Every assault charge and battery charge is treated seriously by California courts. Four different laws in this state cover battery and assault crimes:
1. Assault in California is defined as “the unlawful attempt to violently injure another person.” Assault includes threats and attempts to harm or injure someone.
2. Battery in California is defined as the “unwanted touching or striking of another person or anything connected to that person.” The genuine use of violence or physical force to injure another person constitutes battery.
These charges may be filed as single charges, and in some cases, a defendant will be charged with both battery and assault.
WHAT ARE CONSIDERED BATTERY AND ASSAULT CRIMES?
California lawmakers have established two different battery charges and two different assault charges:
1. simple battery
2. aggravated battery
3. “simple” assault
4. assault with a deadly weapon
EXACTLY WHAT IS “SIMPLE” BATTERY?
Simple battery in California is the intentional and forceful or violent touching of another person in a manner that is unwanted or offensive.
You do not have to harm or injure someone to be accused of simple battery. What matters is that someone who didn’t want to be touched or consent to being touched was in fact touched.
While assault is the attempt to use force or violence against someone, battery is a genuine and intentional use of actual violence or force.
A conviction on a simple battery charge – a misdemeanor in this state – may be punished with six months in a California county jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
WHAT IF YOU UNINTENTIONALLY “BATTER” SOMEONE?
This is important: If you bump against somebody accidentally or even accidentally hit another person with a bulky package or object that you’re trying to carry, if it’s unintentional, it is not battery.
Nevertheless, it may be considered an act of negligence, and if someone is injured in that manner, you might find yourself on the wrong end of a civil personal injury lawsuit.
HOW IS AGGRAVATED BATTERY DISTINCT FROM SIMPLE BATTERY?
The distinction between simple battery and aggravated battery in this state depends on if the victim sustained a bodily injury or a “serious” bodily injury. What’s the difference?
“A significant or substantial physical injury” is how California law defines serious bodily injury.
That’s not very precise. The way it actually works is that juries have to make a determination regarding what is and isn’t “serious” bodily injury based on the facts of each particular case.
A California prosecutor may file an aggravated battery charge as a felony or as a misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor conviction for aggravated battery is punishable with a year in a California county jail. A conviction on the felony charge can send the offender to a state prison for as much as four years.
WHAT IS “SIMPLE” ASSAULT?
The definition of simple assault in this state is any threat or effort to physically injure someone that is joined with an actual capacity to make that effort or threat actually happen.
Simple assaults are considered misdemeanors in our state. A conviction is punishable with six months in a California county jail and a $1000 fine.
WHAT ABOUT ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON?
An assault that is committed with a knife or a firearm, or an assault that is committed to inflict “great bodily injury,” will be prosecuted as an assault with a deadly weapon.
California law defines assault with a deadly weapon as the successful or unsuccessful attempt to injure someone while in fact having the ability to use a lethal weapon.
The crime could include discharging a firearm toward someone, attempting to use a knife against someone, or even commanding an aggressive dog to attack someone. What matters is that the threat of violence was made with a lethal weapon.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF A DEADLY WEAPON?
What is a lethal or deadly weapon? A two-by-four, screwdriver, corkscrew, hammer, or even a big enough rock can be a lethal weapon.
In this state, assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as a misdemeanor, or it may be charged as a felony. How the crime is charged will depend on the particulars of the purported crime.
WHAT ARE THE PUNISHMENTS FOR ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON?
A conviction for assaulting someone with a deadly weapon may be penalized as follows:
1. If the crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, and the deadly weapon was not a firearm, a conviction may be punished with a year in a California county jail and a $1,000 fine.
2. If an assault with a lethal weapon that is a firearm is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a conviction may be punished with a mandatory minimum term of six months (and up to a year) in a California county jail.
3. If the crime is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, and the deadly weapon wasn’t a firearm, a conviction may be punished with as much as a four-year term in a California state prison and a $10,000 fine.
Assaults with semiautomatic weapons are always charged as felonies punishable by as much as a nine-year term in a state prison. Using a machine gun or an assault weapon can extend the sentence to twelve years in prison.
If a California law enforcement officer or a California firefighter in the performance of his or her professional duties becomes the victim of an assault with a lethal weapon, a felony will be charged, and the penalties may be even more severe.
The defendant’s previous criminal history, if any, will also be considered.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU’RE CHARGED WITH ASSAULT OR BATTERY?
When a battery or an assault is reported, the precise charge depends on the weapon if there is one, the injuries and their extent if there are any, and if the victim is someone – like a law enforcement officer or a firefighter – who is considered to be in a “protected” category.
If you are accused of any battery or assault crime here in Orange County or anywhere in southern California, you must seek legal advice and representation immediately by contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Don’t assume that you’ll be convicted of assault or battery. To convict you, a prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of your peers.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO A BATTERY OR ASSAULT CHARGE?
Depending on the details of the charge, your attorney may offer one of these defenses:
1. The accusation against you is fabricated, and the crime never happened.
2. Someone else is guilty, and you were misidentified.
3. The alleged assault or battery was, in fact, an act of self-defense.
A criminal defense attorney will review the charge or charges against you, explain and protect your rights, and advocate aggressively for justice on your behalf.
If you’re accused of battery and/or assault in southern California, you have the right to a defense lawyer. Take advantage of that right. Your future and your freedom may depend on it.