Although there are many types of batteries under Louisiana criminal law, Simple Battery is probably the most common criminal accusation that I see teachers face. Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:35(A) defines Simple Battery as the following: "A. Simple battery is a battery committed without the consent of the victim." Thus, Simple Battery is a non-consensual battery. To fully understand the definition of Simple Battery, however, one must look further to find the definition of "battery" itself. Louisiana Revised Statutes 14:33 defines a Battery as the following: "Battery is the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another; or the intentional administration of a poison or other noxious liquid or substance to another."
As an example, if a teacher intentionally hits a student without that student's consent, a Simple Battery has been committed. Anger, frustration, and anxiety can cause a teacher to "lose his or her cool" and hurt a student. Likewise, as another example, if a teacher intentionally throws a cup of water onto a student without consent, that teacher has committed the crime of Simple Battery. The water would constitute a "noxious liquid or substance" administered to another. However, if a teacher accidentally bumped into or hit a student, then the teacher would have a viable defense that the physical contact was not "intentional", in which case the full definition of Simple Battery would not be satisfied. The same concept would apply if a teacher, for instance, accidentally knocked over a glass of water or other liquid onto another student.
Every element of the definition for Simple Battery must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt for a teacher to be convicted of such a crime. This means that the judge hearing the case must be firmly convinced of the truth of each element of the definition. Maybe, probably, perhaps, and almost will not rise to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Since Simple Battery is a misdemeanor offense that is not jury-trial eligible, any teacher facing an accusation of Simple Battery will have his or her guilt or innocence decided by a judge alone. If the trial judge has even a single reasonable doubt as to your guilt, he or she is legally required to find you not guilty.
For a variety of reasons, a student can bring an accusation accusing a teacher of Simple Battery. The student's accusation may be legitimate; the student may be mistaken; or the student may be lying. The accusation must be fully investigated to determine its strengths and weaknesses so that sound legal advice can be given and the most appropriate defense developed.
To determine if an accusation is legitimate, a competent attorney will look to see if internal and external consistency exists. An accusation must be internally coherent and free of major inconsistencies to be believable. If a student's accusation changes in major ways with multiple tellings to different people, that is a red flag of either a mistaken or false accusation. Likewise, an accusation must be externally consistent. For example, if another student says that she was in a classroom when the accusing student claims a teacher hit the accusing student, but the other student denies that that happened, an external inconsistency exists that may exonerate the teacher. Likewise, if an accusing student's story is contradicted by surveillance footage in the school, an external inconsistency exists. On the other hand, at the end of an investigation, if the student's story is corroborated by other witnesses and/or surveillance footage, then the accusation may be deemed legitimate absent any compelling reason(s) to believe otherwise. Even a student's accusation alone without any corroborating evidence, if believed by the trial judge, can constitute sufficient evidence to convict. If a teacher's defense is inconsistent or implausible, a teacher's credibility will be diminished, and the trial judge may give credence to the accusing student.
Sometimes, students are mistaken when they accuse a teacher of Simple Battery. For instance, a student may have had his or her back turned, been hit by another student while a teacher is nearby, and then mistakenly blame the teacher for the battery. A thorough investigation can go a long way towards uncovering whether a student is mistaken.
Students may also lie for a myriad of reasons. A student may have received a bad grade and want to retaliate against the teacher. A student may have a mental illness that impacts his or her credibility. A student may seek attention that comes with being labelled a "victim." A student may be jealous of a teacher. The motives and possibilities for lying are endless. We have all been lied to by others at some point in our lives, and just as adults routinely lie, children do as well.
If a teacher is initially accused of Simple Battery, the teacher should immediately seek legal counsel for representation regardless of whether the teacher believes he or she is innocent or guilty. Even a misdemeanor offense, if you are convicted, can ruin your teaching career and make it virtually impossible for you to find employment again in education. Additionally, the law is complex and nuanced, and what may seem like a simple matter to address can quickly morph into a more serious case, potentially even a felony offense as more details come to light. It's ideal to not speak to law enforcement or school investigators and personnel until you have first had an opportunity to fully consult with an attorney. If you find yourself facing an accusation of Simple Battery or any crime for that matter, immediately inform your teacher's union first and then consult with legal counsel so that you can begin the process of defending yourself.