If you have been charged with assault, battery, or both, in California, you could be facing potentially severe consequences upon a conviction. Heavy fines, jail time, and a permanent criminal record are some of the possible results, and only by securing the services of a criminal defense attorney with deep experience in handling assault and battery cases can you maximize your chances of a favorable outcome.
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we have intimate knowledge of California's assault and battery statutes, and we also have longtime familiarity with local Pasadena and Southern California court processes. For years, we have been serving the L.A. Area with top-tier legal defense against charges of assault and battery, and we can assist you in winning your case as well.
To learn more and for a free legal consultation, feel free to contact us 24/7 at 626-689-2277.
While the commonness of the phrase "assault and battery" and the frequency with which these two distinct crimes are charged together, often causes people to assume these two crimes are but one, in fact, they are not.
In California, "battery" is the actual application of force or violence against another person, "assault" is the attempt to commit an act of battery. Under California Penal Code Section 240, any action that would be likely to inflict bodily injury or death on another person or that would result in "unwanted touching" of an offensive sort (as, for example, sexual touching), is defined as assault.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove?
To prove you guilty of assault, the prosecution would have to demonstrate all of the following "elements of the crime" beyond all reasonable doubt:
- You attempted to commit an act that would most probably have resulted in the bodily injury of another person.
- You attempted the said act willfully, or "on purpose."
- You possessed the ability to carry out the act you attempted.
- You knew, or should have known, that the act you were attempting was likely to result in the bodily injury of the victim.
Note that it is not necessary that a person was successful at carrying out an act of force or violence to be convicted of assault but only that he/she made the attempt. And when it is said that you must have acted "willfully," this does not mean you were aware your actions were illegal or that you specifically desired to hurt the other person. It only need be that you did what you did purposefully (not accidentally) and that a reasonable person would know that such an action could likely result in the bodily harm of the other person.
Simple assault, a violation of PC 240, is a misdemeanor crime in California, punishable by:
- A maximum jail term of 6 months.
- A maximum fine of $1,000.
- Summary probation.
However, there are various "aggravating factors" that can lead to an enhanced sentence upon an assault conviction.
First, if you assault an on-duty police officer and certain other public servants engaged in their jobs, provided you knew or should have known of that person's status, you can be punished by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,000 fine. If you assault a parking control officer, you can also get a $2,000 fine.
Second, if you commit assault while in possession of a "deadly weapon" or any tool that would likely cause "great bodily harm" to the victim, it can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. If a misdemeanor, assault with a deadly weapon is punishable by up to 12 months in jail. If a felony, it is punishable by 2 to 4 years in jail.
A third kind of enhanced assault charge is PC 244, assault "with caustic chemicals," which is a felony. Anyone convicted of throwing such chemicals at another person or trying to cause them to contact and thus injure/disfigure another person can be punished by 2 to 4 years in state prison.
Finally, we should also mention the related crime of "disturbing the peace" (PC 415). This crime covers such things as public fighting, disturbing neighbors with unreasonably loud noise levels, and provoking others in public with "fighting words."
For those accused of assault, it is not uncommon for a good defense lawyer to get a charge reduction to disturbing the peace when the prosecution's case is shown to be weak. PC 415 can be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in county jail, or it can be a mere infraction, depending on the details of the case.
Possible Defense Strategies
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we have a long track record of successfully defending against charge of assault, using such defense strategies as the following:
- Lack of ability: If the defendant attempted an act of battery, but did not at the time possess the ability to carry it out, then there was no real threat to the other person. In such cases, you cannot be held guilty of the crime of assault.
- Defense of self or others: If your act of "assault" was done for the purpose of protecting yourself or another person from the imminent threat of physical injury or offensive touching (as in sexual abuse), or if, at least, you genuinely and reasonably believed such a threat existed, then your actions were not assault. It is required, however, that you only used the amount of force necessary to defend yourself or another and did not "take it further" out of some other motive. And the provocation cannot have been mere words. There must have been a real physical threat present.
- Lack of willfulness: If the action you were attempting was not done on purpose, if it was a mere accident or misunderstanding that took place, then you are not guilty of assault.
- False Accusations: It is not uncommon for people to be falsely accused of assault by someone "with an axe to grind" and seeking revenge. In that case, a good California defense attorney will know how to "get to the bottom of it" and expose the lack of substantial evidence against you.
As mentioned above, assault and battery are distinct crimes in California. Assault is the attempt to commit an act that would likely result in the physical harm of another person. Battery occurs when an assault is carried through to its completion. Under PC 242, if you willfully assault someone and touch them in any way, then it is battery.
What Must the Prosecutor Prove?
To gain a conviction on the charge of battery in California, the prosecution must prove all of the following elements of the crime beyond reasonable doubt:
- You committed an act that did or was likely to inflict physical harm on another person.
- You committed this act "willfully."
- You made physical contact with the victim.
Note that any contact at all with the victim counts as "touching." That is, even if it was just a thumb knocking against an earlobe as your fist otherwise missed its target, or touching through the victim's clothing, or touching via an object you held in your hand — it still counts. In fact, it is even possible that touching an object that the victim held in his/her hand could make an assault become battery.
And also note that "willfully" need not imply you knew you were breaking the law or that you intended to hurt another person. It only need include that you did what you did "on purpose," that is, not accidentally.
Simple battery (PC 242) is a misdemeanor offense in California, punishable by:
- Summary probation.
- Up to 6 months in county jail.
- A fine of up to $2,000.
However, there are certain aggravating factors that can increase the penalties that apply to an act of battery. We will look at these just below.
First, if you assault a person who is a member of a special protected class, including police officers, firefighters, emergency medical workers, life guards, security guards, and probation officers, your punishment will be more severe than for "ordinary" battery. This crime is called "battery of a peace officer" and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If charged as a misdemeanor, battery of a police officer is punishable by up to 12 months in jail. If the person in the protected class is actually injured by the act of battery, you can get from 16 months to 3 years in jail if convicted.
Second, there is battery causing "serious" bodily injury. This is known also as "aggravated battery" and occurs whenever the injury inflicted creates a "serious" medical condition or disability.
As a misdemeanor, aggravated battery is punishable by up to 12 months in county jail. As a felony, it is punishable by from 2 to 4 years in state prison. The degree of punishment will hinge largely on how severely the victim was injured.
Third, sentences can be enhanced for "domestic battery." This is the same as the crime of simple battery except that the victims are spouses, fiancés, and various romantic partners (or those formerly holding such status).
Domestic battery is a misdemeanor offense (unless serious injury is inflicted, which would make it count as aggravated battery), punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000. And if probation is permitted, it will be on condition that the defendant complete a state-approved "batterer's treatment program."
Fourth, sentences will also be more sever for "sexual battery," which is assault by means of touching another person's "intimate parts" (even if through the clothes) for the purpose of sexual pleasure. Sexual battery can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
As a misdemeanor, sexual battery can be punished by up to 12 months in county jail. If the victim was restrained or was an institutionalized person, it will likely be a felony charge, which can get you from 2 to 4 years in state prison. And in all cases, those convicted of sexual battery must register as a sex offenders.
The fifth and final aggravated form of battery we will look at is elder abuse (PC 368). When the victim of battery is someone 65 years of age or older, you can be charged with both elder abuse and battery, thus greatly increasing your total punishment. Elder abuse can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. As a felony, it can get you as much as 4 years in state prison and a $6,000 fine.
Possible Defense Strategies
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we have a long track record of successfully defending clients in the Pasadena and Greater Los Angeles Area against the charge of battery. Here are some of our most commonly utilized defense strategies:
- Self defense or defense of others: In some cases, the "victim" may actually have been the perpetrator (and vice versa). It may be that the defendant only acted in response to an immediate threat of bodily harm against himself or another person. In this case, however, it must be that more than mere words indicated that threat, that the physical harm was, or was genuinely and reasonably believed to be, immanent, and that the defendant did not apply excessive force beyond what was necessary to defend himself or another person.
- The incident was an accident: To be guilty of battery, you must have "willfully" (purposefully) committed an act that did or was likely to inflict bodily harm on another person. If your actions were completely accidental, you cannot be convicted of battery under California law.
- Parental rights: In many cases, parents or legal guardians of children who are only exercising their right to discipline a child in a reasonable manner are nonetheless accused of battery. A good lawyer can show to the court that your disciplinary actions were justified, not "excessive under the circumstances," and fully within the bounds of your parental rights.
- Unaware of peace officer status: If you are accused of assaulting a police officer, you can receive a much lighter sentence if it can be shown that you were not aware of, nor could you reasonably be expected to be aware of, the fact that the victim was an on-duty officer.
Contact Us Today for Help
At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, we stand ready to assist you in your hour of need with second-to-none legal defense against the charges of assault and/or battery. The depth of our legal expertise is matched only by our undying determination to fight for the best possible outcome for every client we serve.
For a free legal consultation on the details of your case, do not hesitate to call us 24/7/365 at 626-689-2277.