California Penal Code Section 242: Battery Charges in Pasadena and Los Angeles
Prosecutors and DA's are filing more battery charges in the Los Angeles and Pasadena area as "tough on crime" sentiment continues to rise. Battery involves the unwanted or harmful touching of another person and can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If there are actual injuries, the District Attorney can file a charge for battery causing "serious bodily injury," and this could result in a potential prison sentence. Serious or aggravated battery can be prosecuted under California Penal Code section 243(d) and can result in up to 4 years in prison and it constitutes a "Strike" under the Three Strikes Law. However, "simple battery" and battery that does not cause any significant injury is normally filed as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor battery, depending upon which statute the charges are filed, can result in a maximum of up to 6 months in jail or one year in county jail, plus fines, and potentially a 52 week domestic violence class if the battery was committed against a spouse, co-habitant, fiance, previous intimate partner or spouse, or parent of the defendant's child (PC 243(e)(1).
1. Definition and Elements of Battery
Battery is defined in Section 242 of the California Penal Code as any willful and illegal act of physically touching another person. It is among the most common charges filed in the California court system, and it is often associated with the crime of assault (PC 240), though assault and battery are actually two distinct offenses.
To establish that an act of battery, the prosecuting attorney must prove beyond reasonable doubt all of the following elements:
- The defendant did, in fact, intentionally and illegally touch the plaintiff in an offensive or harmful way.
- The defendant was not acting in defense of himself or others.
- The defendant was not engaged in disciplining a minor in a reasonable manner.
Even just barely touching the other person, if it were done in an angry or rude manner, can constitute an act of battery. It is not required that any pain was produced or injury inflicted to count as a violation. Touching another through his/her clothing can even be considered battery. In fact, if a person hits a bicycle while someone is riding it or an object that someone is presently carrying, even that is enough to results in a charge of battery.
It is not a valid defense against battery to argue that a verbal provocation led to the incident. Unless the defendant was under an immediate threat of being injured by the other person, his touching that person in a harmful way can still be charged as a crime.
2. Examples of Battery
To give you a better picture of what can constitute battery, we will look at two extreme examples that serve to delineate the boundaries of the crime:
- A man in a nightclub sees a woman he finds attractive. He approaches her and begins to converse, but she is uninterested and turns to walk away. Before she can leave, however, he grabs her arm to keep her there. Although he did not hit, squeeze, or harm her arm, because he acted to thwart her will and made physical contact, it is legally defined as an act of battery.
- Two men in a gym begin violently smacking each other in the chest, arms, and head. Both are wearing boxing gloves and have agreed to engage in this activity as a training exercise. Even though the exchanges could potentially be harmful, because they are consensual and legal, neither man is “battering” the other.
3. Offenses Related to Battery
Charges similar to or closely associated with that of battery include the following:
- Assault, covered in the Penal Code under Section 240
- Battery resulting in serious bodily injury, addressed in PC 243(d)
- Domestic Battery, PC 243(e)(1)
- Assault with a deadly weapon, PC 245(a)(1)
- Sexual battery, PC 243.4
4. Defenses Against Battery Charges
There are a number of common legal defenses that defense attorneys use to defeat allegations of battery, including these five:
- Defense of self or others: Using appropriate levels of force to defend yourself or other people against injury and/or criminal activities cannot be considered battery.
- Accidental touching: If the contact was not willful, then it is not battery even if injury resulted.
- Parental discipline: If a parent or guardian uses reasonable disciplinary methods on their child, it is not battery. If, however, excessive force was used, it is possible for a child abuse charge (PC 273d) to be filed.
- Legal contact: If a law enforcement officer uses proper force in the course of performing his duties, it is legal and, therefore, not battery.
- Mistaken identity: Many times, a batterer attacks in a dimly lit location and quickly flees. This can lead to victims accusing those they wrongly suppose to be the perpetrator.
5. Possible Penalties for Battery
The exact punishment for battery will vary widely with the severity of the crime and the defendant’s past criminal record. However, even the least serious battery conviction is classified as a violent crime and can lead to rejection by potential employers, college admissions departments, and apartment landlords.
Simple battery is a misdemeanor, punishable by any or all of the following:
- A maximum jail sentence of 6 months
- Heavy fines up to $2000 and restitution costs
- Probation with community service/labor
- Anger management classes or other counseling
Aggravated battery occurs when the victim receives serious bodily injuries and is often charged as a felony. Those convicted of this level of battery can face the following repercussions:
- Up to 4 years in state prison
- Extremely heavy fines and restitution costs
- A strike on his record that, under California’s Three Strikes Law, will lead to enhanced punishments for any future violent crimes convictions
6. Legal Representation in Battery Cases in Pasadena and Los Angeles
If you or a loved one have been arrested on charges of battery, do not hesitate to seek out an attorney with deep experience in defending these types of cases. A skilled defense lawyer can often find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case that will convince police and prosecutors to drop the charges, or if your case goes to trial, for a jury to find you NOT GUILTY of the charges. When your case goes to court, a good lawyer will know how to build a solid defense for trial, or how to negotiate a favorable plea agreement when appropriate.
Ann Gottesman is a Pasadena and southern California criminal defense attorney who has extensive knowledge of California’s battery statutes. She was formerly a Deputy Public Defender, has many years of courtroom experience, and has built a solid reputation for tenaciously defending her clients. Contact the Law Office of Ann Gottesman today by calling 626-710-4021 for a free legal consultation and answers to all of your relevant questions. For an in-office visit, you can see Ann Gottesman at her Pasadena location at 740 East Colorado Boulevard, Suite 204.