Simple and Aggravated Battery in Georgia

Learn about the differences between Georgia's three main categories of battery crimes.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated April 15, 2024

Georgia has three distinct categories of battery crimes—simple battery, battery, and aggravated battery. The three differ by the severity of harm involved. The more severe the harm is, the more severe the penalty can be.

What Is Simple Battery in Georgia?

A person commits simple battery by intentionally harming or offensively touching another. Physical harm involves the infliction of pain. Offensive touching refers to physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature.

Examples of simple battery are shoving, pushing, slapping, or hitting another. It can also include hair pulling, grabbing someone's buttocks, or poking someone in an insulting way. If these acts result in visible injuries, the crime increases to battery (as discussed below).

What Are the Penalties for Simple Battery in Georgia?

Simple battery carries misdemeanor penalties in Georgia, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, if the defendant commits the battery against certain protected victims, the crime increases to a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.

Protected individuals include:

  • elderly individuals (age 65 or older)
  • pregnant women
  • police officers
  • correction and detention officers
  • family and household members
  • amateur sports officials
  • public school employees while on school property, and
  • any person on a public transit vehicle or in a public transit station.

A person convicted of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

(O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23 (2024).)

What Is Battery in Georgia?

A person commits battery in Georgia by intentionally harming another and causing visible injuries or substantial physical harm. Examples of battery can include punching, kicking, shoving, or striking someone with an object. It can also involve stabbing or shooting someone depending on the level of harm inflicted.

Visible harm. The law defines "visible bodily harm" as harm that can be perceived by someone other than the victim, such as substantial bruises, a black eye, a swollen lip, or swelling on other facial or body parts.

Substantial physical harm isn't defined in the law, but these injuries typically fall between those described in simple and aggravated battery—so more than physical pain but less than serious disfigurement, broken bones, and life-threatening injuries. Some examples could be cuts, a sprain, serious bruising, and superficial wounds.

What Are the Penalties for Battery in Georgia?

Similar to simple battery, the penalties for battery start as misdemeanors. A misdemeanor carries up to a year of jail time and a $1,000 fine. Georgia law imposes harsher penalties for batteries against protected individuals, repeat batteries against the same victim, and family violence batteries.

Battery Against Protected Individuals

Batteries committed against protected individuals carry penalties for misdemeanors of a high and aggravated nature. These misdemeanors have the same possible one-year jail sentence but the potential fine increases to $5,000. The list of protected individuals covers pregnant women, amateur sports officials, and anyone in a public transit vehicle or station.

Felony penalties apply when the victim is a teacher or other school employee who's on school property or engaged in their duties. A conviction can mean one to five years of prison time.

Battery Against the Same Victim

A second conviction for battery against the same victim carries misdemeanor penalties but imposes a minimum 10-day sentence that can't be suspended, stayed, or deferred. A third or subsequent conviction bumps up the punishment to a felony, punishable by one to five years of prison time.

Family Violence Battery

The penalties for family violence batteries increase from a misdemeanor to a felony on the second conviction against the same or another victim. Family violence involves battery by or against a former or current spouse, parent or child, stepparent or stepchild, foster parent or child, parents of the same child, or current or former co-residents. A person convicted of felony family violence battery faces one to five years of prison time. Learn more in our article on Georgia Family Violence Laws.

(O.C.G.A. § 16-5-23.1 (2024).)

What Is Aggravated Battery in Georgia?

Battery charges increase to aggravated battery when the defendant maliciously causes bodily harm by "depriving or rendering useless" a member of one's body or "seriously disfiguring" someone.

Courts have interpreted "depriving or rendering useless" to mean permanent or temporary loss of a body part or organ, such as a broken bone or loss of an organ function. Likewise, "serious disfigurement" includes temporary disfigurement, such as a broken nose that must be reset. Other examples of these serious injuries include fractures, serious sprains, loss of an eye or finger, blurred or decreased vision, loss of feeling or use of a hand or foot, damage to internal organs, and deep lacerations requiring stitches.

What Are the Penalties for Aggravated Battery in Georgia?

The standard penalty for aggravated battery is a felony that carries one to 20 years of possible prison time. Stiffer penalties apply when a person commits aggravated battery against an individual in a protected class.

Committing an aggravated battery against any of these victims raises the lower end of the possible sentence from one year to three or five years. The maximum stays at 20 years. Protected classes of victims include:

  • elderly victims (age 65 and older)
  • family and household members
  • emergency health workers and healthcare workers
  • public transit operators, workers, and riders
  • school staff and students, and
  • public safety officers (police, first responders, correctional officers, and probation officers).

If the aggravated battery involves a public safety officer, the defendant faces a mandatory three-year minimum sentence.

(O.C.G.A. § 16-5-24 (2024).)

Enhanced Penalties for Battery Crimes in Georgia

Hate crimes and crimes committed against vulnerable adults carry enhanced penalties in Georgia.

Battery Hate Crimes

Georgia considers battery to be a hate crime when a defendant targets a victim due to their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, or mental or physical disability. Misdemeanor battery offenses impose a minimum 6-month sentence and a fine of up to $5,000 if the jury determines it was a hate crime. For felony battery crimes, the law imposes a minimum 2-year prison sentence.

Battery Crimes Against Vulnerable Adults

A person who willfully inflicts physical pain or injury to a disabled adult or elderly person (age 65 or older) faces up to 20 years of prison time and a $50,000 fine.

(O.C.G.A. §§ 16-5-102, 17-10-17 (2024).)

Defenses to Battery Charges in Georgia

A person facing simple battery, battery, or aggravated battery charges can fight the charges in several ways, including by poking holes in the prosecution's case or by raising an affirmative defense.

Self-defense. A defendant might claim self-defense or defense of others if the alleged victim started the altercation. To be successful, the defendant can only use as much force as is reasonably necessary to prevent the threatened injuries. (O.C.G.A. § 16-3-21 (2024).)

Reasonable doubt. The defense might also try to poke holes in the prosecution's case by arguing the prosecution failed to prove the required intent or injuries. Battery charges hinge primarily on the level of harm inflicted. If there's any room for doubt as to the extent of a victim's injuries, the defense might be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you're facing simple battery, battery, or aggravated battery charges in Georgia, contact a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help you understand the charges, what's at stake, and how the system works. In some cases, a defendant could face assault charges on top of battery charges.

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