Battery is the willful or intentional act of making harmful or offensive contact with a person against that person’s will, or making contact with the victim by an object or substance put in motion by the offender. The contact does not have to cause injury to be considered battery. In most jurisdictions, the only requirements are that the contact be offensive or inappropriate, and that the offender had intention to make the contact. Battery can be both a criminal and a civil wrong, remedied by criminal punishment and/or civil damages.
Defenses to battery include: those who have given consent, such as in sporting events; privilege, such as a police officer while performing a lawful arrest; self-defense, where a person uses reasonable force to protect himself from bodily harm; defense of others, similar to self-defense, but used to protect another such as a family member; voluntary combat, where the parties mutually agree to engage in a fight; defense of property, where a person is trying to protect his own property from damage or theft; discipline, where a person is legally authorized to apply physical restraint or battery for disciplinary purposes; and merchant’s privilege, where a merchant has the right to use reasonable force to detain shoplifters.
Battery is generally associated with assault, and they are often charged together against a suspect. But in many jurisdictions, they are distinct crimes, and while it is possible to be charged with only assault, anyone charged with battery must also be guilty of assault. In other states, the laws do not differentiate between assault and battery when the physical contact has occurred, and the assault becomes a lesser included offense of battery, meaning that the assault merges into battery and the suspect may be convicted of one or the other, but not both crimes.