Criminal Defense Perspective on Serious Injury Battery Cases

Battery involves the unwanted touching of another and can vary in seriousness from a misdemeanor to a felony.  During a battery or fight, if a victim suffers injuries that rise to a level of sufficient seriousness, the Legislature decided that an accused should suffer elevated penalties and a more serious charge.  According to the applicable California Jury Instructions (CALCRIM 925), “serious bodily injury” is described as a serious impairment of a physical condition.  Certain types of injuries can be considered serious, and are listed in CA Penal Code section 243(d)(4) as:

  • Wounds that require a lot of stitches or staples,
  • Concussion or loss of consciousness,
  • Fractures of the bone (not necessarily serious bodily injury but can be in specific circumstances)
  • Bone breaks,
  • Any wound that leads to a disfiguring scar,
  • Impairment of the use of a part of the body or organ or protracted loss of such.

It is important to note that if a victim suffers one of the injuries listed above, that does not necessarily mean he or she is guilty of causing serious bodily injury, and if the injury is not included on the list, an accused can still be found guilty of causing serious bodily injury. 

Battery causing serious bodily injury is a “wobbler” offense. This means the District Attorney or city prosecutor has the discretion to file the charge either as a felony or misdemeanor. The District Attorney or prosecutor will also decide whether to file the charge as a battery causing serious bodily injury, or whether to proceed with a misdemeanor simple battery, or some other type of battery (such as domestic violence or spousal battery under PC section 243(e)(1). However, when the District Attorney files a serious battery charge against a defendant, it will be up to a jury to decide if the injury is “serious” and if the defendant is guilty.

Example of Battery Causing Serious Injury (or not):

Jon and his neighbor Ralph get into a fist fight over woman they both are interested in. Jon punches Ralph in the face.  Ralph suffered a bloody nose and a fracture which could be seen on the X-ray. Luckily, Ralph’s nose did not break or need any surgery. His nose healed on its own and did not become scared or disfigured.

Although Ralph suffered a fracture of the bone, a jury could still find that Jon was not guilty of causing serious bodily injury, because no further medical attention or interference was necessary, there was no need for stitches or surgery, and the punch did not result in any disfigurement. However, a jury could also have convicted Jon of battery causing serious bodily injury because the battery did result in a bone fracture. Every case will be very fact specific.

“Serious Bodily Injury” Versus “Great Bodily Injury”

Great bodily injury, referred to oftentimes as “GBI” is an enhancement that is sometimes alleged against an accused who caused very serious injuries to an alleged victim. GBI is considered more serious than “serious bodily injury” because GBI is considered “a significant or substantial physical injury,” according to Penal Code section 12022.7(f)

A filing DA can allege a GBI enhancement in a felony case when the injuries are significant, and such an allegation will add an additional and consecutive three (3) years prison time to the Defendant’s sentence, if convicted.

A great bodily injury enhancement in cases where the victim was under the age of five years, or over the age of 70 years old, could result in a 5 year consecutive sentence under sections 12022.7(c)and (e).


    • Up to one year in county jail,
    • and/ or a fine up to $1000, and
    • Up to 5 years of summary probation (no probation officer--defendant is on probation with the court)


    • A sentence of 2, 3 or 4 years in the county jail, and/or
    • A fine up to $10,000,
    • Loss of right to use, own or possess firearms for a lifetime, and
    • Formal felony probation for up to 5 years


  • Accident (not willful): You were riding your bike in a careful and legal manner when a man ran out in front of you, causing you to strike the pedestrian with your bike and body. The man suffered injuries. You did not see the pedestrian and did not intend to hurt him.  This incident was an accident, as you did not intend to hit the man and injure him with your bike and/ or body.  You would not be guilty of battery in such a case.
  • Self  Defense: You held a reasonable belief that you needed to immediately defend yourself or another from imminent bodily harm, and you used a reasonable amount of force at the time.
  • Victim Lied: Such as when a scored ex-wife or husband claims the accused caused injuries, which in reality were self inflicted or received from a different source.


Criminal lawyer Ann Gottesman is passionate about investigating and fighting assault and battery charges.  If you are facing Battery charges in Los Angeles County either as a felony or a misdemeanor, and you would like to discuss your case with criminal defense attorney Ann Gottesman, please do not hesitate to contact Ann at 626-710-4021.  She will provide you with a free and confidential consultation.  You do not have to face criminal charges alone. Ann Gottesman is an experienced and compassionate criminal law attorney who fights passionately for the rights of her clients.