Leah Legal is one of the highly-rated criminal defense firms around Los Angeles, California. Our attorneys are professionals in dealing with assault & battery cases. We analyze your case and stage a strong defense with the goal of a case dismissal or reduced penalties. In this article, you will find a detailed overview of the assault and battery offenses and how you can contact our attorneys for a free consultation.
Free Consultation 818-484-1100
Definition of Assault and Battery under California Law
Battery and assault involve inflicting threats/ force to harm or causing actual harm to another person. There is a thin line between the two and different states treat them differently. The two are completely different crimes under California law. The law under the penal code 240 PC defines assault as any action that leads to physical injuries or unconsented touching on another individual. On the other hand, the penal code 242 PC defines battery as the action of actually inflicting violence or force on somebody else.
This is the intentional act which puts another person in fear or suspicion of immediate harm. Assault, therefore, includes the threat of harm and doesn’t necessarily require actual harm to occur. Since assault may occur accidentally, most people often refer to it as simply ‘an attempted assault’.
The perpetrator must have had the intention to cause fear to another individual for a case to qualify as an assault. Assault doesn't require actual bodily harm, any fear that substantiates to be a threat is an assault. Additionally, assault requires an act to be taken further than the threat of harm. These acts include approaching a person who has their fists raised, using a weapon to scare off someone, or trying to push a person into a crowded street.
Without an action being taken, the case is not treated as an assault. For instance, if a man with a reputation of being mean and violent approaches a woman, that is not an assault since she is merely scared by his reputation. In addition, words are not sufficient. Stating a threat is not enough to bring about assault charges unless an additional action that creates fear of harm accompanies the words.
A battery is the completion of an assault. A battery is defined as offensive or harmful touching of another person without their consent. Since assault involves mere threat and battery is the actual harming, the two crimes are often charged together.
Unlike assault charges, battery requires that the perpetrator had intentions of committing the act. For example, if a person accidentally knocks a shopper with a grocery cart while in the mall, this will not be a battery. However, if the person's actions were as a result of criminal recklessness, it qualifies to be a battery.
The act of battery does not require severe injury or traumatization to the victim. All forms of touching which the victim finds offensive or harmful are sufficient to be considered battery. A classic battery case that doesn’t cause pain or injury is when the victim is spat on by the perpetrator. In such a circumstance, the defendant is not held accountable for offensive contact only because of the relative insensitiveness of the victim. The standard of offensiveness is determined from an ordinary individual’s perspective.
Types of Assault and Battery
The seriousness of the threat and the circumstances surrounding it will make the charge of assault either a felony or a misdemeanor. The federal law categorizes assault as a felony that is punished by ten years imprisonment, while as a misdemeanor, it attracts a one-year sentence.
Penalties for assault depend on the circumstances surrounding the crime and your criminal history. If the assault doesn’t involve a weapon, it is treated as a misdemeanor. However, the penalties rapidly escalate if weapons are used. For example, a first-degree assault involving a deadly weapon that causes serious injuries can lead to long jail terms with very heavy fines. In other cases, the prosecution tries to find out whether the victim was a vulnerable member of society. They include expectant mothers, the elderly, and persons living with disability or minors. If any of these is involved, then expect heftier charges. In most cases, the prosecution attempts to combine two or more charges to tie to the assault. This is in the plunge of increasing your jail term. However, some of these related charges carry very light charges and in most cases, your defense tries to tie your case to such offenses to help reduce the expected penalties. Some of the cases that are associated with assault may include:
Assault of a Law Enforcement Officer/Emergency Personnel
The penalties for California assault are more severe if the victim is in the administrative arm of the government. Higher penalties are given especially if the person was on duty. Some of the recognized professionals under this law may include a peace officer, firefighter, lifeguard, doctor or traffic officer. For example, if a traffic marshal is trying to control the traffic and he accidentally hits your car using his tool, then you alight the car and attack them, then you are viable for a battery charge.
If the victim falls under any of these categories and you were aware of the same, the jail sentence increases to a year or a maximum fine to two thousand dollars. Additionally, the maximum assault fine increases to two thousand dollars if your victim is a parking control officer in the line of duty.
Assault using a Deadly Weapon under Penal code 245(a)
If the assault was conducted using a weapon or other forceful means that may cause bodily injury, one is charged with ADW under Penal Code 245(a) (1). The assault is considered a wobbler.
If treated as a misdemeanor, a one-year jail term in a county jail is given. While as a felony, you are sentenced to either two, three or four years in state prison.
PC 244 Assault with Caustic Chemicals
Assault with caustic chemicals is one of the most serious forms of California assault and is dictated under the Penal Code 244 PC. Assault with caustic chemicals involves throwing or placing any kind of caustic chemical on someone else’s body with an intention of injuring or disfiguring them.
Disturbing the Peace under PC 415
Under the California PC 415, ‘disturbing the peace laws’ criminalizes the following:
- Fighting a person in public
- Making noise that is unreasonable and disturbing to others
- Directing words that are provocative to another individual in public
Disturbing peace is a low level misdemeanor or even an infraction with the discretion of the prosecution. If found guilty, you will serve a maximum jail term of 90 days. If you suffer an assault charge, and there is insufficient proof against you, then the prosecution lowers the charge to peace disturbance. This will be to the defendant’s advantage since the consequences are relatively light compared to those of assault.
Assaulting a public official under Penal code 217.1(a)
The offense of assaulting public officials in California is criminalized under the California law. The attack can either be a revenge scheme or intimidation to the officer while carrying out his or her duty. You must not necessarily be the one executing the intimidations, even by sending a person to intimidate another party makes you guilty. On the peripheral, the executor of the orders is charged with conspiracy.
Examples of public officials are prosecutors, judges, and the local and federal officers of state. Under California law, assaulting a public officer is treated as a wobbler. If treated as a misdemeanor, the potential sentence is up to one year. If taken as a felony, a sentence of sixteen months, two or three years in state prison is given.
Under the California Penal Code section 242, a simple battery is a battery that doesn’t cause any serious injury and isn’t committed against a law enforcement officer or any other protected person. Being a light allegation, it is mostly considered as a misdemeanor. Potential penalties include
- Misdemeanor probation
- Up to 6 months in county jail and/or
- A fine of up to two thousand dollars
Some of the common California offenses that are closely related to PC 242 battery may include:
PC 243(e) (1) Domestic Battery
A domestic battery involves any of the following people:
- Your spouse or a former spouse
- Your cohabitant or former cohabitant
- A person you are dating or used to date
- The mother or father of your children
A domestic battery is a misdemeanor and attracts a two thousand dollars fine or a jail sentence of up to one year in county jail.
PC 243(d) Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury
If your battery offense causes serious injury to the victim, you are charged with aggravated battery. In the California laws, aggravated battery is treated as a wobbler, making it either a misdemeanor or a felony.
The misdemeanor penalty for this offense is a maximum of one year in county jail. If charged as a felony, it can lead to two, three or four years in prison.
Aggravated Assault and Battery
The defendant may be charged with aggravated assault and battery, an elevation of assault and battery if they are particularly egregious. This is meant to criminalize conduct that is highly offensive in society. It may apply to cases where deadly weapons are used or when a victim is a vulnerable person like an expectant woman, an elderly person, or a minor.
Additional Consequences for Battery in California
Battery victims can sue their offender for damages. It is not necessary that the defendant is found guilty with the offense. Provided you had battery charges, then other related civil offenses fall in your basket. The California law treats civil crimes with utmost seriousness and if found guilty in correlation to a battery, the penalties increase, mainly because civil trials don’t need extensive prove. What the plaintiff simply needs to prove is that the battery happened using the prevalence of the available evidence. To prove liability for battery, the plaintiff, using a prevalence must prove the following:
- The defendant touched the plaintiff with intentions of harming them
- The touching was unconsented
- The plaintiff underwent harm or offense by the defendant’s conduct and
- Any reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would have found the touching offensive
What the Prosecution has to Prove
In order for the defendant to be convicted with an assault under PC 240, all the following must be true:
- The defendant’s action was likely to lead to the use of force against an individual
- The defendant acted willfully
- When the defendant performed the act, he had the capability to apply force to the other individual
In order for the defendant to be convicted of battery, the following must be true
- The defendant’s acts were unlawful or unauthorized
- There was contact between the defendant and another person
- The defendant's actions resulted in some offensive form of conduct or harm
- You are not in a position to exert force on anyone
For a case to qualify for assault in California, someone must be able to force the victim for them to be charged. If he or she is unable to do so, then they are innocent of assault.
For example, when Ken fights with Brian, they are immediately separated and Ken swings his fists in Brian’s direction from a distance. Ken is innocent for swinging his fists because of the distance between them.
- Self-defense or you were defending someone else
For this defense to work, the following conditions must be satisfied
- You believed reasonably that you or another individual was in danger of bodily harm or being unlawfully touched
- You believed reasonably that immediate action was needed for defense against the danger and
- You used reasonable force that was necessary for defense against the danger
- You did not Act Willfully
You are not guilty under PEN 240 if you did not willfully attempt to use force against another individual. Your actions may have been accidental or a result of a misunderstanding. They may have been misinterpreted by the supposed victim. If it is this way, you and your attorney should ensure that the full story is out.
- You were Falsely Accused
The penal code 240 PC doesn’t necessitate the need for a victim to get an actual injury. Therefore, it is easy for one person to condemn the other person for committing assault out of anger, jealousy or desire for revenge.
- You were defending yourself or someone else
This form of defense applies only if the following thresholds are met:
- You believe that you almost suffered injuries to the body or unconsented touching
- You believed reasonably that using force immediately was necessary for defense against the danger
- You applied the required force for defense
For example, Jack and his apartment manager have a bad relationship. The manager confronts him one day and pokes his chest. Jack reiterates by pushing the manager who slips and injures his head. Although the manager just poked his chest, Jack can still contest the battery charges by claiming that he did all that as a form of self-defense. He should claim and prove that the manager was unlawfully touching him and pushing him away was his only option.
- You acted unwillingly
You must not have had the intentions of harming someone, but you need to have acted by will for you to be found guilty of battery. If it was unintentional, you may use the ‘accident excuse’ as your defense.
For example, if you unintentionally push someone or hit them with a tool. In such a situation, the prosecution may call for battery charges, but you should plead innocent of that offense if your act wasn’t intentional.
- Parental Right to Discipline a Child
Sometimes, parents get battery charges after disciplining their children. This is tied under PC 273(d) on child abuse under California law. Such cases that involve disciplining of children by parents are mostly weightless since it is just a mere attempt to discipline the alleged victim. Just like charges of child abuse, you may be able to defend yourself off battery charges by showing you were exercising the parental right to discipline your child. Parents are allowed by the law to use light physical punishments to discipline their children provided that the force used is reasonable.
Find an Assault and Battery Attorney Near Me
Assault and battery crimes are complicated cases in California. It is important for you to hire experienced attorneys to argue your case and fight for your freedom. At Leah Legal, we specialize in helping people charged with battery and/or assault in Los Angeles, California. Call us today at 818-484-1100 and speak to one of our highly-experienced legal experts concerning your assault and battery case today.