Assault and Battery
Charges of assault and battery are some of the most common violent crime charges in California. Many people think that “assault” and “battery” are the same thing, but under California law, they are separate charges that fall under the criminal category of Crimes Against the Person. One or both charges can apply, even if the alleged victim is not physically injured.
Assault and battery charges in California can include:
- Simple Assault
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon
- Simple Battery
- Battery with Serious Bodily Injury
- Battery on a Peace Officer
The penalties for assault or battery will depend on the specific charges, the individual circumstances, and whether or not there were any aggravating factors. Assault and battery charges can be misdemeanor or felony charges. They may result in jail time, heavy fines, as well as a criminal record.
Under California Penal Code 240, simple assault is a misdemeanor, but can still result in up to six months in jail. Assault can be charged against a defendant, even where there was no physical contact or injury.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Under California Penal Code 245, assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as a misdemeanor, or as a felony, depending on the type of weapon, the injury involved, and the alleged victim.
Under California Penal Code 242, simple battery where there was no serious injury is considered a misdemeanor. However, depending on who the victim is and the individual circumstances involved, a simple battery may be elevated to a felony.
Battery with Serious Bodily Injury
Under California Penal Code 243(d), any battery that actually results in a serious injury has greater penalties than simple battery. Also known as aggravated battery, it may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Battery on a Peace Officer
Under California Penal Code 243, battery on a police officer or certain other workers and employees carries increased penalties. Related to the nature of the official’s duty, it includes custodial officers, EMTs, doctors, nurses, and code enforcement officers. This is generally a misdemeanor, unless injury results, which could increase the crime to a felony.
Defenses to Assault and Battery Charges
There are a number of valid defenses to criminal charges of assault and battery. These will depend on the facts of the case, but generally include a claim of self-defense, or the defense of another. You cannot legally justify an assault based on someone calling you names or saying something offensive, because words alone are not a defense to charges of assault and battery.
Assault and Battery Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you know is charged with assault or battery, you may think that there was no real injury, or that both sides were equally harmed. You may even try and contact the person claiming injury to try and clear things up, but that can actually make matters worse. Contact an experienced California criminal defense lawyer so you don’t have to face the prosecutor alone. A qualified defense lawyer with a history of successfully helping their clients get charges reduced or dismissed can mean the difference between jail time and a clean record.
California Penal Code 240 defines simple assault as “an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.”
To be convicted of assault the following must be true:
- The defendant did something or acted in a way that would likely result in the use of force against someone;
- The defendant acted willfully;
- The defendant understood and was aware that the act would result in force being used against someone; and
- The defendant had the ability to cause harm.
Simple assault is a misdemeanor and you can be charged with up to $1,000 in fines or sentenced to up to six months in jail.
A bicyclist crossing the street is angry that a car didn’t stop to let her cross, so she throws a rock at the car as it drives away. Even though the driver was unharmed, the bicyclist can be convicted of an assault for her intention to cause harm.
A man walks into a convenience store and tells the cashier that he has a gun in his pocket and will shoot him if he doesn’t hand over all the cash in the register. The cashier didn’t know that the man actually had no gun on him. Although the cashier feared for his life, the robber cannot be charged of assault because he did not have the ability to use the imaginary weapon.
A fan at a football game gets into a confrontation with someone cheering for his rival team, and she throws her beer bottle at him, but misses her target. The fan can still be charged will assault even though she did not harm her rival.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon
California Penal Code 245 defines assault with a deadly weapon as an assault committed with a deadly weapon or by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury
A deadly weapon can be a gun, a knife, or any object that can cause death.
To be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon the following must be true:
- The defendant willfully assaulted another person; and
- The defendant used a deadly weapon.
The term deadly weapon allows for a broad interpretation and can be used to describe any item that was used to attack or cause harm to someone.
Assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the case, your criminal history, the degree of harm caused to the victim, and whether the victim was a protected person such as a law enforcement officer or firefighter.
A felony charge can result in a maximum of: 12 years of prison (depending on the type of weapon used), a $10,000 fine, and/or a strike towards California’s Three-Strikes law which can result in life in prison without parole.
A misdemeanor charge can result in a maximum of: five years of probation, one year of jail and/ or a $1,000 fine.
A bicyclist cycling along with the flow of traffic and not on the side of the street, angers a passing driver who has to slow down. He tries to swerve to bump her tire but misses. The driver can be charged with assault by a deadly weapon for intending to use his car to cause harm, even if the bicyclist was unharmed.
A man walks into a convenience store with a gun, points it at the cashier, and tells him to hand over all the money in register or he will shoot him. The cashier complies and the robber runs off with the money. The robber can still be charged with an assault with a deadly weapon for intending to use his gun against the cashier.
California Penal Code 242 defines battery as any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.
Assault and battery are two separate charges. Though you cannot face penalties for both, you can be charged with both. A battery can only occur after an assault, but an assault does not imply a battery. An assault is an attempt to cause harm, and battery is the unlawful use of violence or force against someone that actually results in harm.
To be convicted of battery the following must be true:
- The defendant used force or violence against another person;
- The defendant did so willingly and unlawfully.
A battery charge can result in a fine not exceeding $2,000 and/or imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed six months.
A bicyclist is riding down the street in the middle of the road, which angers a driver who has to slow down. He tries to swerve near her to scare her, but ends up hitting her tire causing her to fall over, but does not result in any serious injury. The driver can be charged with battery against the bicyclist.
A man robs a convenience store at gunpoint, and while the cashier is trying to hide he trips on a box and sprains his ankle. The robber can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon even if he didn’t use the gun.
A fan at a football game gets into a confrontation with a rival cheering for the other team. She throws her beer bottle at the rival, which breaks and cuts him. The fan can be charged with battery.
Battery with Serious Bodily Injury
California Penal Code 243 defines battery with serious bodily injury, or aggravated battery, as a battery resulting in a serious impairment of physical condition, including, but not limited to, the following: loss of consciousness, concussion, bone fracture, protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ, a wound requiring extensive suturing, and serious disfigurement.
Injury is defined as any physical injury which requires professional medical treatment.
To be convicted of battery with serious bodily injury the following must be true:
- The defendant committedbattery; and
- The battery resulted in serious injury to the victim.
A battery with serious bodily injury charge can result in imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, three, or four years.
A bicyclist is riding down the street in the middle of the road, which angers a driver who has to slow down. He tries to swerve near her to scare her, but ends up hitting her tire causing her to fall over and break multiple bones. The driver can be charged with battery with serious bodily injury against the bicyclist.
A man robs a convenience store at gunpoint and shoots the cashier in the arm when he reaches for a phone. The robber can be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
A fan at a football game gets into a confrontation with a rival cheering for the other team. She throws her beer bottle at the rival, which causes him to fall over resulting several in serious cuts, and a broken leg. The fan can be charged with battery with serious injury.
Battery on a Peace Officer
California Penal Code 243 defines battery on a peace officer as a battery knowingly committed on a police officer or certain other workers including, but not limited to, custodial officers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, nurses, and code enforcement officers.
To be convicted of battery on a peace officer the following must be true:
- The defendant committed battery; and
- The defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that the victim was a peace officer.
Penalties for a battery on a peace officer depend on the position the worker holds, whether the worker is currently engaged in his or her duties, and how much harm was caused. Battery on a peace officer can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
A battery on a peace officer that does not result in bodily injury is punishable as a misdemeanor and can result in a fine not exceeding $2,000, or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for 16 months, or two or three years, or by both the fine and imprisonment.
A battery on a peace officer that does result in bodily injury is punishable as a felony and can result in imprisonment up to 4 years depending on the seriousness of the injury, or by a fee of up to $10,000, or by both.
At a protest being held in a main city square a group of protesters becomes violent towards police officers on the scene. The group of protesters starts throwing rocks at the officers. Now, the protesters can be charged with battery on a peace officer.
A man is walking out of the mall after shopping when police officers rush him and throw him to the ground. He matched the description for a man who just robbed one of the stores. The man struggles with the officers while trying to tell them he is innocent, and accidentally pushes one against a wall. The man cannot be charged with battery on a peace officer because he was acting in self-defense.