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Assault & Battery

Assault and battery is a phrase that is commonly heard, but the two words are actually separate crimes. California assault and battery laws apply in criminal law and civil law, but this article will focus on assault and battery laws in the California Penal Code. Both crimes are serious offenses that can result in harsh penalties and a permanent record, so if you’re currently facing charges for either assault or battery, it is imperative that you work with a criminal defense attorney.

Assault Laws – California Penal Code 240

According to California Penal Code 240, assault is defined as intentionally attempting to injure another physically. Apart from the physical aspect, assault can also be a menacing or threatening act or statement that an individual can perceive as an attack. There are various kinds of assault which are all highlighted in Penal Code 241, but the most basic is “simple assault,” which is a misdemeanor offense. 

In order to prove assault, a prosecutor must prove the following:

  • The defendant committed an act that resulted in the application of force against another
  • The defendant acted willfully
  • The defendant was aware that the act would result in the application of force against another
  • The defendant had the present ability to apply force
  • The defendant had no legal excuse

From a legal perspective, assault doesn’t have to involve actual physical contact, and the application of force can mean either harmful or offensive touching. With simple assault, it doesn’t matter if you succeeded in applying force or caused an injury. Common examples where assault charges can apply include:

  • Taking a swing at someone and missing
  • Threatening to hit someone accompanied by an action that shows an intent to carry out the threat
  • Spitting on someone’s face

In addition, the severity of assault charges will also depend on the identity of the victim. A simple assault charge can easily be a wobbler offense if the victim is part of a protected group of professionals. Assault against healthcare providers and many public workers who are engaged in their duties during the incident would carry more severe penalties if the defendant knew the victim was engaged in their duties. Among healthcare providers and public workers protected under section 241 include; doctors, nurses, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, highway workers, members of the US military force, school employees, public transportation employees, probation department employees, and animal control officers.

Simple assault is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of 6 months in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine. For a wobbler assault charge convicted as a felony, the defendant may get up to 3 years in county jail or state prison, a maximum fine of up to $2,000, and a probation period of up to 3 years.

Battery Laws – PC 242

Battery is a separate crime from assault, but both are often related because battery is the result of a successful assault. In other words, if assault is trying to inflict force on someone, battery is when you actually succeed. 

California Penal Code 242 defines battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Thus, to successfully obtain a battery conviction, a prosecutor need only prove that the defendant willfully used force/violence against another, even if the force didn’t result in physical injury. Unlike assault, battery requires the defendant to have made some physical contact, no matter how trivial, and as long as it is done in a rude, annoying or disrespectful manner. Examples of battery include domestic violence and sexual battery. 

Simple battery is a misdemeanor under section 243(a), and the penalty includes up to $2,000 in fines, probation for up to 3 years, and/or a maximum of 6 months in county jail. When simple battery is committed against a protected worker, the defendant may face up to 1 year in county jail.

The court may also compel the defendant to make a payment to a battered women’s shelter amounts summing up to $5,000 as well as pay restitution to the victim for their actions. 

A misdemeanor battery conviction carries a 10-year-long ban on firearms, but if the conviction is a felony, defendants will be banned from possessing firearms for life.

Wobbler Battery

Wobbler offenses can be convicted as either a misdemeanor or felony. The following offenses are wobbler offenses under California battery laws:

  • Battery against a law enforcement officer while the officer is engaged in his/her duties
  • Battery against a juror/alternate juror by a party in the case
  • Battery resulting in injury against a public worker and healthcare provider who is currently  engaged in his/her duties
  • Battery resulting in injury against a school employee engaged in his/her duties.

Penalties for a wobbler battery charged as a felony include:

  • Up to 3 years in a county or state prison
  • Up to $2,000 in fines (or $10,000 if the victim is a public transportation worker)
  • Up to 3 years in probation

Aggravated Assault and Battery

California law allows a prosecutor to pursue escalated charges of aggravated assault or battery in more serious cases. The prosecutor must show the presence of an “aggravating factor” to elevate the charges. An example of an aggravating factor in assault is when the defendant used a deadly weapon such as a knife in a deadly way. For aggravated battery, it all depends on the severity of the victim’s injuries. If the battery causes serious bodily injury, this can bump up a simple battery charge to a felony aggravated battery charge.

Whether a misdemeanor or felony, a criminal conviction becomes a permanent mark on your record, which can have severe implications for your future. With a criminal conviction on your record, getting a job, financial aid, applying for college, or even getting an apartment to rent could prove difficult. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court.

Attorney Alison Saros fights for her clients aggressively to ensure the best possible outcome. Saros Law APC has preserved its clients’ freedom and liberty for years. Contact us today at (310) 341-3466 to talk about your case and the options you have available.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

Under California Penal Code 245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon happens when the defendant assaulted another using a deadly weapon or force likely to cause bodily injury. Assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler offense where the prosecution can pursue felony or misdemeanor charges, depending on the case. If convicted for felony assault with a deadly weapon, you may be subjected to a maximum of 4 years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

Great Bodily Injury

Battery causing great bodily injury is one of the more severe offenses under section 243(d) of the Penal Code. This is a wobbler offense which means defendants can receive either a felony or misdemeanor conviction. Battery causing great bodily injury carries all the key elements of a simple battery charge, with the added condition that the act has to result in “great bodily injury.”

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