Legal recourse for the victims of acts of battery exist under both civil and tort law. A key difference in the ways in which the two systems address such cases exist in the degree to which they require the intent of the actor to be established in order for him or her to be considered liable. Under criminal law, the intent of the actor to accomplish a degree of physical injury or offense to the victim must be conclusively established.
Tort law, on the other hand, generally requires only that the actor performed an action leading to the suffering of injury or offense. Australian tort law is the most permissive in allowing instances of willful negligence to be counted as battery. Likewise, American tort law requires that the person bringing the suit demonstrate that the actor manifested intent to perform the action which ultimately led to unwanted or undesirable touching, even if that end was not the actor’s initially willed intention.
The presence of aggravated assault laws in the legal system of the United States and other nations is intended to give prosecutors the ability to identify cases which are deemed especially egregious in the manner in which they occur and punish the responsible party accordingly.
Either the intended end of an act of assault or the method with which it is accomplished may be used by prosecutors to argue that a case meets the definition of aggravated assault. The difference between aggravated assault cases and straightforward assault cases, referred to for the purposes of clarification as “simple” assault, is that the latter manifests the intention or causes the effect of serious bodily injury.
A common way in which this severity may be determined is through the presence of a weapon, such as a firearm, capable of inflicting fatal or serious injuries. Such bodies as the State of California and the FBI generally conceive of aggravated assault in terms of deadly weapon. In other areas, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, attacks directed against law enforcement officers occurring through sexual means or motivated by bias are provided for under more specific definitions of aggravated assault.
An act of aggravated assault may be pursued by prosecutors as either a felony or a misdemeanor, but every American state has statutes allowing for aggravated assault charges to be pursued as felonies. The kinds of punishments imposed as a result of a felony or misdemeanor conviction for aggravated assault also vary.
Less severe cases may be punished with the loss of privileges, such as a driver’s license, but not of basic civil rights. Other requirements that may be imposed in the form of attendance of anger-management classes or providing community services. Serious felony convictions are likely to lead to prison terms.
Prosecuting a purported incidence of violent physical action as assault and battery requires that the legal system prove that nothing about the context of the action could excuse its performance and that the intention or responsibility of the actor may be demonstrated. A possible avenue of legal defense against a charge of assault and battery is to make the claim that the actor had consent from the aggrieved party, as in the implicit or explicit granting of a degree of latitude to take such actions.
Examples of consent being granted for an action that would otherwise constitute assault and battery can include a rough athletic competition or the performance of surgical procedures. An individual tasked with enforcing rules on behalf of law or a disciplinary institution may also be able to claim “privilege” for their actions.
After examining the possible motivation and justification behind an act, the legal system must determine if the act itself occurred within permissible limits, which vary according to jurisdiction.