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Defending Assault and Battery Charges in California

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Jan 13, 2021

Review of Assault and Battery Charges Under California Penal Code 240 and 242 PC

California Penal Code 242 PC defines the crime of “battery” as a willful and unlawful use of force against another person. The victim does not have to sustain an injury and the primary element of the crime is that a defendant touched someone in an offensive manner.

Defending Assault and Battery Charges in California
In California, assault and battery are actually two separate crimes under Penal Code 240 PC and 242 PC.

California Penal Code 240 defines the crime of “assault” as an unlawful attempt to use force or violence on another person.

As you can see, in spite or most people using the term “assault and battery” together, they are actually two separate crimes:

  • PC 240 assault is conduct that might inflict harm to a victim;
  • PC 242 battery is someone inflicting actual force or violence.

Assault and battery are two ancient and still-common violent crimes.

Crimes of violence tend to begin with assault, continue with battery, and sometimes end with worse, such as murder.

Assault charges and battery charges are basic tools of law enforcement and frequent prosecutions in the criminal justice system.

As stated, although the layperson may think of assault and battery as a single crime, assault and battery are two distinct crimes that often, but not always, occur together.

Tort claims 

To make matters slightly more confusing, assault and battery are also tort claims, meaning claims that a victim may make in the civil courts for compensation from the wrongdoer.

Victims of assault and battery, though, tend not to seek money damages from their wrongdoers, who are instead usually uncollectible.

Because assault and battery are intentional torts, liability insurance does not pay for their harms.

An assault and battery victim's only legal recourse is most often through criminal prosecution and whatever modest restitution the criminal court may impose as a penalty on the wrongdoer.

To give readers a better understanding of California's assault and battery laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

What is the Definition of PC 240 Assault?

California Penal Code 240 PC defines assault as:

  • "an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another."

Assault is the crime of making a victim fear an imminent injury, like throwing an object at someone but missing them. PC 240 assault as an attempt at an injury.

What is the Definition of PC 240 Assault?
Penal Code 240 PC simple assault is a misdemeanor crime that carries up to six months in county jail and a fine.

In order for a prosecutor to prove PC 240 assault, they must be able to prove the elements of the crime:

  • you willfully acted in a manner that would probably result in the application of force to another person;
  • when you acted, you possessed the ability to apply force to that person.

The “application of force” means any harmful or offensive touching and includes even just a slight touch done in an offensive manner.

Penal Code 240 PC simple assault is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

What is the Definition of PC 242 Battery?

California Penal Code 242 PC defines battery as:

  • "any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another."

In essence, battery is a completed assault. The statute's requirement that the force be willful eliminates accidental trauma, such as a vehicle-pedestrian collision.

The statute's requirement that the force be unlawful protects police officers who must apprehend suspects, mental-health workers who must restrain the mentally disabled, and others who have the legal right or duty to use force against another.

That right would include a right of self-defense or the defense of another, as long as the force did not unreasonably exceed the threat.

Penal Code 242 PC makes a simple battery a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and up to $2,000.

Enhanced Assault and Battery Charges in California

California law increases the potential penalties when the allegation is that the defendant committed a battery on a police officer.

Penal Code 243(b) doubles the six-month simple-assault penalty to up to one year in jail for those peace-officer batteries:

Enhanced Assault and Battery Charges in California
Battery on a police officer is a more serious crime that carries enhanced penalties.
  • the officer must be engaged in performing duties, and
  • the defendant must know or should know the victim is an officer, although the officer need not be formally on duty or in uniform.

Penal Code 243 PC includes in this protected category not just police officers but also:

  • firefighters,
  • emergency medical technicians,
  • animal-control officers,
  • probation officers,
  • code-enforcement officers, and
  • physicians and nurses performing emergency medical services outside of a facility.

Under Penal Code 243(e)(1), battery on a spouse likewise doubles the penalty to up to one year.

If the defendant injures a peace officer, then Penal Code 243(c) further increases the penalty to up to three years of imprisonment.

Under Penal Code 243(d), serious injury to any battery victim, whether a spouse, peace officer, or anyone else, increases the penalty still further to four years of imprisonment.

Other Assault Related Charges in California

Similarly, California law enhances the charges and penalties for certain assaults:

  • under Penal Code 241(b), assault against a parking-control officer doubles the potential fine up to $2,000 but leaves the penalty at up to six months in jail;
  • under Penal Code 241(c), assault against a peace officer or other professional like those identified just above doubles the potential fine up to $2,000 and doubles the potential penalty up to one year in jail;
  • other Penal Code sections make similar enhancements for assaults on highway workers, school employees, and other officials and professionals.

Additionally, there are several other related California statutes that punishes:

How Can I Fight Assault and Battery Charges?

If you were charged with any type of assault and battery charge, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a range of various strategies based on the facts of the case:

  • you were acting in self-defense,
  • you didn't have the ability to inflict force,
  • you did act willfully,
  • false allegation.

Further, eyewitnesses make mistaken identifications and observations, especially of an actor's intent.

How Can I Fight California Assault and Battery Charges?
If you are facing assault and battery charges, our lawyers can use different strategies for best outcome.

What looks like assault or battery may have actually been innocent conduct or conduct with beneficial rather than harmful motive.

Circumstances may also support defenses of consent, self-defense, or defense of others.

People interact physically with one another by consent in intimacy, horseplay, sports competition, and similar circumstances.

They also find it necessary to defend life and limb, both their own and family members or strangers.

Assault and battery charges also implicate the constitutional rights and criminal procedures that ensure a defendant's due process.

Those rights include a right against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to counsel.

Suppression of incriminating evidence 

We might be able to make a reasonable argument to suppress incriminating evidence gained from a violation of these rights. Criminal procedures also offer:

Further, we might ab able to acquire exonerating evidence while challenging and defeating false and insupportable allegations.

Best Criminal Defense for California Assault and Battery Charges

As crimes of violence, with their serious penalties and negative collateral consequences, assault and battery charges require experienced counsel.

Our Los Angeles criminal lawyers have the skill to successfully defend and defeat the charges.

Best Criminal Defense for California Assault and Battery Charges
Call Eisner Gorin LLP to review the details of your case.

We may be able to obtain a dismissal of the charge, get the charges reduced, or obtain a favorable plea bargain.

Further, we could seek an alternative to prosecution, including early disposition court, or pretrial diversion.

We know the best approaches to minimize conviction risk and maximize positive outcomes. We have many trial victories to prove our ability to defend serious criminal charges.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067.

Our main office is located in the San Fernando Valley next to the Van Nuys Court at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.

We serve clients in LA County, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside, and San Bernardino.

Contact our office for an initial consultation at (877) 781-1570.

About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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