California battery law outlines the consequences of an individual who touches someone else in an offensive or harmful manner. The act of battery is both a tort and an offense. If you commit a battery or assault offense, the government may charge you under Penal Code section 242, 240, 245, or some other statutes depending upon the facts. The alleged victim of your actions also has an opportunity to bring a private lawsuit against you to claim monetary damages if they suffered any. The penalties of a battery with injury conviction are often more severe than one with no injury and could include hefty fines and a jail term. The potential punishment increases if the prosecutor charges you with battery with serious injury, also known as aggravated battery. You will face aggravated battery charges if you commit battery and the victim sustains serious injuries.
If you face aggravated battery charges, you need to consult a competent criminal attorney to guide and help you fight your charges. Attorney Ann Gottesman has over 15 years of experience in California criminal law. She can help you create a solid defense to fight your charges in Pasadena, CA and in the surrounding Los Angeles County.
Battery With Serious Injury — Penal Code 243(d)
The offense of battery with serious injury is also known as aggravated battery. Simple battery under Penal Code 242 only requires the defendant to have unlawful or unwanted physical contact with the victim, even if the victim does not sustain injuries. However, the law also recognizes that battery crimes that inflict serious injuries must be punished severely. Under Penal Code 234(d) of California law, it is unlawful to commit any battery that inflicts serious bodily injury to someone else. The prosecutor must prove several elements to charge you under PC section 243(d). The elements include:
- You willfully and illegally touched someone else in an offensive or harmful manner.
- The victim suffered severe bodily injury due to the touch or the force you applied.
According to California criminal law, you commit an act willfully if you do it on purpose or with a will to do so. For PC 243d, a touch can occur when you make physical contact with someone else, including through their clothing. You can also do offensive touching indirectly by causing another person to touch the victim or using an object to touch the victim.
Under PC 243d, the phrase ''serious bodily injury'' means any severe impairment of a person's physical condition. For a serious bodily injury to apply, the victim doesn't need to seek medical treatment after the offensive touch. Instead, the judge or jury determines whether an injury is a serious bodily injury. The judge or jury determines the issue by examining all the circumstances of the case. According to the courts in California, the following conditions qualify as severe bodily injuries:
- A broken tooth, wounds on lips, and eyebrows requiring sutures
- Bone fractures, severe disfigurement, or broken bones
- A lost tooth down to its root
- A cut below the eye that requires eight stitches
- A loss of consciousness
The judge or jury could dismiss any injury that does not meet the definition of a serious bodily injury. For instance, you could throw a knife at someone else's forehead and cut them. However, the knife does not cut deep, and he/she does not require stitching. In this case, the judge or jury could find you not guilty of battery with “serious bodily injury”. If the injuries you inflict do not affect the proper functioning of any body organ, then it cannot be a serious injury. However, if you had a prior assault with a deadly weapon conviction, the possibilities of a conviction for aggravated battery may be higher. In addition, if you assault a spouse and he/she sustains an injury, you could face spousal battery charges under PC sections 273.5 (a wobbler) or 243(e)(1) (a misdemeanor).
Penalties For Violating Penal Code 243(d)
The violation of PC 243d is a wobbler crime under California law. The prosecutor could charge you with a misdemeanor or felony based on your criminal record and the facts of the case. If the prosecutor charges you with misdemeanor battery, you can face the following penalties:
- A fine that does not exceed $1000
- A jail term that does not exceed one year in a county jail
Misdemeanor or Summary Probation
Misdemeanor probation is common in the California criminal law process. For example, if you are convicted with misdemeanor battery with serious injury, the court could sentence you to summary or misdemeanor probation. Misdemeanor probation is an alternative to a jail term. If you are a low-risk offender, summary probation allows you to serve your sentence under court supervision instead of being under the supervision of a probation officer or in jail. Even with some prior convictions, a defendant may qualify for summary probation.
Misdemeanor probation often expires within one to three years but can also be as long as five years. The term of summary probation could be twelve to twenty-four months in less severe cases. You may be required to adhere to specific terms and conditions while on probation, such as:
- Paying restitution to the victim
- Performing community service
- Participating in counseling and therapy
- Attend alcohol school or a drug program
- Prohibited from taking alcohol
- Requirement to seek employment
If you fail to adhere to summary probation conditions, the judge will revoke it and could send you to jail. However, you have a right to a formal hearing at which time the judge will hear evidence about your violation. If you are found in violation after a formal hearing or because you admit the violation, the court may impose custody time for the underlying misdemeanor offense. However, oftentimes, in cases of a minor or first violation, the court can reinstate you on similar or identical conditions of summary probation with no extra punishment. Or, the Court may reinstate the probation with penalties such as adding community labor days to your probation terms.
If you are on misdemeanor probation, you will be required to report to court periodically to give the judge a progress report. The judge can address any problem that arise such as if an extension is needed to complete the probation requirements. If you fail to appear in court to provide a progress report, the court will deem the act as a probation violation, and an arrest warrant will be issued. If you have an attorney then your lawyer will usually appear for you to present the Court with your progress report.
Felony Battery with Great Bodily Injury (versus “Serious” Bodily Inury)
If the prosecutor charges you with felony battery with serious injury, you can face the following penalties:
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
- A jail term that does not exceed four years
However, you will receive an enhanced penalty if you commit felony battery and cause another person to suffer “great bodily” injury. This is a significant bodily injury, according to penal code 12022.7. Serious bodily injury is an injury that is more on the moderate side will GBI is considered a substantial physical injury. It has a higher threshold because it constitutes the impairment of a physical function. For you to face the enhanced punishment, the injury must be severe, for example, broken bones, injury to an organ or loss of an eye. In a serious injury, the kind of injuries you see are more like those of a concussion, lacerations that are not that deep, or a few stitches. If the judge imposes an enhancement on your jail term for GBI, you can be subject to additional confinement of three to six years.
Felony Probation In Aggravated Battery
Felony probation is part of the criminal process under California law. Felony probation is also referred to as formal probation. It is a sentencing alternative to a jail term if charged with felony aggravated battery. Unlike misdemeanor probation, if you are on felony probation, you will be under the probation officer’s supervision.
Not all individuals convicted of felony aggravated battery qualify for formal probation. The judge will rely on several factors to determine your eligibility, like your criminal history and the type of crime. Typically, formal probation takes three to five years and will have specific terms and conditions that you must adhere to. However, the period you spend on felony probation varies. You will have a regular monthly meeting with the designated probation officer. The officer is responsible for monitoring your progress and adherence to the terms and conditions imposed by the judge.
The conditions of probation vary from one case to another. They depend on your particular case, your prior criminal history, and the offense conduct /which led to your conviction. The court has a broader discretion in setting probation conditions assigned to promote your rehabilitation. Some of the formal probation conditions include:
- Paying fines and restitution
- Performing community service
- Agreement to not violate any laws
- Monthly meetings with a probation officer
- Submit to searches by police or probation officer
- Submit to drug or alcohol testing
- Participate in group therapy or counseling
Often, formal probation includes these conditions: complete community service, serve a county jail time, or both. For example, community labor could involve activities like a beach cleanup, Caltrans cleanup work, or graffiti removal.
You will face a probation violation if you fail to adhere to the conditions of formal probation. However, you can challenge the accusations in a contested hearing in court. The judge will review the documents, hear live testimony, and hear legal arguments from the defense counsel and the prosecutor. If you are found in violation, the judge will revoke the probation and sentence you to the remaining time in custody or the Court could reinstate your formal probation on the same or amended terms.
Paying Restitution In Aggravated Battery
Restitution laws in California give powers to the judges to order defendants of aggravated battery to pay the victims restitution for the financial losses related to the crime. Restitution is meant to restore the aggravated battery victims to their normal life. Restitution is not probation, punishment, fine, or an alternative to imprisonment. Restitution is a debt you owe the victim of battery with a severe injury. The court could order you to make restitution for:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral costs
- Lost income
- Property damage or
- Other financial costs directly related to the crime
The court could order the defendant to pay restitution to:
- Third parties — These are victim compensation programs and insurance companies that assist the victims in recovering after an aggravated battery crime. Many states in the U.S require defendants to pay restitution to third parties. In California, if you had insurance that paid a victim restitution then any money paid by your insurance company must be credited towards the total amount the court finds you owe.
- Government agencies — The court could order you to pay restitution to government agencies. Restitution could be the money used to investigate offenses with no direct victims, like welfare fraud and drug offenses.
- Direct victims — Are people who suffer financial, psychological, or physical harm because of battery with a severe injury. Direct victims can be businesses or individuals.
- Indirect victims — Family members are indirect victims of aggravated battery crimes. For instance, the surviving children of homicide victims or members who witness acts of battery are entitled to restitution in many States in the U.S.
Anger Management Counseling In Aggravated Battery
Anger is a normal human emotion that you can experience now and then. However, persistent anger, rage, or angry outbursts have detrimental consequences, and they can lead some people to commit an aggravated battery that they sorely regret later. Courts in California usually order defendants in battery cases to undergo anger management counseling. It is an approach designed to assist in managing physiological and emotional arousal associated with anger. Anger management can also help you identify your anger triggers and learn to handle them more effectively.
Defenses To PC 243d Charges
If you face battery with serious injury, you could challenge the accusations with a legal defense. Some of the defenses you can use include:
- A battery was the result of an accident
- You acted in self-defense
- The injury was not serious
- You did not commit the offense (mistaken identity)
The Battery Was An Accident
You could face the charges for aggravated battery even if you did not intend to cause injury to another person. However, you cannot face the charges if you did not touch another person willfully or if the whole incident happened accidentally. For example, you can accidentally shove another person in a crowd, or you trip and fall on a person in the crowd. In that case, you will not be guilty of the crime.
You Acted In Self-defense
Self-defense can be a valid defense for a battery charge if the following is true:
- You reasonably believed that you or another person was at risk of suffering bodily harm
- You reasonably thought that the immediate use of force was essential to defend yourself or another against the danger
- You applied reasonable force necessary to defend yourself or another against that danger
The Injury Was Not Serious
You can only be guilty under PC 243d if you commit a battery and cause someone else to suffer a serious injury. The facts of your case also determine whether serious or significant damage can be proven. You could defend yourself by alleging that the victim did not sustain a serious injury even if you committed a battery.
In some situations, your attorney could be able to prove the allegations against you as false. For example, there are certain circumstances where the victim can make false allegations due to jealousy, out of revenge, or gain an advantage in a child custody battle against the spouse.
Several offenses can be charged together with PC 243d in California. They include:
- Mayhem — Penal Code 203
- Simple battery — Penal Code 242
- Assault with a deadly weapon — Penal Code 245(a)(1)
Mayhem — Penal Code 203
The California PC 203 defines ‘’mayhem’’ as the act of maliciously or unlawfully doing any of the following to someone else:
- Removing a part of a person’s body
- Making useless or disabling a part of a person’s body in a manner that is more than slight or temporary
- Disfiguring a person permanently
- Disabling or cutting a person’s tongue
- Slitting a person’s lip, nose, or ear
- Pulling out a person's eye or injuring a person's eye in a manner that makes the eye useless for ordinary sight
Under California PC 203, you can only commit the offense of mayhem if you act maliciously. Acting in a malicious manner means the following:
- Intentionally doing an illegal act
- Acting with unlawful intent to injure or annoy another person
You cannot be guilty of mayhem if you act accidentally without the intent to injure someone or to do something wrongfully. Mayhem, according to PC 203, is a general intent offense. An individual must have intended to do something illegal to be guilty of this crime.
You do not need to have a specific intent to cause serious injury that could lead to mayhem charges. One of the ways you can commit mayhem is by injuring another person in a manner that can leave them disabled, which is more than temporary or slight. However, the victim does not need to be permanently disabled. So long as the disability continues for some time, it can form the basis for your mayhem conviction.
For purposes of mayhem statute in California, a disfiguring injury can be regarded as permanent even if it can be repaired through medical technology. For instance, if you unintentionally cut off another person's finger, you are guilty of mayhem even if a surgeon can reattach it.
Penalties For Mayhem Crime
Mayhem is a felony offense under California law. The possible punishments for mayhem under PC 203 are:
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
- Felony or formal probation
- A jail term of two, four, or eight years in California State Prison
Your jail term could be enhanced if the victim is:
- Blind or deaf
- A paraplegic or quadriplegic
- Sixty-five years of age or older
- Under the age of fourteen
If any of the above cases are true, you will face one or two years of sentence enhancement. You will also face the same penalties provided you were aware or reasonably should have known that the victim was in that condition.
According to California's Three Strikes Law, mayhem is a violent felony and hence a strike crime. If you have a history of a mayhem conviction and you subsequently face other felony charges, you will face twice the standard jail term for the second crime. If suffer a third strike conviction you will face a jail term of 25 years or life imprisonment in state prison.
Defenses To Mayhem Charges
You can use the following defenses to fight mayhem charges:
- You were falsely accused
- You did not act intentionally or maliciously
Simple Battery — Penal Code 242
According to PC 242, simple battery is an offense where you willfully use violence or force upon someone else. You will be guilty under this statute even if another person does not suffer an injury. If the prosecutor accuses you of violating PC 242, he/she must prove the following elements:
- You touched another person
- You touched the person willfully
- You touched the person in an offensive or harmful manner
Penalties For Simple Battery
According to PC 242, if you commit battery that does not inflict severe injury and not against protected persons, it is a misdemeanor crime. You can face the following penalties:
- A fine that does not exceed $1,000
- Misdemeanor or summary probation
- A jail term that does not exceed six months in a county jail
Defenses To Simple Battery Charges
- Parental right to discipline a child
- You acted in self-defense
- You did not act willfully
- False accusation
Assault With A Deadly Weapon — Penal Code 245(a)(1)
According to PC 245(a)(1), the offense of assault with a deadly weapon occurs whereby an individual attempts or attacks someone else with a deadly weapon. This statute requires that the prosecutor prove the following elements to charge you:
- You performed an act that would lead to the direct use of force on another person
- You performed the act with force or a lethal weapon that would cause significant bodily injury
- You acted willfully
- When you acted, you had the present capability to use force
Penalties Of PC 245(a)(1) Violation
The California court would charge PC 245(a)(1) as a wobbler crime if a deadly weapon you used were not a gun. The prosecutor could charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. If the prosecutor charges you with a misdemeanor, you will face a fine of $1000, misdemeanor or summary probation, or a jail term of one year in county jail. If the prosecutor charges you with a felony, you will face a fine of $10,000, felony or formal probation, or a four-year jail term in state prison.
Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
You should not go to Court and face charges of battery with serious injury alone. An arrest and conviction under PC 243d could have detrimental consequences. You should contact a competent Pasadena criminal defense attorney for guidance. Attorney Ann Gottesman is a caring and experienced criminal defense lawyer who will zealously represent you in court. Contact Ann at 626-710-4021 for a free consultation!