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Assault & Battery

Assault and battery can be tried under criminal law or civil law or both. In criminal courts, assault and battery have to be proven to the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt". In the civil courts, assault and battery only needs to be proven to the standard of "the preponderance of the evidence".

 

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Assault and battery are legal terms where assault is the threat of doing bodily harm and battery is the infliction of unwanted touching (battering), though physical injury is not necessary in order to prove battery. Insulting or provocative words without threat, no matter how repugnant, do not constitute assault.

Assault and battery usually constitute a single offense and are considered willful or intentional torts. The perpetrator willfully threatens to cause harm or wrongfully touch the plaintiff and then follows by a physical act such as pushing, shoving or hitting.

Battery can also be indirect such as the perpetrator throwing and hitting the other person with an object such as a shoe or knife or by spitting. If a person were to threaten to spit upon another person and the spitter said they had HIV / AIDS and were intending to infect the other person, then this would be assault. If the spit landed upon the other person, this would be battery.

Assault is an intentional threat to cause bodily harm by using physical force. The victim of the assault will believe that the fear is well-founded and imminent and that the perpetrator will carry out the threat unless prevented. Interestingly, for an assault to be carried out, no physical force necessary need be applied. The perpetrator may throw a realistic-looking toy knife at the victim, which falls short and this constitutes as assault.

Battery is the intentional touching of another person against that person's will or by an object put in motion by the perpetrator. Battery need not cause actual physical injury to the person and is still considered a civil offense. For instance, one person may shove another person and no injury occurs, but this is still considered battery and minimal (if any) damages will be assessed. If one person shoves another and that person falls down and breaks an ankle, that would also be battery and most likely more damages (medical expenses, pain and suffering) would be assessed.

Exceptions Due to Privilege

Some people are exempt, under the law, from committing assault and battery upon another person. Police officers, parents and those who are defending their property are three examples of people who may use reasonable force to arrest, discipline or defend without causing assault and battery. Other examples include sports opponents, those in mutual combat and those who are defending themselves or a family member from bodily harm.

Police officers may threaten and use actual force to restrain a person and make an arrest. As long as excessive force is not use, the police officer is immune from assault and battery charges. Police misconduct is when an officer does use excessive force. Parents may also use reasonable force in order to discipline their children. School teachers in many jurisdiction are also allowed to apply a certain level of force to physically restrain or discipline students. Property owners and merchants may use threats and force to protect their property or merchandise from damage or theft.

Those engaged in sports usually take upon themselves a certain risk of injury and wave most of their rights to assault and battery claims. An exception may be if a participant at a football game used a knife or other weapon to injure an opponent as this would be beyond the normal rules of engagement for the game. Two people who engage in a fist fight also take upon themselves a risk of injury and may not sue the other party for assault and battery unless the other party used excessive or unreasonable force. An example of unreasonable force is if one of the participants in the brawl were to pull out a knife or use a club to beat the other participant mercilessly, beyond subduing the opponent. Using reasonable force to defend oneself or one's family members will also not be seen as assault and battery. The act of protection, however, must be proportionate to the threat that has been posed.

Case Law

Assault and battery case law is useful to understand common law based upon the courts decisions. Case law in assault and battery proceedings show attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants and judges how other courts have judged similar cases in the past, setting a precedent for the current case.

Some common assault and battery case law includes:

  • Reed v. City of Lavonia - where the courts decided that police officers were not entitled to qualified immunity since they used excessive force with their nightsticks during an arrest.
  • Champion v. Outlook Nashville, Inc. - courts sided with the family of a non-verbal autistic man who was restrained by officers with handcuffs, hobbles and pepper spray in an excessive manner.
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Chambers - courts found that a defendant can be found guilty of assault even when the victim was unaware of the threat.
  • England v. Barron, Georgia - courts found in favor of the plaintiff for $3 million in a case involving a truck driver punching a car driver and injuring her eye socket.
  • Cunningham v. Lynch and Food - courts ruled in favor of a waitress who was assaulted by the company's owner.

Assault and battery case law is common and can be researched in many locations. Some services are free while others charge a fee. If you've been victimized by assault and battery, contact the police to file a report, then contact a personal injury lawyer to check out the potential for civil litigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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