Assault and Battery

Under California Penal Code 242 PC, you may be guilty of battery if you willfully touch another person in a harmful or offensive manner. Therefore, you may face battery charges even when you did not inflict injuries on another person as long as you touched him or her offensively. Battery charges still apply if you touch a person on their clothing or using an object. On the other hand, assault refers to any action that may inflict harm or violence on another person (California Penal Code 240 PC). Unlike a battery, assault does not involve direct physical contact. If you are facing assault and battery charges, the Orange County Criminal Lawyer can assist you to fight the charges. 

Overview of Assault

The crime of assault under the California Penal Code 240 PC has four elements that a prosecutor must prove to show that you are guilty of assault.  The prosecutor must prove that you did an act that would have resulted in a direct application of force to another person. You must have acted willfully or on purpose. A reasonable person would have told that your actions would lead to the application of force on the target victim. When you acted, you had the ability to apply force on the target victim. 

To be guilty of assault, you do not have to apply physical force on a person. If the prosecutor proves that you took an action that would have led to the application of force on a victim, you can face assault charges. 

Assault is a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 240 PC. The potential consequences for misdemeanor assault offenses include misdemeanor summary probation, a fine of up to $ 1,000, or imprisonment of up to 1 year in county jail.

You may be subject to aggravated/enhanced assault charges if you commit an offense against an emergency worker or a law enforcement officer.  You face harsher penalties only if you assault a protected person in the course of his/her duties.

Some of the common assault charges under California law include:

Assault with a Deadly Weapon (California Penal Code 245(a) (1) PC)

If you use a deadly weapon to perform an act that would directly result in the application of force on another person, you may be guilty under California Penal Code 245(a) (1) PC.  To be guilty, you must have acted willfully, and you were aware of the nature of your actions. 

The California law defines deadly weapon as any weapon that can be used to cause death or inflict great bodily injury.  There are some obvious deadly weapons such as machetes or guns. However, some seemingly harmless objects may qualify as deadly weapons if they are used to inflict harm or kill a person.  For example, if you use a beer bottle to hit a victim, the bottle may qualify as a deadly weapon. You may also use an unloaded gun to hit a victim; the unloaded gun would qualify as a deadly weapon. 

However, if you use your hand or foot as a weapon, you cannot face assault with a deadly weapon charge. Under PC 245(a) (1), deadly weapons do not include human body parts. However, it is important to note that your hands or feet may qualify as deadly weapons if you use them with a great force that is likely to cause great bodily injury or death. 

Assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler under California law. It may either attract misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the facts surrounding the offense.  Other factors that determine whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor include the type of weapon used to commit the offense. The victim of the assault also matters; higher penalties apply if the assault with a deadly weapon is against a protected person. The charges will also depend on whether the assault victim suffered an injury and if so, the extent of the injury suffered.  The criminal history of the defendant also matters; if you have a bad criminal history, you may automatically face felony charges for assault with a deadly weapon. 

If charged as a misdemeanor, penalties for an attack with a deadly weapon may include imprisonment of up to 1 year in county jail. Instead of jail, the court may recommend a misdemeanor summary probation. You may also pay fines of up to $1,000. If your offense is a felony, a longer imprisonment period applies; imprisonment may range from two, three, or four years in a California State prison.  You may have to pay a fine of up to $10,000.  In some instances, the court may recommend formal probation, also known as felony probation.

If you commit the offense with a deadly weapon using a firearm, you will face enhanced penalties.  If you use an ordinary firearm to commit an assault, the offense is still a wobbler. The only difference is that for a misdemeanor offense with a deadly weapon involving a firearm, the consequences involve mandatory imprisonment of six months in county jail.

However, if the assault under Penal Code 245(a) (1) involved the use of a semi-automatic firearm, felony charges apply. Assault with a deadly weapon involving machine guns, .50 BMG rifles, or assault weapons often attracts felony charges. The potential imprisonment may be four years, eight years, or twelve years in state prison.

The penalties may be higher if the assault with a firearm is against a peace officer or a protected person. If you use an ordinary firearm to assault a peace officer, the imprisonment period may be four, six, or eight years. If you use a semi-automatic firearm, you may face imprisonment for five, seven, or nine years. In cases where a machine gun or .50BMG rifle is used, imprisonment may include six, nine, or twelve years.

 The California Three Strikes Law may apply if you commit assault using a deadly weapon against a peace officer. You may also get a strike on your criminal record if you use a firearm to commit an assault with a deadly weapon. You may also face charges if you inflict great bodily injury on another person using a deadly weapon.

 Assault with a Caustic Chemical (California Penal Code 244 PC)

If you willfully and maliciously place or throw a caustic chemical or a flammable or corrosive substance on another person with an intent injuring the person's flesh or disfiguring his/her body, you may be guilty of assault with a caustic chemical under Penal Code 244 PC. 

A caustic substance is a substance that may corrode or burn living tissues. A good example of a caustic substance is sulfuric acid and other related substances. Flammable products such as gasoline also qualify as caustic chemicals under Penal Code 244 PC. 

Using dangerous chemicals to assault a person is a felony under California law and felony penalties apply.  If the court recommends formal probation, you have to serve a minimum of one year in county jail and honor several probationary conditions. Conditions of probation may include regular meetings with the probation officer, paying restitution to the victim, performing community service, and participating in group therapy, among others. 

Assault on a Public Official

 If you commit an assault against a public official or a member of a public official's immediate family, you may face an assault on a public official charge.  You are particularly guilty if the prosecution establishes that you committed the assault to hinder the public official from performing his/her public duties. Under the California Penal Code 217.1(a) PC, a public official may include a present or former judge or juror, a governor of any state in the U.S, a current or former prosecutor, or a mayor among others. An immediate family member of a public official is also included under Penal Code 217.1(a) PC.

The motive is an important factor under Penal Code 217.1(a) PC as you are only guilty of the crime of assault of a public officer if the assault has something to do with the official's job including preventing the official from carrying out official tasks.  Assault of a public official is a wobbler under California law; you may face misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the facts surrounding the case.

Common Defenses for Assault Charges

If you are facing assault charges, your lawyer may assist you in staging a good defense against the charges. You do not have to accept all assault charges directed towards you. You can argue that:

You Have no Ability to Inflict Force or Violence

To be guilty of assault under California law, you must have had the ability to use force on the victim. Therefore, you may argue that you had no ability to inflict violence or force on the victim.

Self Defense or Defense of Others

Just like in battery cases, personal defense or defense of others also apply in assault cases. You can point out that you believed that either you or another individual was in danger and acted in self-defense or defense of the other person. You also have to prove that you believed that it was necessary to use force to shield yourself or another person from inherent danger. You also have to prove that you did not apply more force than was necessary to defend yourself or the other person. 

False Accusation

In assault cases, physical bruises are not necessary to prove that an assault happened. It is therefore easy for people to accuse others falsely of assault out of jealousy, revenge, or anger.  It is also very hard to prove that you assaulted the victim, especially in a case where a victim suffers no injury. Therefore, you can deny assault charges by asserting that you were falsely accused.

You Did Not Use a Deadly Weapon or Force Likely to Cause Great Bodily Injury

In cases of assault with a deadly weapon, you are only guilty if you used a deadly weapon and applied a force that can cause great bodily injury. It is hard to determine objects that qualify as a deadly weapon. It is also hard to measure the force applied in carrying out an assault. Therefore, you can base your defense on these uncertainties.

Overview of Battery

For you to be guilty of a battery under California Penal Code 242 PC, the prosecutor must prove that you touched another person in a harmful or offensive manner. An offensive touch entails touching someone in a rude, disrespectful, angry, or violent manner. The touch has to be willful meaning that you are only guilty of battery if you purposely touched the other person; an accidental touch cannot subject you to battery charges. When expounding on touching a person, California courts assert that you can face battery charges if you offensively touch an object that is in direct contact with another person. For example, if you forcefully hit an object of another person's hand, you may be guilty of battery.

According to California Penal Code 242 PC, you may face misdemeanor charges if you commit simple battery that does not cause bodily injuries and does not involve a peace officer or any other protected person. For a misdemeanor battery charge, the applicable consequences include imprisonment of up to six months in county jail, a fine of up to $2000, and summary probation.

Some of the common battery offenses in California include: 

Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury (California Penal Code 242 (d))

You may face enhanced charges if you commit battery and inflict serious bodily injury on another person; this is known as aggravated battery.  A serious bodily injury refers to a serious impairment of the victim's physical condition. Some examples of serious bodily injuries include concussions or broken bones. In California, battery causing serious bodily injury is a wobbler and may attract misdemeanor charges or felony charges. For a misdemeanor offense, the applicable imprisonment period is one year in county jail. For a felony battery offense, the imprisonment period may range from two years, three years, or four years in prison.

Battery on a Peace Officer (California Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c) (2))

You may face harsher charges if you commit battery against certain types of people, including law enforcement officers, peace officers, and other protected persons as provided under California Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c) (2).   A peace officer may include a law enforcement officer, a custodial officer, a firefighter, a paramedic, or an emergency medical technician. Other protected persons may include code enforcement officer, animal control officer, an employee of a probation department, or a doctor or a nurse providing emergency medical care.

For you to be guilty of battery on a peace officer, the prosecution must prove that at the time you committed the offense, you were aware that the victim is a peace officer. You can easily identify a peace officer if the officer is clothed in a standard uniform.  The battery must have occurred when the peace officer was performing his/her official duties. Battery on a peace officer may attract misdemeanor or felony charges.

Domestic Battery (California Penal Code 243(e) (1) PC)

If you commit battery against an intimate partner with whom you have shared an intimate relation relationship, whether past or current, you may face domestic battery charges. To face domestic battery charges, the prosecutor must prove that you willfully offensively touched another person. He/she must also prove that you share or used to share an intimate relationship with the victim. 

 A domestic battery may include battery against a current or former spouse, cohabitant, a person with whom you share or used to share a dating relationship, a person with whom you have a child, and a current or former fiancé. 

A domestic battery may also be against close relatives such as siblings, parents, or children.   Under California law, domestic battery is a misdemeanor offense with potential imprisonment of one year in county jail. The court may also recommend a misdemeanor summary probation instead of jail.  For a domestic battery conviction, the court may require you to enroll in a batterers program for one year as you serve your probation.  Additional penalties for a domestic battery misdemeanor include fines of up to $2,000.  

A domestic battery may not count as a major offense; however, if you are a non-resident, you should be aware of the immigration consequences associated with a domestic battery conviction. Domestic battery is a crime related to domestic violence; therefore, it is a deportable crime under federal immigration law. 

Sexual Battery (California Penal Code 243.4) 

Sexual battery is a distinct crime that entails touching a sexual part of another person without his or her consent for arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse.  A sexual battery offense may be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense. 

If the victim of sexual battery was restrained or institutionalized, the offense might attract felony charges. If you commit a misdemeanor or felony sexual offense, you are subject to California's sex offender registration requirement. 

Common Defenses for Battery Crimes

With the help of a skilled lawyer, you can fight battery charges. A proper defense may lead to a reduction of battery charges of dismissal of the charges. You can fight battery charges by asserting that:

You were Acting in Self Defense

You may argue that you committed the battery offense in the course of self-defense or defense of other persons. Self-defense may apply if you believed that you or another person was in danger of suffering being touched unlawfully or suffering physical injury.

You have to prove that you believed that it is important to use some force to defend yourself or someone else against some inherent danger.

You also have to prove that you did not use more force than was required to defend yourself or another person.

You did not Act on Purpose/Willfully

To be guilty of a battery under the California Penal Code 242, you must have acted willfully or on purpose. You must have purposely touched another person offensively. You can defend yourself in court by arguing you did not commit battery intentionally/willfully. You may argue that you accidentally touched the victim. For example, if you accidentally hit a person with an object you are carrying, or you accidentally push a person in a crowded place, the person may accuse you of battery. However, as long as your action was not willful but accidental, you can successfully fight battery charges.

You Have Parental Right to Discipline Your Child

In line with Penal Code 273(d) California child abuse, parents at times face additional charges for battery under Penal Code 242. If you are facing charges for alleged battery against your child, you may assert that your actions were lawful attempts to instill discipline in your child. 

As a parent, the law allows you to use physical force to instill discipline in your child. However, the physical force used must be reasonable and must not be excessive. 

False Accusations

Especially in domestic battery cases, you may defend yourself by asserting that you were falsely accused.  Every single day, innocent people face imprisonment on due to domestic battery after false accusations by their partners. Your intimate partner may accuse you falsely due to anger, jealousy, or revenge. 

False accusations of domestic battery are common in child custody and divorce cases. One partner may accuse another of domestic battery to get a favorable outcome in a child custody or divorce case. It would be hard for the partner convicted of domestic violence to secure child custody. 

Consent

In the case of sexual battery, you cannot face battery charges if you successfully prove in court that the touching was consensual. You are only guilty of sexual battery if you willfully and offensively touch sexual parts of another person against their consent.  

Insufficient Evidence

If there is insufficient evidence that you indeed committed a battery crime, your charges may not hold.  The prosecutor has to prove beyond doubt that you committed the battery.  For instance, it is hard to differentiate between a willful offensive touch and an accidental touch. 

Contact an Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Assault and battery charges have adverse penalties under California law. However, with proper legal representation and defense, the court may reduce or dismiss your charges.  If you are currently facing assault and battery charges, the Orange County Criminal Lawyer can help. Call us at 714-262-4833 and speak to one of our lawyers today. We will defend you to ensure you get the best outcome to your case.

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