Assault and battery are two crimes that impose hefty penalties upon conviction. You risk time behind bars and parting with significant sums of money in fines. Unknown to many, assault and battery are crimes, each with different elements prosecutors must prove for a conviction. If arrested and charged for assault, you will be prosecuted under PC 240. On the other hand, prosecutors pursue battery charges under PC 242.
Having a defense attorney fight the charges makes all the difference. His/her experience will determine if your charges will be reduced or dropped. Therefore, if you face assault and battery charges in Sacramento, CA, contact Foos Gavin Law Firm for representation.
Assault and Battery Overview
Assault under California law is an unlawful attempt coupled with the present ability to inflict violent injury on another individual. It is also described as an attempt to commit a battery. Therefore, assault is an attempt at inflicting harm. Thus prosecutors need not prove another was injured for you to be charged with an assault. Your intention to cause injury coupled with the present ability to do so is enough for you to face assault charges.
Battery, on the other hand, could be described as a completed assault. The offense incorporates all deliberate actions where an individual made contact with another in a harmful and offensive manner. PC 242 describes it as the intentional and illegal use of force or violence on another individual. Take note that you can face battery charges even if the victim did not suffer injuries. Of importance to the case is that the contact is made offensively.
Therefore, the DA can charge you for both offenses. He/she bears the burden of proving you are guilty of the charges as required under California law.
Assault Under California Law PC 240
PC 240, defines assault, and sets out what` prosecutors must prove for you to be found guilty. It must be proven that:
You acted in a manner that would result in the direct application of force to another
You acted willfully
You were aware of the facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that acting in the manner you did would directly or probably result in the application of force to the victim
You had the present ability to apply force
Here is a more in-depth look at each element.
Application of Force
Any harmful or offensive touching is an application of force. Touching, in this case, will include slight contact done in an offensive or rude manner. Additionally, the touch does not have to be direct. Indirect contact made by an object is also considered.
Take note: you also need not succeed in applying force on another. Making an effort that would have resulted in force being applied is enough.
Willful action means making a deliberate effort. However, your acts need not aim to break the law, gain undue advantage, or injure another.
Awareness of Your Actions Causing Application of Force
It is difficult to prove another’s level of awareness since the actions are past events. This challenge informs the court's decision to rely on the standard test. The test simply poses the question,
“Could a reasonable person, given the circumstances, conclude that taking actions similar to the defendant’s could result in the application of force on another?”
The case's outcome rests on the jury's answer to the question. If yes, you are likely to be found guilty and not guilty if the conclusion is no.
Types Of Assault
There are three categories of assault, namely simple, aggravated, and sexual assault.
Simple assault — To prove simple assault the DA must prove all the above elements. Some classic examples of assault include taking a swing at another, attempting to spit on another, or shoving another.
Aggravated assault — Aggravated assault considers the victims in addition to the elements above. You would face aggravated assault charges if the victim were an on-duty healthcare provider, firefighter, law enforcement officer, or public worker, including school employees, highway workers, and animal control workers.
Simple and aggravated assault offenses are prosecutable under PC 240.
Verbal assault — California law also criminalizes verbal assault, which occurs when another is verbally threatened. Physical assault need not have also happened during the verbal assault.
Verbal assault is a violation of various laws depending on the circumstances. If you use fighting words or unreasonably loud noise levels, you can be charged with disturbing the peace, a PC 415 violation. The DA could opt for criminal threat charges under PC 422 if you threatened another with violence to him/her or the immediate family.
Assault with a deadly weapon — This crime is also a form of aggravated assault. However, it is prosecutable per PC 245. The law makes it a crime to attack or attempt to attack another with a dangerous weapon or through means likely to inflict serious bodily harm. Violations of PC 245 differ from aggravated assault under PC 240 in that the offender in PC 245 uses a deadly weapon, or means likely to inflict serious bodily harm. Who is the victim is not the issue.
Penalties for an Assault Conviction
Simple assault is a misdemeanor violation. You could be sent to jail to serve a six-month maximum sentence or sentenced to summary probation terms as an alternative to jail. Additionally, you could part with a fine of up to $1,000.
Aggravated assault charges result in heftier penalties. You could serve up to one year in jail and pay up to $2,000 in fines. Prosecutors must prove that you knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was an on-duty healthcare provider, firefighter, law officer, or public worker.
A conviction for disturbing the peace under PC 415 will result in either infraction consequences or misdemeanor penalties. The maximum penalties for PC 415 violations include a 90-day jail sentence and possible fines not exceeding $400.
If convicted for verbal assault under PC 422, prosecutors could pursue misdemeanor or felony charges. Misdemeanors are punishable by one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Felony convictions result in heftier penalties, including three years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Finally, prosecutors pursue misdemeanor or felony conviction for assault with deadly weapon charges. If convicted on a misdemeanor charge, you could spend up to one year in jail or serve summary probation terms instead of jail. A judge could also impose a fine of up to $1,000. For a felony conviction, sentence is up to a maximum of 4 years in prison, or instead formal probation terms. Additionally, a maximum fine of $10,000 can be imposed.
Possible Defenses To Assault Charges
While every case requires a unique defense strategy, here is a look at some of the common defenses used to defend assault charges. Rely on your attorney as he/she is in a better position to recommend the best defense.
Lack of Ability
If you lack the present ability to assault the alleged victim, you cannot be found guilty of the crime. Your attorney, in this case, will demonstrate to the jury your lack of ability.
Self-defense Or Defense Of Others
Self-defense or defense of others is a strategy employed if it is evident that:
You reasonably believed you or another was in imminent danger of suffering physical harm or being touched unlawfully.
You thought that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against the immediate danger
You used the degree of force reasonably necessary to protect yourself or another, against the danger
Lack of Willfulness
Accidents are often mistaken for willful action. Accidents lack deliberate intent. Therefore, you will not be found guilty if your actions were accidental.
It is not uncommon for the alleged victim to falsely accuse a defendant of assault. These incidents are common between intimate partners, business partners who had a fallout, or neighbors. Accusers make the allegations out of anger, spite, need for revenge, or jealousy. Your attorney will be in a position to establish your accuser’s motive in this defense.
Battery Under California Law PC 242
The definition of battery under PC 242 sets out the elements which the DA must prove for you to be convicted of the offense. Prosecutors must prove:
You touched another
You acted willfully
Your touch was in an offensive or harmful manner
Let’s look at each element to better understand the crime.
You Touched Another
Physical contact with another must be established, no matter how slight. Additionally, contact is not limited to direct touch. You could also face battery charges if the touch were through the victim’s clothing or indirectly by using an object.
You can also face battery charges if you offensively touch an object on the victim’s person but not part of him/her. For example, forcibly knocking a glass a victim held.
You will only be guilty of battery if you intentionally touch the victim. However, you need not have intended to break the law, hurt the victim, or gain an undue advantage when you touch the victim.
To put it into perspective, you must have intentionally acted, whose consequence was the battery, even though you did not intend to commit battery.
Offensive or Harmful Touch
Prosecutors must prove that you touched the victim angrily, disrespectfully, rudely, or violently for you to be found guilty of battery.
Types of Battery
Battery occurs in various ways, and depending on the circumstances, the DA could pursue charges under several laws. Here is a look at the different forms of battery:
Simple battery — PC 242 describes simple battery. To recap, it is an intentional and illegal use of force or violence on another. The offense is a misdemeanor.
Battery causing serious injury — This offense, also known as aggravated battery, is an escalated simple battery crime. When intentional and unlawful use of force or violence results in severe bodily injury to the victim, you will be charged with battery causing severe harm. This action is criminalized under PC 243(d).
Note, injuries considered as serious under PC 243(d) include concussions or broken bones, sutures, or injuries that cause severe impairment to another’s physical condition.
Battery on special victims — This crime is simple battery on special victims. It is a crime under PC 243(b) and 243(c)(2) to willfully and illegally use violence or force on protected individuals who at the time of the crime were discharging their duties. The following are examples of protected individuals:
police officers, firefighters, EMTs/paramedics, and animal control officers
Custodial officers, security officers, custody assistants, and code enforcement officers
Search and rescue members, lifeguards, employees of probation and department
Doctors and nurses providing emergency medical care
Individuals employed by the government and its agencies
Prosecutors should prove that you knew or would have reasonably known that you were committing battery on a protected individual. Only then will you face battery on a special individual charge.
Domestic battery — It is a crime under PC 243(e) to commit battery on an intimate partner, former or current. Intimate partners include spouses, cohabitants, fiancés, or an individual you are dating. This list also incorporates the father or mother of your child.
Sexual battery or assault — Touching another individual’s intimate parts without his/her consent for sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse is a crime under PC 243.4. When done to an adult, the actions are typically prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The crimes may include actions like fondling a female’s breasts and placing your hands on another’s buttocks without consent.
You will be charged with felony sexual assault if it is proven that the alleged victim:
Was restrained, institutionalized, severely disabled, or mentally incapable of giving consent
Was under the age of 18
Touched your or another’s intimate parts under duress or was forced to masturbate
Was unaware of the nature of the act because you fraudulently assured him/her that the touching was medically related
Elder abuse — Intentionally inflicting mental suffering or unjustifiable physical pain to an individual 65 years or older is a form of battery known as elder abuse, a violation of PC 368. The DA can either pursue misdemeanor or felony violations for the offense. It is also not uncommon for them to introduce simple battery charges under PC 242 as additional charges to elder abuse.
Penalties for a Battery Conviction
Punishment for battery upon conviction is severe and based on the circumstances of the crime. Additionally, the severity also increases if the DA pursues felony charges.
Simple battery under PC 242 is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a jail sentence of no more than six months or summary probation instead of time in jail. Additionally, a judge could impose a fine of no more than $2,000.
Aggravated battery charged as a misdemeanor may result in a jail sentence not exceeding one year and a possible fine of up to $1,000. If you have a criminal record and the facts of the case inform the DA’s decision to pursue felony charges, or you are charged with battery causing serious bodily injury, if convicted, you will serve a prison term of up to four years and a possible fine of up to $10,000. If convicted for a felony offense and the victim suffered great bodily injury, the crime may carry additional prison time, known as an enhancement, in accordance with PC 12022.7. You could receive additional jail time of three to six years.
For battery on a peace officer charge, you could spend up to one year in jail and part with a maximum fine of $2,000. If the officer suffers a physical injury that requires medical attention, you could be convicted for a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Misdemeanor offenders receive a one-year jail term and pay fines of up to $2,000. If convicted for a felony offense, the judge could impose a jail sentence of up to three years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Domestic battery is a misdemeanor. Therefore, offenders receive misdemeanor penalties upon conviction. The offense is punishable by a jail term not exceeding one year or summary probation instead of time in jail. Further, you could part with $2,000 in fines. In addition, you will be required to complete a 52 week batterers’ treatment educational program.
If convicted for sexual battery, the judge will impose misdemeanor penalties as per PC 243.4, namely six months or one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. You could part with $3,000 in fines if the victim was under your employ. For a felony conviction, a judge will impose a prison sentence of two, three, or four years with a fine requirement of up to $10,000.
A misdemeanor sexual battery conviction also imposes a 10-year minimum sex registration requirement as a tier one sex offender. Felony sexual battery convictions result in lifetime registration as a tier three sex offender.
Finally, for elder abuse offenses, convictions result in up to one-year jail sentences or summary probation instead of jail and possible fines of up to $6,000. Felony convictions, on the other hand, result in prison terms of up to four years or formal probation and fines of up to $10,000. In both cases, you will also be required to pay restitution to the victim. If the victim suffers great bodily harm, you could receive seven more years in prison.
Possible Defenses Used in Fighting Assault Charges
The circumstances of your case inform the defense strategy adopted by your attorney. Additionally, an attorney’s experience of past cases puts him/he in the best position to recommend an ideal defense. However, some defense arguments are common in most battery cases. They include the following.
Self-Defense or Defense Of Others
Like in assault cases, self-defense or defending another is an option only if your actions were in response to a threat you believed to be imminent and that the danger posed would result in physical harm to you or another. Further, you genuinely and reasonably thought that non-excessive immediate force was necessary to defend yourself or others.
Unaware Of The Peace Officer's Status
Fighting battery charges on a peace officer or a protected individual is challenging. One defense is that you did not know the victim was an on-duty peace officer. Additionally, you will have to prove that a reasonable person would conclude that the victim was not an on-duty peace officer, given the circumstances. Such a defense is a complete defense to the charges.
Consent for Sexual Assault/Battery
Sexual assault cases require a non-consensual touching for a conviction. Therefore, if you prove you had consent before touching the alleged victim, you will be acquitted of the charges.
Prosecutors are required to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Without substantiating evidence of physical harm to the victim, prosecutors will have difficulty proving your culpability in the matter. Therefore, it is possible to have your charges reduced if not dismissed.
Pleas and Pre-Trial Options
When facing assault or battery charges, there is great value in excellent representation. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, our attorneys consider and prepare for both pre-trial and trial options. We will investigate the charge and determine the merits of the case. These circumstances will determine whether the DA will drop or reduce your charges during our negotiations. Should the prosecutors push for a trial, we will provide the best possible defense.
Contact an Experienced Sacramento Criminal Defense Attorney
Adequate legal representation is pivotal in the outcome of your case. With an experienced attorney’s assistance, you will have the best legal result. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we pride ourselves on offering our clients the best legal advice and representation to achieve the best legal outcome. Our track record speaks volumes. If you or a loved one is facing assault or battery charges in Northern California, contact our team at 916-779-3500. Let us bring our expertise to your case.