The most common violent crime charges in California involve assault and battery. Often, people assume that assault and battery are the same, but according to California law, the charges are separate. Assault and battery charges fall under the criminal category of offenses against the person. Therefore, even if the alleged victim is not physically injured, one or both charges could apply. Assault and battery charges in California include simple battery, battery on a peace officer, simple assault, battery with serious bodily injury, and assault with a deadly weapon.

The penalties you could face for assault and battery will depend on whether or not there were any aggravating factors, the individual circumstances, and the specific charges. Assault and battery crimes could be felonies or misdemeanors. The charges could lead you to heavy fines, jail terms, and a criminal record. If you are accused of an assault and battery offense in Pasadena, CA, or the surrounding Los Angeles area, The Law Office of Ann Gottesman is here to help you. Ann personally represents her clients and dedicates her time to thorough investigation and defense preparation.

Below are the common battery offenses under California law:

Simple Battery

You should understand what constitutes battery, the applicable penalties for the crime, and the legal defenses you can use to fight battery charges. If you or your loved one is facing simple battery charges in California, you will want to discuss you case with an experienced local attorney. Even a seemingly harmless action could qualify as a battery. A small push, one slap or even a poke, not resulting in any injury can be charges a misdemeanor battery. A good criminal defense lawyer will discuss your charges, constitutional rights, and available defenses.

Simple Battery Defined (CA Penal Code section 242)

Simple battery is defined as any unlawful and willful use of violence or force upon another person according to California penal code 242. You could face charges even if the person you battered does not sustain an injury. A simple offensive or unwanted touch on someone else is sufficient evidence upon which the prosecutor could base a battery charge under California law.

If the prosecutor accuses you of battery under PC 242, they must prove certain elements. These elements are:

  • You touched someone else

  • You touched the victim willfully

  • You touched the victim in an offensive or harmful manner

Acting willfully means that you acted on purpose, but it does not necessarily mean you intended to harm anyone or intended to commit a battery. For example, if you are angry and through a book across the room and the book unintentionally hit your spouse in the face, you can be charged with battery. This is because you intentionally committed the act of throwing the book or object. You could face battery charges in California regardless of whether the violence or force causes injury or pain to another person. You could still face battery charges even if you make the slightest touch on another person as long as you do it in a disrespectful, rude, or annoying manner. For instance, you could face battery charges if you spit or throw an egg at someone. If another person is offended by the touching, even a seemingly harmless action like poking them in the shoulder, could potentially amount to a battery. The charges against you will not hold if the prosecutor fails to prove all the above elements.

The Potential Penalties for Simple Battery

In California, simple battery is often charged as a misdemeanor offense. The typical punishment for the crime include:

  • A fine that does not exceed $2000

  • Probation up to 12 months

  • A jail term that does not exceed six months in a county jail

Legal Defenses To PC 242 Charges

Hiring a competent criminal defense attorney who understands California battery law is the best way to fight your charges. Your attorney could present the following arguments to help you challenge your charges:

  • You had a parental right to discipline a child

  • You did not act willfully

  • You acted in self-defense or defense of someone else

  • The complaining witness is lying

Other Forms Of Battery

Other crimes that could be charged alongside or instead of simple battery in California could include:

Battery On A Peace Officer— Penal Code 243 (b) And 243(c) (2)

According to pc 243 (b) and 243(c) (2), California battery carries harsher punishment if it is committed against particular classes of individuals. The persons protected by this statute are individuals in the following occupations:

  • Traffic officers

  • Firefighters

  • Security officers

  • Peace officers

  • Custody assistants

  • Emergency medical technicians or paramedics

  • Employees of a probation department, among others

If you commit battery against emergency personnel, a peace officer, or a firefighter under California PC 243(b), you could face misdemeanor charges amounting to one year in county jail. Causing an injury against someone else in the above categories through battery could increase the penalties substantially under California PC 243(c). It could amount to a wobbler offense, and you could face felony charges. Felony charges could lead to an increased fine of $10,000 and a jail term of 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison.

Battery Causing Severe Bodily Injury — PC 243 (d)

You could face harsher penalties like PC 242 (d), aggravated battery if you commit battery and inflict a severe injury on another person. The better-known legal definition of significant bodily injury is distinct from the definition of severe bodily injury. Any severe impairment of a physical condition like a concussion or broken bone is a serious bodily injury.

Under California criminal law, aggravated battery is a wobbler crime. The prosecutor could charge the offense as a felony or a misdemeanor if a battery results in serious bodily injury. You are likely to face felony charges if you are a repeat offender or if the victim sustains extensive injuries. You could face a jail term of two, three, or four years if the prosecutor charges you with a felony. According to California's Three Strikes Law, this charge could qualify as a strike. You could therefore face an additional jail term for a subsequent offense. The penalty enhancement could be up to 25 years for a third strike conviction.

Domestic Battery — Penal Code 243 (e) (1)

This type of battery is another subset of the offenses in California defined by the class of victims. You could commit this crime in California if you commit a battery against the following individuals:

  • Your fiancé or former fiancé

  • The father or mother of your child

  • Your spouse or former spouse

  • A person with who you have or used to have a dating relationship

  • Your cohabitant or former cohabitant

Domestic battery in California is a misdemeanor offense, and you could face the following penalties if the court finds you guilty:

  • A potential county jail term that does not exceed one year

  • A fine of up to $2000

Additionally, you would need to register in a batterer’s treatment program lasting at least one year if the court grants you probation for a domestic battery.

Simple Assault — California Penal Code 240

Assault as a crime is spelled out under PC 240 of California's assault law. For the prosecutor to charge you under PC 240, he or she must prove the following elements:

  • You did an act that, by its nature, would lead directly to the use of force on someone else

  • You acted on purpose

  • When you committed the act, you had the present ability to apply force to someone else.

  • You knew that your actions would make a reasonable person believe that your actions would probably and directly lead to applying force to them.

When you do something on purpose or willingly, it means that you acted willfully. You do not have to show the intent to hurt anyone else, gain an advantage, or break the law.

An application of force is defined as any harmful or offensive touching of someone else. If done rudely or offensively, the slightest touch to someone else will be regarded as assault. Even if the touching could not or did not cause injury to the victim, it could amount to California assault. Your touch on someone else also does not need to be direct. You could do it indirectly by using an object to touch the alleged victim.

It is important to note that you do not need to succeed in using force on the victim to face charges under PC 240. Instead, the prosecutor needs to prove that you took some action that could have led to the application of force on the victim.

The law does not require the prosecutor to prove that you intended to apply force on the victim. Instead, the prosecutor only needs to prove that you knew that, under the circumstances, your actions could result in the use of force against the victim.

Penalties For Violating PC 240

It is a misdemeanor offense under PC 240 of the California law to assault a victim. You could face the following penalties if the court finds you guilty:

  • A jail term of up to six months in a county jail

  • A fine that does not exceed $1000

  • Misdemeanor probation

You could face stricter penalties for California assault if the plaintiff belongs to a particular professional category. If you assault an individual engaged in the performance of their duties, you could face heightened penalties. The individuals include:

  • Lifeguards

  • Search and rescue members

  • Firefighters

  • Process servers

  • Code enforcement officers

  • Doctor or nurse providing emergency medical care

  • Traffic officers

  • Peace officers

  • Animal control officers, among others

Your jail term will increase to one year in county jail if the assaulted victim falls into one of the above categories. You will only face the said penalties if you knew or reasonably should have known that the victim fell under that category. Your fine could increase to a maximum of $2000 for assault on a protected person. Additionally, if the victim was a parking control officer engaged in performing their duties, your fine will increase to $2000.

PC 243.4 — Sexual Battery

This type of battery is a distinct offense from a domestic battery, simple battery, and aggravated battery. Sexual battery offense involves touching someone else's private part for abuse, arousal, or sexual gratification.

A sexual battery could be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts surrounding the act.

For instance, the prosecutor could charge you with a felony if you unlawfully restrain or institutionalize someone else. If the prosecutor charges you with a misdemeanor, you could face a jail term of six months or one year in county jail. If the prosecutor charges you with a felony, you could face a jail term of two, three, or four years in state prison. You could also be subject to California's Sex Offender registration requirement if the court convicts you with a felony or misdemeanor violation of PC 243.4.

Elder Abuse

It is unlawful to negligently or willfully cause unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain to a person who is 65 years or older under PC 368 — California’s elder abuse law. You could face a conviction under both PC 368 and PC 242 if you are found guilty of committing a battery against a person who is 65 years or older. Under California law, battering a person 65 years or older is a wobbler offense, chargeable as a misdemeanor or felony. If the prosecutor charges you with a felony, you could pay a fine of up to $6,000 and a jail term of two, three, or four years in a State Prison. In most cases, elder abuse is financial, whereby caregivers take advantage of elders to misuse their finances.

Legal Defenses To PC 240 Charges

A criminal conviction, paying fines, or going to jail is not a good thing on your record because it could adversely affect many areas of your life. An assault conviction will lead people to think that you are violent, even if you did not intend to engage in violent behavior. You and your criminal defense attorney could use the following legal defenses to challenge and fight California assault charges:

  • You acted in self-defense or defense of others — for this defense to apply, it should be evident that you believed that you or another person was in danger of suffering significant bodily injury or death and that belief was reasonable. You also must show that you were required to act with force in order to defend yourself or others, and the force you used was not more than reasonably necessary to address the immediate danger or threat. (See Calcrim 3470 jury instruction.)

  • You did not act with the required intent or willfully — if your actions were accidental, you could use this fact as a basis to fight your charges.

  • You did not have the ability to inflict violence or force

  • You were falsely accused — another person could accuse you of assault out of anger, jealousy, or to seek revenge against you

Other Assault Charges

You could face other charges alongside or instead of simple assault. The related crimes include:

Assault On A Public Official— Penal Code 217.1 (a)

This offense involves a simple assault on a public official to prevent or retaliate against the performance of their official duties. Public officials include executive and elected officers of federal, local, and state governments, public defenders, judges, and prosecutors. It is a wobbler offense in California to assault a public official. If the court charges you with a misdemeanor, you could face a jail term that does not exceed one year in county jail. If the court charges you with a felony, you could face a jail time of 16 months, two, or three years jail term.

Assault With Caustic Chemicals — Penal Code 244

Assault with caustic chemicals is a serious California assault. This type of crime could be defined as throwing a caustic chemical on a victim’s body to disfigure or injure them. It is a felony crime for any person in California to assault another person with caustic chemicals. You could face a possible jail term of two, three, or four years in a State prison.

Assault With A Deadly Weapon— Penal Code 245(a) (1)

You could face charges under PC 245(a) (1) if you are found guilty of assaulting another person with a gun or knife or other means of force likely to cause significant bodily injury. It is a wobbler crime in California for any person to assault another person with a deadly weapon. If you are found guilty, you could face a possible jail term not exceeding one year in county jail if the court charges you with a misdemeanor. If the court charges you with a felony, you could face a possible jail term of two, three, or four years.

Throwing An Object At A Motor Vehicle — VC 23110

This type of crime happens when an individual hauls any substance or object at a motor vehicle moving on a public street. The prosecutor could opt to try a defendant under this statute in cases where the facts justify it instead of trying them under California's assault law. The act of throwing an object at a vehicle does not need you to have the present ability to use force on the victim.

Even if there was no chance of the object you threw hitting the vehicle or its occupants, you could still be guilty of VC 23110. In most cases in California, VC 23110 is charged as a misdemeanor crime. However, if the object you threw was capable of causing serious injury and if you intended to inflict great bodily harm, then the crime becomes a felony.

Pre-trial And Plea Options In Assault and Battery Cases

Your criminal defense attorney should thoroughly investigate the case and advise you regarding the best legal options to consider in your assault or battery case. After the investigation, a defense attorney will determine if there are reasons why your charges should be dismissed or if there is exculpatory evidence to suggest you are not guilty of the charges. Should any constitutional issues arise, motions will be filed before trial. The attorney could negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf if the charges are not dismissible and if the client does not want to proceed with a trial. If you believe you have been wrongly accused or if there are no reasonable plea options, your attorney will represent you and prepare a defense at trial.

Often, prosecutors would agree and negotiate to let you plead guilty to a less severe and different crime. The prosecutor could also offer diversion in some cases where the facts are not aggravated and the victim is not opposed. In some cases the Judge may be able to offer diversion. If diversion is granted the case will be fully dismissed.

Probation In Assault and Battery Convictions

For misdemeanor cases and felony cases where a defendant is not sentenced to prison, probation may be offered to the accused. In misdemeanor assault or battery cases, the probation is informal and referred to as “summary probation”. There is no probation officer, as the accused is on probation to the court.

Once the court places a defendant on probation, he or she would be expected to adhere to the conditions set by the court. In felony probation the defendant will need to periodically check in with probation. The probation conditions could include performing community service, no further convictions or arrests, attending counseling, or electronic home detention. Regarding electronic home detention, you would be expected to wear an electronic monitoring device restricted to work and home. You could be arrested to serve the remaining part of your sentence in jail if you violate the conditions of probation.

Restitution In Assault and Battery Cases

If the court convicts you of assault or battery, you would be required to pay restitution. Restitution means reimbursing the victim's expenses resulting from your offense, such as counseling costs or medical treatment costs. You are entitled to a restitution hearing where the victim can be cross examined regarding the amount of the restitution he or she demands. If the court deems the amount reasonable then the accused will have to pay the victim, the amount ordered. If not paid by the conclusion of probation, the restitution order becomes a civil judgement.

Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

You need an experienced criminal attorney to defend you in court if the prosecutor accuses you of assault or battery. Crimes involving violence are rarely straightforward. Those involved often have varying versions of the events. Your attorney will assist in getting your version heard if that is what is best for your case. It is important to retain a criminal defense attorney familiar with the local criminal court system and the charges you are facing. Ann is an experienced advocate for her clients. She will personally evaluate your case and determine the best course of action. Ann has been practicing criminal and DUI defense in Pasadena and Los Angeles County for the past 15+ years.

Contact The Law Office of Ann Gottesman at 626-710-4021 and speak to Ann directly.