a claim of self-defense, the defendant's actions must have been reasonable in light of the victim/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 neither suffered nor likely could have suffered great bodily harm.
Lack intent. A conviction for aggravated battery depends on the prosecutor proving the defendant intended to cause injuries to another. If the prosecutor fails to show such intent, the crime may be reduced to simple battery.
If you're facing battery charges, talk to a local criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help explain the charges, the law, and the possible penalties, along with the future consequences of having a battery conviction on one's criminal record.