Assault and Battery
Mistaken identity, provocation by the purported victim, self-defense, and mutual combat or accidental contact are some of the explanations that may cause a person to get arrested for battery or assault. There is always a need for a criminal defense attorney to review your case and situation to determine the most effective defense. If you are in Los Angeles, CA, working closely with the LA Criminal Defense Attorney may be what you need to prove that you are not guilty of the offense.
Legal Definition of Assault and Battery
In California, battery and assault are two different types of crimes, even though the two terms are commonly used together. Just like in other states, assault and battery laws are found in both criminal and civil laws. In the latter, they are considered intentional torts. The elements in both cases are very similar though.
As intentional torts, there has to be proof that the defendant intentionally acted in a way that caused personal injury on the plaintiff.
Both assault and battery are covered under Chapter 9 of the CA Penal Code. According to the California Penal Code, Assault is an illegal attempt by a person to cause an injury on another person violently. This means that assault is an attempt by a person to commit a battery on another. In such a case, a prosecutor must prove that the accused had the intention of committing battery and that he/she could do so. They, however, don’t need to show that physical contact happened.
A battery, on the other hand, is the term used to describe any form of violence used against another person. There are various degrees of severity when it comes to battery, as explained in the Penal Code. Section 242, for instance, describes the essential elements of a battery; but if the victim has suffered a severe injury to his/her body, the prosecutor will use Section 243(d) to charge the defendant.
The Penal Code also provides different code sections for battery against certain kinds of people, for instance, police officers, emergency response technicians, peace officers, school employees, and firefighters among others. There is also a special Section of the Penal Code that covers battery relating to domestic violence.
These are the critical provisions of Assault and Battery Laws in California:
Section 240 of California Penal Code covers simple assault cases described as an unlawful attempt by a person, coupled with an ability to injure another person violently;
Section 242 covers simple battery described as unlawful and willful use of violence or force against another person.
This entails trying to hit someone, maybe at the heat of an argument, provided that the victim is within the hitting distance. In as much as words alone may not be considered an assault, intimidating to hit a person using an object and acting as if you want to accomplish the threat will be charged as a simple assault. In the determination of a simple assault case, the victim’s identity is a significant factor in establishing the seriousness of the crime and its possible punishment.
If the simple assault involves a healthcare provider, for instance, or a public worker in his/her line of duty, it will carry a more severe penalty than an ordinary simple assault case. This holds provided that the defendant was aware that the plaintiff was a healthcare provider or a public worker.
As per Penal Codes 241.1, 241.4, 241.7, and 1170 of the California Law, there are some simple assaults cases that are wobblers and can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies depending on their severity. They include assault against:
custodial officers, for instance, corrections officers working in prison or jail,
police officers employed by the school district, or
jurors by a party in a case that they are participating in.
Unlike assault, a battery will involve the actual striking with a fist or shoving of another person in an argument. If you push another person or you hit them with an object thereby causing an injury, you might be charged with battery. Similar to assault, the victim’s identity is vital in battery cases to determine the severity of the offense and the possible penalties. Battery against public workers as well as healthcare providers will carry a more severe punishment than a simple battery case. This is as long as the defendant knew who the victim was and the victim was battered while performing his/her duties.
Here are some battery offenses that can be treated as misdemeanors but which carry a more severe penalty than simple battery cases: Battery involving domestic violence against:
an older adult or a disabled adult
a passenger on a public transit
any person on a public transport vehicle or in a public transport property
a sports official
a highway worker
a school employee in the line of his/her duty
The following batteries are either misdemeanors or felonies. Battery against a:
Law enforcement officer
Juror or an alternate juror in a case
School employee, resulting in serious injuries
Public worker producing serious injuries
Aggravated Battery and Assault
This is a more severe form of assault and battery that the state laws in California allow a prosecutor to press charges on. The prosecutor must, however, prove that the situation is more severe than usual to warrant an elevation of charges against the accused. In such a case, there must be an undeniable proof that the defendant intended to commit a felony such as rape or murder. If, for instance, there was the use of a deadly weapon such as a gun or machete, the charge may be elevated to an aggravated assault or aggravated battery.
Penalties for Assault in California
Simple assault in California is punishable by a fine that does not exceed $1000, a sentence in a county jail for a period or not more than six months, or both the fines and jail term.
Assault of a parking control officer in his or her line of duty: if this happened and the defendant knew too well that the person he/she was assaulting was a parking control officer, the crime is punishable by a fine of up to $2000, a sentence of not more than six months, or both the fine and sentence.
Assault of a peace officer, an emergency medical technician, a firefighter, a lifeguard, a mobile intensive care paramedic, a traffic officer, an animal control officer, a process server, a search and rescue member, or a code enforcement officer while they are performing their duties: If it is established that the defendant knew very well who the person was, he/she may be punished by a county jail sentence for not more than a year, a fine of up to $2000, or both the above penalties.
Assault on a physician or a nurse while they are rendering emergency medical care outside a clinic, hospital, or any other health care facility: If the accused knew that the claimant was a nurse or a physician, the assault would be punished by a county jail sentence for not more than a year, a fine of up to $2000, or both the sentence and fine.
Assault on a custodial officer, a person that is defined under Sections 831 and 831.8 of California Penal Code: If the crime happened and the defendant knew too well that the plaintiff is a custodial officer, and the assault was committed when the officer was performing his or her duties, the penalty will be a jail term of not more than one year.
Assault on a park or school property against any person: This will be punished by a fine of not more than $2000, a jail term of not more than one year, or both the jail term and the fine. If this kind of assault was committed by a minor on school property, the court might require the minor to attend counseling sessions in addition to any fine or sentence the offense may attract or as a condition for his/her probation. In such a case, the court will fine the minor according to his or her parent’s ability to pay, but they will not be exempted from counseling because of their parent’s inability to pay for it.
Assault on a motor vehicle or public transportation provider: This will be punished by a fine of not more than $2000, one year in county jail, or both the fines and county jail term. Note that public transportation provider, in this case, applies to any privately or publicly owned entity that is being operated. It could be a bus, a car used for transportation of people for hire, a cable car, taxicab, streetcar, or a trackless trolley. This also applies to a school bus.
Assault on a highway worker in the performance of his or her duties: If the crime happened and the defendant knew that the victim was a highway worker, the offense will be punished by a fine of not more than $2000, one year in county jail, or both the fine and sentence. A highway worker, in this case, will be an employee working for the Department of Transportation, a contractor working for the transportation department or his/her employee, or a contractor or his/her employee working for the county or city. A highway worker could also be a volunteer as defined under Section 1720.4 of California Labor Code.
Penalties for Battery in California
A simple case of battery is punishable by a fine of an amount not exceeding $2000, a county jail term not exceeding six months, or both the jail term and fine.
Battery against a peace officer, firefighter, custodial officer, lifeguard, an emergency medical technician, a security officer, process server, custody assistant, code enforcement officer, traffic officer, an animal control officer, a member of a search and rescue committee, a casual or part-time private security guard or patrolman, a non sworn person working for the probation department, a nurse or physician who is offering emergency medical care services outside a clinic, hospital, or any other health care facility: If the battery was committed against these people while they are performing their duties, and the defendant knew who they are, the crime is punishable by a fine of not more than $2000, a maximum jail sentence of one year, or both the sentence and fine.
Battery against a person resulting in serious bodily harm is punishable by a sentence not exceeding one year in a county jail or imprisonment for two, three, or four years as per Section 1170 Subdivision (h) of the CA Penal Code.
Battery against a spouse, a person who is the parent of the defendant’s child, the person that the defendant is cohabiting with, a fiancé or fiancée, a former spouse, the person that the defendant is currently dating or in a relationship with. This is punishable by a fine of not more than $2000, a county jail sentence not exceeding one year, or both the fine and the jail term. The court may also grant probation, and in that case, or if the burden of the sentence is suspended, the court may require the defendant to participate in a batterer's program for not less than a year, as described under Penal Code Section 1203.097. If no such program is available, an appropriate counseling program may be designated by the court for this purpose.
Once the defendant is convicted of this crime and the probation is granted, there are certain conditions that they must adhere to in place of a fine, which may include:
Making a payment to the claimant’s shelter, or an amount not exceeding $5000
Reimbursing the victim a reasonable amount for the costs of his/her counseling sessions and any other reasonable expense that the court may find to be directly involved in the offense
In the fulfillment of these conditions, the court will consider the defendant’s ability to pay.
If it is established that the defendant is not a first time offender of the same crime, he/she will be jailed for not less than 48 hours even if probation has been granted.
Battery committed against a person on school property, public grounds, park property, or private hospital. The crime is punishable by a fine of an amount not exceeding $2000, a county jail sentence for at least one year, or both the sentence and fine. If the offense is committed by a minor on school property, the court may add a probation condition for the minor to attend counseling in addition to a fine or sentence. The counseling will be done at the expense of the minor's parents. The court may consider the minor parents' ability to pay when pronouncing the fine but this will not be used as a reason for the minor not to attend counseling.
Battery against an elder or a dependent adult as per Section 368 of the State's Penal Code. This offense will be punished by a fine of not more than $2000, a one-year term in county jail, or both the sentence and fine.
Battery against an operator, driver, or a passenger on a streetcar, taxicab, bus, trackless trolley, cable car, or a motor vehicle or even a school bus driver: This offense will be charged the same as battery against a ticket agent, station agent, or any person working in the transportation area. If the defendant committed the crime knowing too well who the claimant was, they would be punished by a fine of not exceeding $10,000, a county jail term for a period not exceeding one year, or both the fine and sentence. If the offense resulted in a severe injury to the victim, the crime would be punished by:
A fine of not more than $10,000
Imprisonment in state prison for 16 months, two years, or three years
Both the fine and the imprisonment.
To be charged with any of the above offenses, your conduct must be proven to be intentional. Thus, an action that was accidental may not be charged as a battery or assault crime.
Possible Defenses in the Crimes of Assault and Battery
Just in the same way that assault and battery crimes differ, their defenses will also vary widely based on the circumstances and the facts at hand. Some cases will be straightforward; others can go to the extreme, and others can be complex. Your attorney will evaluate these elements and device the best ways to fight the charges. Some possible defenses for both crimes include:
This is the most common defense used for both battery and assault cases. To establish self-defense, your criminal defense attorney must prove that:
There was a threat or an illegal force or harm against you
There was a real or an alleged fear of harm against you
There was no harm or provocation on the part of the claimant
There was no way you could retreat or escape to avoid the situation
Note that the judge will consider if the amount of force used in self-defense was reasonable enough when compared to the threat posed by the plaintiff. Also, the defendant may still face the assault or battery charges if the plaintiff was no match to them physically (in size and age), even if the conditions mentioned above were met.
Defense of others
This is quite similar to self-defense only that in this case, the defendant was trying to defend another person. Your attorney, in this case, will seek to prove that you had an honest and real perception that another person could be harmed, and you applied a force that was proportional to the nature of the harm posed on the alleged victim.
You may be able to claim that you acted so to defend your property against invasion or against being withheld illegally. If this defense is allowed, the court will seek to establish if the amount of force used was reasonable enough. If for instance, your property is under some dispute, the law does not allow you to apply power to defend it. If on the other hand, something is directly stolen from you, say by a pick-pocketer or your purse is being snatched, you are allowed to defend it, but through the use of reasonable force.
Depending on your state or court, consent may or may not be accepted as a defense against assault and battery charges. If it is allowed, your attorney will try to prove that the plaintiff consented voluntarily to that particular act, which generally cannot be found to constitute a battery or assault. However, if it is established that the act exceeded the permission allowed, you may be found guilty of the offense. Note that the court will also try to find out if the action violates the public policy, even if it was consented to.
Even though a person might have been assaulted or battered, there are possibilities that such a victim mistakenly identified you as their assaulter or batterer. Again, the victim may be pressing the charges out of anger, revenge, hatred, and so on, so as to punish you in some way or get something such as financial aid from you. These are facts that your attorney should take into account and establish whether the assault and battery allegations are valid, and use the argument of mistaken identity on your defense.