I got arrested for battery. What are the penalties under Illinois law?

by Lewis Gainor on April 18, 2010

Illinois Battery Laws

Battery is a criminal offense in Illinois that is classified as a misdemeanor, unless there is serious injury. In cases of serious injury, battery is charged as a felony.

Battery is found in the criminal code at 720 ILCS 5/12-3, which provides the following:

A person commits battery if he (or she) intentionally or knowingly without legal justification and by any means causes bodily harm to an individual or makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.

As the law expressly states, battery occurs where there is bodily harm or insulting or provoking contact by any means. Thus, even if the accused never personally touched the other person, if contact was made in some manner, then it can be a battery. For example, throwing a bucket of dirty water on a person can be a battery.

But the charge is more common in a fight where there was punching with a fist, kicking, slapping, biting, hair pulling, pushing, shoving, etc. Any one of these examples, such as one push, could constitute a charge of battery.

Battery is punished as a Class A misdemeanor offense. The possible sentence for a battery charge in Illinois is up to one year imprisonment and a fine of $2,500. The judge is authorized to sentence the defendant to probation as opposed to imprisonment. The court may also legally sentence the defendant to community service and counseling as part of a probation sentence.

A charge for battery generally will follow a physical altercation or fight between two or more persons. Both men and women can be charged with battery. Where two persons were fighting, the police may decide to arrest only one of them and charge them with battery. A police officer may choose to charge a person with battery even where that person did not start the fight.

When this occurs, it is up to the person charged to prove his innocence at trial, because the prosecution has absolute discretion to pick and choose which persons get prosecuted, even if they are innocent.

The law allows the defendant to assert a defense that he or she was defending himself, defending another person, or even defending one’s property.

Each of the above defenses is an affirmative defense that would have to be proven by the defendant. The defense would have to present, for example, either witness testimony or surveillance video, to establish the defense.

Once an affirmative defense has been raised, the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the affirmative defense is not true.

Self-defense will result in a not guilty verdict (an acquittal) where the accused can show that he or she reasonably believed that it was necessary to defend himself from another’s imminent use of unlawful force. This allows one to strike first and still assert that it was self-defense. As long as the defendant can prove it was a reasonable response to a threat, then the jury may acquit the defendant.

The defense of property may occur where a person is defending his home or other valuable property. The law respects a homeowner’s right to defend his land and residence.

Defense of others may occur where a person is protecting a family member, such as a parent defending a child, boyfriend defending a girlfriend, husband protecting his wife, or brother protecting his sister, etc. However, the law does not require a family relationship between two persons to entitle a person to defend another. The two can be unrelated. Nonetheless, the jury is going to want to know why it was necessary to use force to defend another person.

Battery is generally regarded as a serious offense in Illinois courts because it is a crime of violence. If the victim suffered injuries, a jail sentence is possible.

Where the State has charged the defendant with causing bodily harm and a jail sentence ensues, the defendant is not eligible to receive good time credits (also called day-for-day) to reduce the sentence in half.

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