If you have been charged with assault and/or battery in the State of California you could be facing serious penalties if convicted. Although people often use the two terms together, the charges of assault and battery are actually separate criminal offenses under California law. Simply put, assault does not require contact, whereas battery does.
The California crime of battery, Penal Code 242, in short says that this offense is any willful act of force upon another person. It does not matter if there was physical damage done to the victim, only that contact was made with him or her in an offensive way. This includes things like a punch or kick, but also spitting, kissing or hugging, using an object to inflict force, and even bumping into someone on accident. This is the simpler of the two as far as definitions are concerned because contact must be made.
Battery may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the level of injury. Simple battery is a misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a county jail sentence of up to six months. If the battery causes significant injury, then the charge becomes “battery causing serious bodily injury”, Penal Code 243(d) PC. If it is deemed a felony, it can lead to two, three, or four years in prison. Other related offenses include 243(b) and 243(c)(2) – battery on a peace officer, 243(e)(1) – domestic battery, 243.4 – sexual battery, and 368 – elder abuse. Clearly there are many examples of battery, and each carries a fairly steep sentence.
Common defenses to a charge of battery may include self-defense or defense of someone else; not acting willfully; and disciplining a child (if applicable).
The California crime of assault, Penal Code 240, is defined as an ATTEMPT to injure another with yourself or an object. This means that the act itself may not have caused harm, but it could have. In order to be charged with this, the offender must have done something that may have brought force against another; did so willfully; been aware that their actions could have caused harm to the victim; and been capable of enforcing such an act. In other words, the offender must have knowingly attempted to hurt the other person through force, even if no harm actually occurred.
Again, this offense can be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on severity. The penalties for California simple assault in most cases include a fine of up $1,000 and/or up to six months in county jail. There are other offenses that fall into different assault categories, such as Penal Code 245 – assault with a deadly weapon; Penal Code 244 – assault with a firearm; and the lesser charge of Penal Code 415 – disturbing the peace. Assault against a public officer or public employee can increase the charges as well.
Commonly used defenses when charged with assault may include not having the ability to actually perpetrate force on the victim, self-defense or defense of another, not having the intent or will to harm; and being wrongfully accused.
If you have been charged with either assault or battery in the State of California it is important that you consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the prosecution of your case.