Difference Between Civil And Criminal Battery

Q.  I was at a department store when I got into an argument with another shopper. After arguing with me, the other shopper physically pushed me out of the way. I fell to the ground and hurt my back. Now I am considering taking legal action against the women. Do I have a case?

A.  Yes, it sounds like you have a civil cause of action against the other shopper under a theory of assault and battery. Her conduct can also be considered criminal. A battery can be both an intentional tort as well as a criminal offense.

Difference Between Civil And Criminal Battery

The basic legal elements required to establish a civil battery are substantially the same as the elements needed to prove the crime of battery, except for one distinction. For a civil battery to occur, the requisite intent is merely to touch or make contact without consent. However, the touching required for a criminal battery requires actual intent to do harm or to injure another.

Assault Almost Always Pled With Battery

In both criminal and civil law, a battery is the intentional touching of another person in a harmful or offensive manner and without the others consent. A battery is often confused with an assault, which places another in the immediate apprehension of a battery. A battery is almost always preceded by an assault, which is why when lawyers plead a battery in either civil or criminal cases, the actionable elements of an assault are almost always included.

Finally, as a matter of civil pleading, it is likely that your attorney will also include other forms of actions in your complaint for damages. Since most states allow you to plead in the alternative, it would be acceptable to also include causes of action for negligence as well as infliction of emotional distress.

Criminal Battery

With respect to the criminal act of battery, you as the victim of the assault and battery can file a complaint with the police department. It would then be up to law enforcement to determine the severity of the crime and whether it is worthy of an arrest and booking. In most states a simple battery, especially if the accused does not have a criminal history of violence, is usually charged as a misdemeanor. If the injuries are severe enough, the prosecutor has the discretion to charge it as a felony.

Civil Damages

If you suffered harm as a result of being pushed to the floor by the other shopper, you must prove that you suffered damages. If you had to go to a doctor or miss work resulting from the fall, you would be entitled to receive compensation for the medical bills and days of missed work. These are called economic damages. General damages can be collected as well for your pain and suffering related to the of  fall. Both of these types of damages must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence.

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