The words assault and battery are often used together and interchangeably by most people. However, the two terms have vastly different legal meanings and consequences in the state of California.
Battery is most likely what most people think of when they think of “assault and battery.” Battery refers to an interaction when one person touches another using force or violence. You should be aware that this interaction is not just limited to violent situations. It applies to all non-consensual touching done in a harmful or offensive way.
Assault refers to when a person is attempting to use violence or force on a person. Typically, the assault will occur first, followed by battery.
Examples of Assault and Battery
Assault charges can often be leveled without any charge of battery. However, only in rare cases will someone be charged with battery, but not with assault.
The exact legal definition of assault varies between jurisdictions. While the specifics may vary, the general idea of assault is the same. A person commits an act of assault when their words or actions make another person feel that they are in danger of a violent attack.
Assault most often takes the form of threats. However, it can also be an actual attempt to attack where the assailant fails to land a blow.
Battery is the act of actually landing a blow on another person. Battery can take many forms. Some common types of battery include:
- Pushing someone
- Hitting or kicking someone
- Attacking someone with a weapon
- Throwing something at someone
- Spitting on someone
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Assault and Battery
The reason assault and battery often go together is that usually, an assault will occur first and then a battery. For example, if someone tells another person they will throw a bottle at them, they have committed assault. If they then go on to throw that bottle, and actually hit another person, then they have committed battery.
People are often arrested on charges of assault without any charge of battery because they threaten violence but do not carry it out. This can happen if either party walks away or if the aggressor is held back before they commit a violent act.
Battery can also be charged without a charge of assault. However, this is far less common. Most acts of violence are precipitated by arguments. There are random acts of violence that sometimes occur where there is no preamble to the attack. If someone is randomly attacked while walking down the street, their attacker may not have committed assault.
If you have been accused of assault and battery in California, you want to meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Before your trial starts, you want to have someone on your side who will fight to clear your name.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Assault and Battery
The consequences for a conviction of assault or battery largely depend upon whether you are facing a misdemeanor or felony charge.
A simple assault is a misdemeanor crime. In order for a felony charge to be leveled against you, the charge must be for aggravated assault.
A simple assault is a misdemeanor crime punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months imprisonment. Crimes like aggravated assault are considered “wobbler” crimes because they can be a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances.
One situation where an assault may be upgraded from simple to aggravated is if a weapon was involved. If a person was waving a gun while making a threat, they could face an aggravated assault charge. Another instance in which the charge could be raised is if the assault was a threat of murder.
A simple battery is a misdemeanor charge. If, however, the battery results in a serious injury, then the accused could face a charge of aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury. Like aggravated assault, this charge is a wobbler. Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony will likely depend upon the extent of the victim’s injuries.
You should be aware that with both assault and battery if they are considered a felony, they are counted towards California’s “three-strike” rule.
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Penalties for Assault and Battery Charges
Whatever the charge, the consequences for any assault or battery conviction can be severe. It is important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side to help protect your rights.
Penalties for an Assault Charge
When facing a charge of simple assault, the potential penalties include:
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Up to six months in jail
- Up to six months of probation
When facing a felony aggravated assault charge, the punishment goes way up. Potential penalties for felony aggravated assault include a fine of up to $10,000 and up to four years in state prison.
Penalties for a Battery Charge
A charge of simple battery has similar consequences as that of simple assault, which include a fine of up to $2,000 and up to six months in jail. A conviction for a charge of felony aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury can be punishable with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to four years in state prison.
With both assault and battery, the charges are different and more severe if the actions are against a peace officer such as EMTs, police officers, and correctional officers. In some instances, the charges can double in severity.
Since the laws around assault and battery can be complicated and very situation-specific, you want to speak to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You do not want to lose the chance of having your charges reduced or dismissed by making a statement that hurts you or by going to court on your own.
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Defenses Against Assault and Battery Charges
Facing charges of assault and battery can be upsetting and life-changing. It is also a situation that is easy for people to inadvertently end up in after drinking too much alcohol or being in the wrong social situation at the wrong time. However, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you fight these charges with a variety of possible defenses.
If the other party consented to the assault or battery, they cannot claim you acted illegally. For example, if you hit someone in the normal course of a sport in an expected way, they have consented to some level of battery.
If you only acted to defend yourself or another person, this is a defense to a battery charge. Your criminal defense lawyer will use evidence to prove that this was necessary given the circumstances.
Inability to Commit Crime
This works well for assault charges because even if you threaten someone but clearly cannot follow through with that threat, it is not considered assault. For example, if a person with two broken hands in a cast threatens to choke the person in front of them at that moment, this is not considered assault because the person with broken hands cannot actually choke anyone.
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Facing criminal charges is a difficult situation. To protect yourself from further issues, you need to speak to a lawyer that can help you better understand your legal situation. The Simmrin Law Group has numerous qualified lawyers that can help you today. Someone is available 24/7 to talk to you about your case. Call today or fill out our online contact form.