The state of Georgia follows the same essential concept of battery as you’ll find in other states, namely that battery occurs when one person causes physical touching or injury to another. While battery requires visible injuries, such as black eyes, large bruises or swelling on the lips or face, a conviction of simple battery merely requires proof that one person physically touched the other in a way that caused harm.
This can include a physical attack — any strike with a hand (e.g. a slap or a punch) or other object (e.g. knife, club, thrown projectile) which causes visible injury. Choking, pushing, or shoving someone into an object can also be considered battery.
But even within the general framework of battery, there are several distinct classifications under Georgia law. These are:
Simple Battery: Defined in Georgia law under O.C.G.A. §16-5-23, simple battery occurs when someone “intentionally makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with the person of another; or intentionally causes physical harm to another.” For first-time offenders, this is usually a misdemeanor.
Battery: Carrying its own separate definition under Georgia law, battery as defined by O.C.G.A. §16-5-23.1 under much the same terms as simple battery, with one notable difference. To be considered battery, there must be visual signs of the attack on the victim. As with simple battery, this is usually considered a misdemeanor for first offenders.
Aggravated Battery: Defined in Georgia law under O.C.G.A. §16-5-24, aggravated battery is a more severe form of battery, with far greater injuries for the victim and penalties for the offender. Specifically, the law states that aggravated battery occurs when the offender “causes bodily harm to another by depriving him or her of a member of his or her body, by rendering a member of his or her body useless, or by seriously disfiguring his or her body or a member thereof.” In Georgia, this is considered a felony.
Special Cases for Certain Victims: Even misdemeanor battery can be prosecuted as “high and aggravated misdemeanor” or a felony depending on the victim. For example, members of the community such as public school employees or government officials, or vulnerable people such as the elderly, pregnant women, or family members.
Simple battery and battery are both generally considered misdemeanors, which carry a jail sentence of up to a year. As a felony, aggravated battery carries higher penalties ranging from more than a year to 20 years in prison.
There is also an in-between misdemeanors and felonies known as high and aggravated misdemeanors. In terms of jail time, this classification results in a prison sentence of up to 12 months, but adds on increased fines and diminished chances of early release or a reduced sentence.
What are the Legal Consequences?
The broad strokes presented above for the penalties associated with misdemeanors and felonies warrant a closer look, as there are consequences to a conviction that go far beyond jail time. There are also distinctions in penalties depending on the nature of the accusation.
First Offense of Battery: This is a misdemeanor with up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. That is to say nothing of attorney fees and court fees begin adding up during hearings and trial.
Second Offense: For a second battery charge against the same victim, penalties increase to include a jail sentence between 10 days to a year, as well as a $1,000 maximum fine. In some cases, however, those convicted can have their sentence altered to allow for confinement on weekends or during non-working hours.
Third (or Subsequent) Offense: Additional offenses against the same victim are treated as a felony, with a prison sentence between 1-5 years.
Family Violence: Georgia law defines “family violence battery” as battery that occurs between spouses (either current or former) or between a parent and child (biological, step or foster). Classified as a misdemeanor for a first offense, family violence battery escalates to a felony for subsequent convictions, with jail time between 1-5 years.
Special Victims: As outlined above, Georgia law allows for enhanced penalties in cases where the battery is perpetrated against certain vulnerable or protected victims, such as the elderly or public officials. These additional penalties vary based on the individual case.
In addition to jail time, there are additional consequences that come with a conviction, such as:
- Community Service
- Financial Restitution to Victims
- Mandatory Counseling
- Restraining Orders
That’s to say nothing of the long-term consequences of any conviction, such as a permanent criminal record stifling the ability to secure housing or employment, and loss of certain rights such as gun ownership. Then there are of course the indirect consequences, from reputational damage to personal and psychological stress.
Assault vs. Battery
The legal distinction between assault and battery is mostly the same in Georgia as it is in every other state. While battery has been defined above as an act with the intention of causing physical injury, or of provoking a reaction, assault is more about creating a sense of fear through their actions.
Under Georgia law, assault occurs when one person causes another to be reasonably certain they will receive an injury. An example would be someone swinging a fist at someone without necessarily intending to make contact. If the act creates a sense of impending injury, it can be considered assault.
Defending Against Battery Charges
The fundamental principle that drives Georgia’s legal system is the same one you’ll find across the country: the notion that an individual is innocent until proven guilty. An accusation is not a conviction, and it’s important to remember that everyone has the legal right to their day in court. With good legal representation, and the burden of proof falling to the prosecution, the right legal defense can result in justice being served. Some of the more common defenses against battery charges include:
Defending Oneself or Others: The defendant may have acted out of a belief that harm was imminent to themselves of those around them, prompting them to use force in their own defense.
Provocation: Being provoked by another may serve as an explanation for the defendant’s actions. While it may not justify the action, it can help explain the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Lack of Intention or Control: This defense requires the accused to demonstrate that the battery occurred accidentally, was unintentional, or occurred because they weren’t in control of themselves due to some mitigating factor such as intoxication. While this last defense doesn’t necessarily excuse their actions, it can be used to demonstrate that the defendant did not intend to injury anyone, as they lacked the capacity.
Questioning the Collected Evidence: The burden of proof falls to the prosecution, so this defense calls the proof itself into question. This can include examining possible failures on law enforcement’s part, questioning the accuracy of forensic evidence, establishing an alibi, or having evidence excluded from the trial.
The Power of Preparation
No matter what the charges are, the key to presenting an effective defense is solid and thorough preparation. At Busbee Law Group, this preparation is the bedrock of our defense. We examine each piece of evidence, see the case from every angle, and go deeper in our research than the prosecution. We can do this because of our devotion to keeping our caseloads low, ensuring that every client benefits from our full attention. We see our clients as the human beings they are, not just a case number, and we work harder to fight for their freedom.
The side that prepares more proves their case more convincingly and secures the best outcomes.
To learn more about potential ways that your charges can be reduced or dismissed, please submit your contact information below to schedule no obligation legal consultation with the Busbee Law Group.