Being charged with battery or assault is often confusing, frightening, and feels like no one is willing to stand with you. The penalties and consequences can be both long-term and detrimental, and you should not make mistakes. You require a trustworthy legal team that has your best interests at heart and understands the case circumstances. Orange County Criminal Defense Team can answer your questions and concerns, explaining criminal penalties and the consequences of the conviction. To comprehend the seriousness of your charge, here is an overview of California assault & battery laws.
California Battery Law
Penal Code 242 defines battery as the illegal and willful application of violence or force upon somebody else. It does not matter whether the victim suffered an injury or pain or not. All that is needed is that you offensively touched the alleged victim.
Discussed below are facts of this crime that the prosecutor must demonstrate to sentence you.
Touched Another Person
As previously mentioned, the battery only needs that a defendant makes physical contact with the victim. Even the slightest form of touching can be battery.
Battery can also take place if this touching occurs:
- Via the alleged victim's clothes, or
- Indirectly, using a substance that you use to touch the alleged victim.
Moreover, the law holds that you could violate PC 242 by offensive touching a substance intimately linked to the victim's body that isn't one of the body parts. For example, it can be knocking something in their hand.
In an Offensive or Harmful Manner
It means a touching that is rude, angry, disrespectful, or violent.
The legal term means the accused acted on purpose or intentionally. It doesn't necessarily imply that the accused planned to:
- Injure another person,
- Gain an advantage, or
- Violate any law.
In layman's language, you do not need to have purposely violated PC 242 to be sentenced for battery, all you need to have planned to make a move that resulted in the crime.
Penalties Attracted by Battery
Simple battery is a California misdemeanor. It carries the following penalties:
- A six-month county jail sentence
- A two thousand dollar fine
- Summary (misdemeanor) probation
If you commit battery and inflict severe injuries on the alleged victim, you will face more harsh penalties. Severe bodily injuries are severe impairment of physical conditions like a concussion or broken bones. Under PC 243(d), aggravated battery is a wobbler and can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor carries a maximum of a year in jail. On the other hand, a felony is punished by up to four years in state prison.
Another category of battery is domestic battery. The defendant commits PC 243(e)(1) when they commit battery against their spouse, cohabitant, fiance, a person they are dating, or their child's parent. The crime is charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by a year in jail and two thousand dollars in fines. If granted probation, the defendant should complete a batterer's treatment program.
Sexual battery involves touching the intimate part(s) of somebody else for sexual gratification, abuse, or arousal purposes. A conviction subjects the victim to compulsory sex offender registration requirements. It is a wobbler depending on the circumstances. It is a felony if the alleged victim was an institutionalized individual or illegally restrained. A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail, while a felony carries a maximum of four years in state prison.
Suppose the prosecutor can establish that you were aware or ought to have been aware that you were committing battery against a protected person like a peace officer or custodial officer. In that case, the sentence for the battery not causing an injury is one year in jail. And if you injure the protected individual, the offense is a wobbler. A felony is punishable by up to three years in jail.
Assault Law in California (PC 240)
PC 240 makes it illegal to unlawful try, together with the existence of capacity to commit a violent injury on somebody else's person.
To be sentenced for assault, the prosecutor must prove the facts of this crime below beyond any reasonable doubt:
- The defendant engaged in a conduct that would lead to the use of force on another person,
- The defendant acted willfully,
- When they acted, you knew of the fact that would cause a prudent individual to think that the conduct would probably or directly lead to the use of force of the individual, and
- When the defendant acted, they had the capacity to use force against the victim.
Here is an overview of key legal terms.
Application of Force
It is offensive or harmful touching. Even the most minor level of touching would count, provided it is executed in an offensive or rude way.
An assault can happen even when the touching didn't involve or cause injury. It does not require to be direct.
Moreover, you do not have to succeed in using force on the victim. You only need to have engaged in conduct that could have led to the application of force.
Knew That Your Conduct Might Cause the Application of Force
As previously mentioned, you are not required to have planned to apply force against the alleged victim to be found guilty of PC 240. Instead, you only require to know that your behavior might result in the use of force.
California Assault Penalties, Consequences, and Sentencing
Violation of the California assault law is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime attracts the following consequences:
- Summary probation
- One thousand dollars in fines
- A maximum of six months in jail
Assault on a Protected Person
You will face heightened consequences if you assault a protected person performing their duties. Some of these persons include:
- Code enforcement officer
- Peace officer or police
- Paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT)
- Traffic officer
- Process server
- Animal control officer
- A medic offering emergency medical attention
If you were aware or should have acknowledged that your victim fell in either of these categories, you will spend one year in jail and pay a fine of two thousand dollars.
What is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?
Battery and assault are distinct and separate offenses. The difference between these crimes is that while battery involves actual physical contact with somebody else while assault doesn't.
An assault happens when you engage in conduct that might inflict physical harm on another person. On the other hand, battery occurs when you engage in behavior that causes physical injury to somebody else.
Battery in California can be likened to a completed assault, while an assault is an attempted battery.
How to Fight Battery and Assault Charges in California
The best strategy for fighting assault and battery charges is with skilled legal representation. There are several defenses that your attorney could use, including:
You Acted in Self-Defense or Defense of Others
The defense of self or others only applies to assault and battery charges when all the statements below are correct:
- The accused reasonably thought they or another person was at imminent risk of being touched illegally or sustaining bodily injury.
- The defendant believed that immediate application of force was fundamental to defend against the danger.
- The defendant used force that was reasonably required to protect against the danger.
Please note that you cannot use words regardless of how offensive to justify your assault or battery conduct.
You Didn't Act Willfully
Although you are not required to have planned to harm the alleged victim, you need to have acted willfully to be convicted of battery or assault. Therefore, if your conduct was an accident, you can use the accident as a defense.
Defense of Assets
You can claim that you acted in defense of your asset against being unlawfully withheld or invaded. However, you should have applied reasonable force in your defense.
If there exist disputes over personal property, you aren't entitled to apply force to recover it. On the contrary, if the asset was stolen from you (such as snatched or pickpocketed), you are entitled to apply reasonable force to recover it.
You Had Consent
If the alleged victim had consented willingly to a specific behavior, that conduct does not constitute battery or assault. However, if the level of the conduct goes beyond the consent given, it can offer battery and assault charges grounds.
Moreover, courts analyze permission as a legal defense more and find that the act, even if consented to, breaks public policy and must be punished per battery or assault laws.
Civil Lawsuits By Battery or Assault Victims
A victim of unprovoked use of force can take legal action for damages like:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of life enjoyment
However, there is an exemption if the contact was consensual. For instance, striking a person in a martial art class might not be considered battery unless the force applied surpassed what was reasonable and expected.
A conviction isn't required for the alleged victim to bring a civil lawsuit for battery or assault. The victim can take legal action even if criminal charges have not been filed or if you aren't found guilty at trial.
It is because a civil trial doesn't require establishing evidence beyond any reasonable doubt. The plaintiff should only prove their assault or battery by a preponderance of the evidence. The legal phrase "a preponderance of the evidence" means the odds are that you battered the victim. It's a lower standard of proof than beyond any reasonable doubt.
To establish accountability for assault or battery, the victim should prove that:
- You touched the alleged victim intending to offend or harm them
- The plaintiff didn't consent to your touching
- Your conduct offended or harmed the alleged victim
- A prudent individual in the accuser's shoes could have been upset by your touching
Can The Plaintiff Recover Punitive Damage?
Punitive damages are available in assault & battery cases provided you acted with oppression, malice, or fraud. It means that you either injured the plaintiff deliberately or acted with contempt of the victim's rights.
Legal Defenses to Civil Charges of Battery or Assault
Some of the defenses to civil charges of battery or assault include the following:
- You didn't threaten or apply force against the victim
- The plaintiff escalated or initiated the event
- The plaintiff wasn't scared
- The contact was consensual
- You could not execute your threat
Why You Need Skilled Legal Representation
Being arrested for a crime can be frustrating and scary, whether you are guilty or not. The accused could be more determined to sentence you, especially when they have the resources to do it.
There is a lot of paperwork to bring, evidence to collect, and questions from the police. An error in these processes might jeopardize your criminal case, resulting in a lengthy sentence, huge fines, and a criminal record. It will help if you do not take chances. Engaging a criminal defense attorney can significantly increase the chances of prevailing in the case.
Below are the reasons you should hire a seasoned defense lawyer:
They are Knowledgeable in the California Legal System
Your criminal defense attorney is a law expert. They have practiced and studied law for many years. They are well-versed with the criminal justice system and stand a better chance at building a case against the alleged victim.
The lawyer will assess your case facts, analyze the evidence presented, and identify loopholes that work in the case's favor.
They will also help you understand the penalties of your charges.
They Could Help You Save Your Money and Time
You could spend the time you spend bringing legal paperwork and following up on your criminal case elsewhere. It could be taking care of your loved ones or working. Your legal counsel is familiar with the case's legal proceedings. Therefore, they know how to speed up the criminal process, slow it down, and tell what is likely to happen.
Retaining a lawyer is also the most effective way to clear your name and get back to your everyday life.
Additionally, having a lawyer saves you a lot of money in the long term. A good example is when criminal restitution is disputed successfully.
Your lawyer will make sure they preempt charges like court costs, miscellaneous fees, and fines levied against you. If found guilty, they can negotiate for lower penalties like fines.
They Have Adequate and Right Resources to Handle Your Criminal Case
Legal representation goes beyond making court appearances and arguing our points. It also includes finding witnesses and cross-examining them and preparing legal strategies. Your seasoned attorney has the necessary resources and staff to handle your case effectively. They also know how to find expert witnesses who can make the best of what the court wants.
Your Defense Attorney Knows Tactics and People to Navigate the Criminal System
To win a battle, you should know who the participants on the battlefield are. Your criminal attorney often interacts with the judge and prosecutor and knows how they operate. They know what arguments work best for them and their dislikes. This knowledge allows your lawyer to develop a practical legal strategy and determine whether to seek a plea bargain or proceed to trial.
Will Assist You Consider All Options
The prosecutor will most likely give you options on how your criminal case will move forward. Your criminal defense attorney could assist you in weighing choices like plea bargains and negotiations to determine what works for you the best. Additionally, your lawyer will analyze and advise you on the possible results of pleading guilty.
Your lawyer can also negotiate other possible case outcomes like case dismissal or reducing your penalties or criminal charges.
Statute of Limitations
The criminal statute of limitations means the prosecution should bring the criminal charge before the statutory period expires. Otherwise, they cannot do so. The law uses the discovery rule to decide when the statute of limitations for filing the charges starts. Generally, the Statute of Limitations’ clock starts ticking once the crime is discovered.
If you commit an assault, the statute of limitations is one year and three years if charged with a misdemeanor and a felony, respectively.
Statute of Limitations’ time frames are designed to provide fairness to the defendants. Evidence might be destroyed or get lost with time, and witnesses might forget the event's details or move after a couple of years. Consequently, it will be prejudicial to file a criminal charge against an individual after a significant amount of time has elapsed.
Please note that the Statute of Limitations also applies in civil lawsuits. Under Code of Civil Procedure 335.1, the statute of limitations in civil legal action is two (2) years from when the event happened.
Can You Expunge Your Battery or Assault Criminal Records?
Yes, you can. Under PC 1203.4, an expungement allows a defendant to withdraw their plea of no contest or guilty, reenter a plea of not guilty, and dismiss their case.
If granted, it releases the accused from consequences stemming from the conviction, offering them a fresh start. You don't need to reveal your conviction to your potential employer even when they make conditional offers of employment. It is also beneficial in securing housing, educational opportunities, and professional licenses.
To qualify for an expungement, you must:
- have completed probation, whether formal probation or summary probation, and
- not currently prosecuted with a crime, serving a criminal sentence, or on probation for an offense.
Even if you violated your probation terms, all hope isn't lost. The court can schedule a special hearing to determine whether you are eligible for expungement.
How to Acquire an Expungement
To be considered for California expungement per PC 1203.42, you should file a petition with the court. You can make your application using your legal expert, a probation officer, or in person.
Then the court can either:
- If you were sentenced after a plea of not guilty, set aside your guilty verdict, or
- Allow you to withdraw your plea of guilty or nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty.
In both cases, the judge will dismiss your accusations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Per California assault and battery laws, a criminal charge has severe consequences that might negatively affect your life, and you might have several questions. Here are some of the questions our clients have. The qualified legal team at Orange County Criminal Defense Team will offer detailed answers to your concerns and questions.
Can a Minor be Prosecuted With Battery or Assault?
A minor, a person below eighteen, could be prosecuted with battery or assault in Orange County. However, the minor will not be tried in an adult court unless the charge involved using a deadly weapon or a firearm.
Even if your child is tried in juvenile court, they might face penalties like fines, probation, performing community service, and attending rehabilitative classes.
Can You be Sentenced for Battery/Assault If You Planned to Assault or Batter Another Individual Other Than the One You Are Charged With?
Per the doctrine of Transferred Intent and the battery/assault law under PC 240 and 241, the prosecution should establish that you intentionally committed the crime. There isn't a prerequisite that the alleged victim was the intended target. Fighting a case where you accidentally assaulted or battered a bystander is challenging, and you need legal representation.
Will You Be Found Guilty of Assault with a Deadly Weapon If You Used an Unloaded Firearm?
It depends mainly on how you used your gun. If you pointed an unloaded gun at the victim, your defense lawyer could claim that you couldn't commit the assault. Nevertheless, if you used your unloaded gun to hit the victim, you can be prosecuted with assault with a deadly weapon.
Find Qualified and Experienced Legal Representation Near Me
When facing battery or assault charges, it might be challenging to establish your innocence without legal assistance. During the arrest, you might consider pleading guilty or answer questions. You shouldn't take these charges lightly since you might face incarceration, fines, criminal record, among other severe penalties. The sooner you reach a knowledgeable lawyer, the more time the expert has to fight for your rights and freedom. Orange County Criminal Defense Team can review your case, conduct investigations, and develop legal strategies. We can also guide you through the criminal justice system and assist you in acquiring the best possible case outcome.
Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at 714-467-2772 for a free case review.