Charges of assault and battery can lead to serious penalties if you are convicted. Depending upon the severity of the offense, you could be facing years in prison and significant financial penalties. It is critical that you build a strong defense against these charges after an arrest in California.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have plenty of experience fighting for the rights of those facing assault and battery charges in California. Even if the evidence against you is strong you are not out of options. We can likely get you a plea deal to reduce the charges and sentence that you will face.
What Are Assault and Battery?
While people often group assault and battery together, they are actually separate charges. However, they so often occur together that it is no surprise that so many people believe them to be a single charge.
The big distinction between these charges is that assault is the unlawful threat or attempt to violently injure another person, while battery is actually making physical contact with the intention to harm. Essentially assault is attempted battery.
While these charges often go hand in hand, they can also be charged separately. As far as separate charges go, it is far more common to see someone charged only with assault rather than only with battery.
Simple assault is the most standard form of assault and is defined under California Penal Code §240. To be guilty of this offense, several conditions must be met, such as that you:
- Acted in a way that would probably directly result in the application of force to another person
- Acted willfully
- Were aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the action would likely result in the direct application of force to another person
- Were physically able to apply that force at the time
There doesn’t have to be a risk of injury to the other party in order to count as assault. Attempting to spit on another person, for instance, can count as a simple assault under California law. Likewise, threats of violence or any other unwanted touching can count as assault if you have the capacity to imminently carry out that threat, such as getting in the face of another person and telling them you are going to punch them.
However, if you are unable to directly carry out the threat, it is not assault. If someone suffering from paralysis from the waist down threatened to kick you, they cannot be guilty of assault because they are incapable of carrying out that threat. The same applies if someone threatens to beat you up over the phone inasmuch as they are not present to carry out the attack.
Assault can be charged whether or not you actually make any physical contact with another person. However, if you do make contact, you can also be charged with battery.
Simple battery is the most basic form of a battery charge. Simple battery is defined under California Penal Code §242. To be guilty of simple battery, you must have:
- Physically touched another person, either directly or indirectly
- Acted willfully
- Acted in a harmful or offensive manner
Like with simple assault, you don’t have to have behaved in a way that actually put the other party in danger of physical harm. Any unwanted touching can count as battery, including spitting on another person or forcefully knocking something out of their hand without actually touching their person directly.
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Assault and Battery Charges Can Carry Heavy Penalties
Even simple assault and battery can result in penalties that land an offender behind bars for a significant chunk of time. However, these are the minimum charges with which you may be faced. Both assault and battery can be charged as more serious crimes for a variety of reasons.
Two of the main factors that can elevate a charge are the level of damage done and whether a weapon was used in committing the crime. Aggravated assault and battery charges could result in years in prison.
Possible Defenses Against Assault and Battery Charges
There are many potential defenses that you can use to fight assault and battery charges. Which argument your attorney will choose to make will depend upon the particulars of your situation. Some of the most common defenses against these charges include:
- No ability to inflict harm
- Self-defense/defense of others
- No intent
- False accusation
No Ability to Inflict Harm
In assault cases, if you were physically incapable of attempting to carry out your threats, you are not guilty of assault. A threat made over the telephone to imminently beat someone up may be considered harassment, but it is not assault.
Self-Defense/Defense of Others
If you acted in self-defense or in the defense of others, you are not guilty of assault and battery. Even if another party did not perform an action that would have caused you physical harm, as long as your response is proportional you have not committed a crime. This holds true even if the other party suffers an injury.
For instance, if someone shoves you, you shove them back, and they end up falling and breaking their arm, you did not commit a crime. Even though you are unharmed, because you acted in self-defense and with a reasonable response, you are not guilty of battery.
Both assault and battery must be performed willfully to have truly been committed. If you accidentally bump into someone in a crowded room, you are not guilty of battery. However, depending on the specifics of the situation, you may be guilty of negligence and liable for any injuries sustained by the other party if they choose to pursue compensation in a civil case.
You may be wrongfully accused of assault and battery for a variety of reasons. The victim may have been confused and misidentified you. There are also many cases where a “victim” accuses another party as a form of revenge.
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The list of defenses in the previous section is far from exhaustive. There are many other possible arguments that can be made in fighting these charges depending upon the specifics of your case. The best way to help ensure that you choose the correct defense is to hire a criminal defense lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have an experienced team of assault and battery defense attorneys who will help you fight a charge in California. Simply give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation and begin building your defense today.