Is Battered Person Syndrome a Defense to Criminal Charges in Indiana?

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Indiana law allows evidence to be introduced at trial of prior acts of violence perpetrated by the alleged victim on the defendant. Indiana labels this defense as “effects of battery.” “Effects of battery” is defined as “a psychological condition of an individual who has suffered repeated physical or sexual abuse inflicted by another individual who is the victim of an alleged crime for which the abused individual is charged in a pending prosecution.” IC 35-31.5-2-109. There are two defense avenues for this type of evidence to be admitted via IC 35-41-3-11.

First, a defendant can claim that due to the effects of battery, the defendant could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his/her conduct at the time of the alleged crime. This is akin to the insanity defense. The general thought is that if the defendant could not appreciate that what they were doing was wrong at the time of the offense, then they should not be found criminally liable. The evidence of prior acts of violence would serve to aid the defense in establishing that due to those acts, the defendant was unaware of the wrongfulness of their behavior while committing the offense.

Second, a defendant can introduce evidence of effects of battery as part of a self-defense claim. IC 35-41-3-11(b)(2) reads as follows: “Evidence of effects of battery can be introduced when 1) The defendant claims to have used justifiable reasonable force under section 2 (the self-defense statute) of this chapter. The defendant has the burden of producing evidence from which a trier of fact could find support for the reasonableness of the defendant’s belief in the imminence of the use of unlawful force or, when deadly force is employed, the imminence of serious bodily injury to the defendant or a third person or the commission of a forcible felony.”

It is important to note that this portion of the statute cross references the general self-defense statute. This means that evidence of effects of battery as part of a self-defense claim is still subject to the general self-defense principles. Most notably, self-defense still does not apply when the defendant is the initial aggressor in the confrontation. Thus, a defense under IC 35-41-3-11(b)(2) is a particular form of self-defense in which the reasonableness of the belief of the defendant that the victim’s use of unlawful force against the defendant was imminent is affected by the “effects of battery.”

To illustrate, there may be situations in which, on the surface, a defendant’s act of violence against another may seem unreasonable. Through the use of effects of battery evidence, it may become apparent that the defendant’s perception was altered based on prior acts of violence committed by the victim. The defendant’s perception that he/she was faced with an imminent threat, therefore, might not be readily apparent but for the evidence of prior acts of violence.

Are you or a loved one charged with an offense in which effects of battery may be a defense? Contact the experienced Indianapolis criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower anytime by calling us at (317) 870-0019 or email us at