When you or a loved one faces battery charges with serious bodily harm, you may face significant legal consequences, depending on whether the presiding judge or jury finds you guilty. As a result, you want to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you prepare for trial and build strong defenses for your case. Furthermore, a good criminal attorney will anticipate the prosecutor’s arguments and work to discredit them or challenge them on a valid basis. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, you will receive excellent criminal defense services tailored to suit your needs and place you in the best position to obtain a favorable outcome. Our team of experts has worked with hundreds of clients in Sacramento, California, to help them fight battery with serious bodily injury charges. Therefore, you can rely on us to provide the best legal assistance to meet your expectations.
The Nature of the Offense
Committing battery is prohibited under section 243(d) of the California Penal Code. Under the provision, you are prohibited from touching another person offensively, leading to their bodily injury. Thus, any actions surrounding the factors discussed under the penal code section can attract legal repercussions for the suspect.
Battery falls within the broader category of assault and battery offenses often charged based on similar characteristics. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between assault and battery to understand further how the elements of this offense are arrived at.
Usually, assault offenses involve an attempt to create offensive physical contact with the alleged victim to cause harm. Since the assault is an attempt, charged parties face criminal accusations based on the actions made towards the attempted launch at the alleged victim.
On the other hand, battery is an offense involving physical contact between the offender and the alleged victim. Parties facing criminal charges will have launched offensive contact, meaning that they aimed to cause harm to the victims or aggravate them. Due to this, the elements of crime required to charge you with battery must establish that you were successful in creating physical contact.
Battery with serious bodily injury is, therefore, an aggravated form of the offense of battery. This is because regular cases may not cause injuries to the alleged victims, yet they are still entitled to press charges against you. On the other hand, when the alleged victim suffers bodily injury, you will face a wobbler crime charge, meaning that the prosecutor may charge your case as a felony or misdemeanor.
Elements of Crime for the Prosecution to Prove
Once you face arrest, booking, and the initial court arraignment for battery with serious bodily injury, you want to prepare yourself for the subsequent trial set to begin within the stipulated time frame. The best way to prepare yourself is to retain a criminal defense attorney, who will then help you anticipate the prosecutor’s case build-up. Furthermore, your defense lawyer plays an instrumental role in developing defenses to present your position.
Usually, criminal law regulations require the prosecutor in your case to assume the burden of proof, meaning that they are responsible for acquiring and presenting all evidence available against you. Further, the law imposes a standard of evidence that requires the prosecutor to present their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Based on the high evidential standard, the prosecution team must build upon various elements of crime relating to the battery with serious bodily injury. This helps them do a thorough job proving each of your guilt in each component, leading to the overall culmination of having proven their case.
Although the prosecutor collaborates with many officers in the law enforcement and investigation department, having the burden of proof on them makes their task more challenging. You can use this to your advantage by ensuring you understand the various elements of crime related to the charge to counter them effectively. Thus, the following are the factors leading to a battery with a serious bodily injury charge:
You Wilfully and Physically Touched the Alleged Victim
Firstly, the prosecutor must prove that your actions were conducted willfully, meaning that nobody forced you to touch the alleged victim. The essence of proving this element of the crime is to establish that you understood the nature of your actions yet proceeded to execute them. Following this line of thought, the prosecutor can then show that you had the criminal intent to attack the victim and expose them to serious bodily harm.
Although proving that an accused person acted willfully may seem straightforward, it often requires the prosecutor to rely on circumstantial evidence rather than directly sourced details. This is because a person’s intentions may not become apparent at first, so the investigating persons must study their behavior and the events of their criminal actions.
Therefore, the prosecutor will analyze the type of actions, words, or body language available moments before you attacked the alleged victim to show that you acted willfully. For example, if you uttered words to the victim threatening their safety, the prosecutor can repeat the statements in court to portray the type of mind frame you were in.
Similarly, observing body language is often helpful for the prosecutor, especially if the attack on the alleged victim involved physical violence. For example, edging towards the victim slowly before swinging your arm to hit them is clear body language to show that you contemplated your thoughts and decided to proceed with the attack.
Several evidential sources include witness statements, footage, and police reports. The authorities can demonstrate your wilful intention by elaborating the circumstances leading to your actions. Hence, you want to prepare adequately for the prosecutor’s case and determine the best counterargument to apply.
The second factor that the prosecution team must establish when proving this element of the crime is showing that you created physical contact with the alleged victim during the attack. This distinction is important because it frames your actions into the appropriate battery charges instead of assault. As discussed above, assault involves physical and offensive touch attempts, while battery pertains to actual physical contact against the victim.
You should also note that the physical contact between you and the alleged victim does not necessarily have to involve body-to-body engagement. The court will consider evidence involving any object or weapon launched from your efforts to be included as possible justifications of the physical attack.
For example, throwing a heavy tool like a hammer toward the alleged victim and hurting them is still considered physical touch, as would a case involving punching the victim. The only requirement is that you were the party responsible for initiating the physical contact, in this case, throwing the hammer or swinging the punch.
Evidence to support the claims that you had physical contact with the victim is relatively easy for the prosecutor to access, especially if they are working with several investigation officers in the case. The officers will only need to retrieve the collected evidence in court to demonstrate your alleged attacks.
2. The Actions Were Offensive or Aggressive
Secondly, the prosecutor must prove that you acted offensively or aggressively when initiating physical contact with the alleged victim. Doing so would distinguish you from a case involving an innocent or accidental physical touch resulting in the victim’s serious bodily injury.
When building on their case, the prosecutor may consider including information on why your attack is perceivable as offensive or aggressive, as they intend to prove your guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.
Subsequently, you can expect the prosecution team to call on witnesses to speak about your character moments before and during the attack. They will rely on this tactic because attacking your character is often difficult to counter unless you have prepared to present several character witnesses yourself.
Furthermore, having witnesses speak of your alleged irrational and aggressive behavior may offset you in court, which the prosecutor would hope serves their interests to prove their point further. Hence, you want to remain calm during the proceedings and ensure you consult your attorney when you strongly believe that the narrative built against you includes inaccurate information. This way, you will not quickly react negatively in court, as it may affect your credibility before the judge or jury.
Further, you should note that the prosecutor may rely on police reports recorded after the battery incident occurred to support their case. The information often contains specific details on the nature of the arrested person’s actions resulting in the crime. If the parties are available, they may have depicted your actions as offensive or aggressive, meaning that evidence from the prosecution team is piled against you.
Similarly, witnesses who testify about the events that triggered you to act offensively may also appear on the prosecutor’s side and present their case. When they do, you want to carefully listen to all the provided details to ensure no exaggeration or inaccurate information is available for the judge’s reference.
3. The Alleged Victim Sustained Serious Bodily Harm from Your Actions
Lastly, the prosecutor must show that the alleged victim of battery sustained serious bodily injury from the incident, meaning that your attack was a significant threat to their safety. The prosecutor may rely on doctors' reports, medical prescriptions, and other medical records like X-Rays and MRI scans retrieved to demonstrate that the alleged victim suffered serious harm.
Further, the prosecutor may rely on an expert witness, specifically a medical doctor, to provide verified details on the victim’s injuries and their seriousness. Granted, the expert witness should provide information as an independent source and not in the interest of promoting the prosecutor’s case.
Therefore, you can inform your defense attorney to object if you notice that the expert witness may be exaggerating or providing false information unrelated to your case. For example, the expert witness may talk of the alleged victim having severe back pain while the case facts involve hitting them. The testimony is likely to be altered to favor the prosecution.
Nevertheless, judges hold the discretion to determine how severe the alleged victim’s injuries are upon assessing the case facts and receiving evidence from expert witnesses like doctors, if any are available. Hence, you do not have to worry about the evidence presented by the prosecution, especially if it appears to be blown out of proportion.
Conditions Found to be Serious Bodily Harm in Previous Cases
Notably, case law forms a significant reference point for litigating parties because the judicial precedent is considered to form part of the law. Over the years, cases involving battery with serious bodily harm have been decided on varying physical conditions.
Thus, information is available on physical conditions now acceptable as falling under the serious bodily harm category. Learning this information beforehand can give you an upper hand in determining the strength of the prosecutor’s case. The conditions include:
A Victim Losing Consciousness
Naturally, losing consciousness indicates your body’s inability to function, especially after a traumatic event. As a result, an alleged victim who lost consciousness after a battery attack may have a valid claim against you, especially if they have records to prove that they lost consciousness.
Broken Bones and Fractures
Similarly, bone fractures indicate excessive force that impacts your body, resulting in the condition. A healthy human’s bones are made to support heavyweights, so having them fractured means excessive force that results in the injury. In the context of battery, causing fractures would indicate a powerful physical attack against the victim, warranting your arrest and trial.
Broken or Lost Teeth
Your teeth are built similarly to your bones and can withstand substantial force. Hence, having broken or lost teeth is considered a severe injury based on the impact level required to crack or displace a tooth from its root.
Wounds Requiring Sutures or Stitches
Moreover, if the alleged victim had to receive sutures or stitches after sustaining wounds, it could indicate deep tissue wounds suffered during the battery attack you are charged with. Therefore, previously decided cases included wounds of this nature as serious bodily harm that entitles the victim to pursue legal action.
Based on the information, the presiding judge or jury will need to reach a decision that may ultimately impact whether you face any penalties. Overall, you should note that the prosecutor is bound to present and prove your involvement in all elements of crime before their case succeeds.
This means that you may have several chances to invoke reasonable doubt, raise concerns and present your counterarguments to reduce the prosecutor’s chances of success. By consulting your criminal defense attorney, you will better understand how the criminal trial process works and how best to intervene and build strong defenses.
Defenses Applicable for Battery With Serious Bodily Harm
Laws guiding the criminal process require the promotion of a fair hearing process, meaning that both sides must be accorded time to present their case. Based on this, you, as the accused person, will have a chance to present your defenses after the prosecutor closes the case. The defense hearings are crucial to determining the final case outcome, as the defendant may show a different angle that draws attention to overlooked facts.
Therefore, you want to work with an experienced attorney who understands the importance of conducting thorough research and engaging in due diligence before choosing a suitable defense. Further, your attorney should guide you through the applicability of the defenses discussed below. This means that not all counterarguments are helpful in your case, so you will need to choose the best options depending on the case circumstances.
The following are applicable defenses to a battery with a serious bodily injury charge:
The Victim Did Not Sustain any Serious Injury.
One of the valuable defenses to apply involves questioning the prosecutor's claims that the victim suffered severe bodily harm from the attack. You can dispute this by raising questions on the nature of the victim’s injury and whether they are related to the battery case facts under scrutiny in your matter.
This defense should be applied when you strongly believe that the prosecution wrongfully exaggerated the victim’s injuries or even presented false details to make you seem to have caused severe bodily harm.
Your attorney can request to present an expert witness, preferably a medical doctor, who can help ascertain that the victim’s injuries do not pose serious harm to them. You should also compare the expert witness statements to the prosecutor’s expert witness statements as a test of objectivity.
However, you should note that some courts may deny the request to present an expert witness twice, as the general assumption is that these witnesses give information subjectively. Despite this, you can still have the request granted when your defense attorney successfully proves that the expert opinion was biased.
If successful, the defense may lead to your acquittal or reduce the severity of penalties you would have otherwise received.
You Acted in Self Defense
Self-defense is among the best counterarguments to present in this case because, if applied successfully, the defense can absolve you of all charges. The basic premise of using this defense is showing your innocence by asserting that you were forced to resort to violence after being in a dangerous situation.
Most cases will have the alleged victim as the person who made you think your safety was at risk because they are the person you are now accused of attacking. You should note that relying on self-defense as a counterargument requires you to meet several thresholds set by the law to show that your claims are genuine and should therefore be considered.
Firstly, you need to prove that you reasonably believed in being in danger or impending danger. The best way to do this is by recounting the moments just before your alleged battery attack. For example, if the person posing a threat was following you around, you can explain how uneasy and unsafe you felt, especially if they seemed to target you.
Since the prosecutor may perceive your statement to be made only to make yourself seem blameless, you want to support them by presenting evidence. For example, your defense attorney can have several witnesses corroborate your narrative and build credibility.
Secondly, any person seeking to rely on self-defense must prove that their use of violence or force was the only accessible option in the circumstances. Thus, you must prove that you could not avert the perceived danger by running away or calling for help. Subsequently, your only option was to use force or violence to protect yourself.
Lastly, you should prove that the force you used in retaliation to the imminent source of danger was proportional to the type of danger you believed you were in. For example, if the person following you appeared to have had a weapon, throwing a medium-sized rock at them can be a reasonable retaliation to keep them away as you seek help. Nevertheless, the judge will apply discretion in most cases to determine whether the force you used was appropriate.
The Physical Touch was Accidental
You can also present the accident defense for the charges, which would help counter the claim that you acted offensively. Accidents may happen unexpectedly and leave you little room to avoid hitting a person close to you.
Consequently, the person may have perceived your physical contact as offensive and decided to file a claim. Hence, if you have the necessary evidence to prove that your actions were accidental, you can choose to present them in court.
Penalties for Battery With Serious Bodily Harm
The offense is classified as a wobbler crime, meaning you may face a misdemeanor or a felony charge and subsequent penalties. When found guilty of a misdemeanor, you may receive a jail sentence of up to one year in county jail or a $1000 maximum fine.
A felony may result in up to four years in jail or a maximum fine payment of $10,000.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Facing battery with serious bodily injury charges may be challenging, especially if unfamiliar with the criminal process. Thus, partnering with a defense attorney is among the best options to help you increase your chances of a positive outcome. You are well-positioned to prepare and present strong defenses against the prosecutor. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, you can expect to partner with highly skilled and experienced criminal defense attorneys ready to handle your case adequately. Our team has helped hundreds of clients seeking defense services after facing battery charges in Sacramento, California. Therefore, you can rely on us to deliver quality services. For more information, contact us today at 916-779-3500.