If you have been arrested and/or charged with criminal assault, you should contact an experienced Los Angeles assault attorney as soon as possible. Criminal assault may seem like a minor offense, but a conviction could unnecessarily complicate your life.
A knowledgeable criminal lawyer can help to get charges against you reduced or dropped altogether. Contact The Rodriguez Law Group today for a free consultation. When you call, we can discuss your case and explain how our legal team may be able to help.
Criminal Assault – PC 240
There are many misconceptions about assault. Many believe that assault and battery are a single crime. However, assault and battery are actually two distinct offenses.
The interesting thing, though, is that an assault can occur without a battery, but a battery cannot occur without an assault. Why is this? An assault is essentially the behavior that leads up to a battery. Battery requires physical contact. Assault does not.
Assault may have both criminal and civil consequences. In this section, however, we focus on the crime of assault, which can be found in California Penal Code Section 240. A criminal assault is committed when you make an “unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” Basically, an assault is an attempt to physically injure another person.
If you have been arrested or charged with criminal assault in California, the prosecution trying your case will have to prove two things. First, they must prove that you intended to commit a battery. Second, they must prove that you had the immediate and present ability to commit that battery.
Here’s an example. Let’s say that you got into a heated argument with another person. If you picked up a broken bottle and swung or threw it in his or her direction, you would likely be guilty of committing an assault. The prosecution would try to prove that:
- Swinging your first was an attempt to commit a battery, and
- You were close enough to that other person that you could have committed a battery.
Here’s another example. Let’s say that you got into a heated argument with another person in a parking lot. If you balled up your fist and showed it to them, explaining that you were going to beat them up later you probably would not be guilty of assault.
The prosecution would have a difficult time proving that you (1) attempted to commit a battery, and (2) had the present ability to do so. Even if you had the intent to commit a battery in the future, you would not be guilty of the offense until you attempted to do so. (However, this behavior may be an entirely different criminal offense – criminal threats.)
What is Aggravated Assault?
An assault may be “aggravated” if there are certain circumstances present during the criminal act. Aggravated assault charges are considerably more serious and carry more substantial penalties. In pursuing charges of aggravated assault, the prosecution must prove that there was at least one aggravating circumstance to elevate the offense. Examples of an aggravating circumstance may include using a deadly weapon or intending to commit a serious felony (e.g., sexual assault, murder, robbery).
Commonly elevated assault charges include:
Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Committing an assault with any type of deadly weapon or means of force that would be likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
Assault on a Victim of a Protected Class. If the victim of an assault is a member of a protected class, such as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, paramedic, lifeguard, server of process, traffic officer, animal control officer, code enforcement officer, search and rescue member, or doctor or nurse administering emergency medical care.
Assault on a Public Official. An assault may be aggravated if the behavior was conducted against a public official in retaliation or to prevent the performance of his or her duties. Public officials may include judges, prosecutors, public defenders, or elected officials.
Assault with Caustic Chemicals. If a caustic chemical is thrown or placed on another person – with the intent to harm or disfigure that person – charges of assault may be aggravated.
Aggravating circumstances may be specific to your case and may depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can help to keep the charges against you from being elevated.
Defenses to Charges of Assault
If you have been arrested and/or charged with an assault it does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted of that crime. You can improve your chances of having the charges reduced or dropped by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney will review the facts of your case, research cases that may be similar to yours, and develop a defense strategy. In creating your defense, a criminal defense attorney may try to prove:
- The victim consented to the behavior that is being charged as an assault;
- You did not have the intent to commit a battery;
- You did not have the present and immediate ability to commit a battery;
- You acted in self-defense of yourself, another person, or personal property; or
- You were falsely accused.
Penalties for Assault Charges
A simple assault – one without aggravating circumstances – is a misdemeanor offense. If you are convicted of simple assault in California you may face up to 6 months in county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, and/or probation.
The penalties for aggravated assault are generally much harsher. In California, aggravated assault is what is known as a wobbler. This means that the prosecution has the discretion to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or a felony. In making this determination, a prosecutor will review all relevant information to a case. Relevant information may include:
- The seriousness of the crime;
- Whether another person was seriously injured; and
- Your own personal criminal record and history.
If you are convicted of misdemeanor aggravated assault you may face up to 1 year in county jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, and/or probation. If you are convicted of felony aggravated assault you may face between 2-4 years in State prison and/or fines of up to $1,0000.
Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Assault Defense Attorneys
If you have been arrested or charged with criminal assault in California you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. If you are arrested do not speak to the police. Remain silent and refuse to answer questions the police ask – your answers may be used against you. Instead, exercise your Constitutional rights to remain silent and obtain the assistance of an attorney.
At the Rodriguez Law Group, our attorneys have decades of experience helping clients fight charges of criminal assault. As a former District Attorney, Ambrosio Rodriguez understands how the prosecution will address your case. He uses this information to stay one step ahead in developing your defense. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights and how we may be able to help you fight the criminal assault charges against you.