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What is Battery?

David Pisarra May 16, 2017


Under California Penal Code 242 battery is defined using the following elements:

  • You touched someone else,

  • Willfully

  • In an offensive or harmful manner.

The code does not have any limit on how insignificant the touching is. Deliberate acts from pushing someone, poking a finger in someone’s chest, to a full on physical altercation with someone all fall under the offensive “touching” used by the Penal code to describe battery.

Willfully means that the act was done on purpose and not by accident. For example, a husband and wife get into an argument. The wife picks up a lamp and throws it across the room. The lamp strikes her husband in the head. Although she did not intend to hit her husband with the lamp, she willfully threw the lamp. This would be considered a battery under California law.

Touching in a harmful or offensive manner is described as violent, rude, angry or disrespectful. The requirement that the touching be harmful or offensive is important because it distinguishes a battery crime from insignificant daily touching. For example, me and Dave do not like each other, but we work together. One day he closes a big sale and as I walk by him I say “good job” and pat him on the back. Although he does not like me, and is upset by the fact that I touched him; it is not a battery because the contact was not intentionally offensive or harmful.

Many people confuse assault with battery because the terms are often used together. The difference between assault and battery is simple. An assault creates a fear in the victim of physical harm or unwanted touching, and battery is the actual infliction of physical harm or unwanted touching.