The Basics of Assault and Battery Law

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Dec 20, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Assault and battery charges can be brought in a broad range of surprising situations, from minor fistfights to heated arguments to cases where no one was actually hurt. If you’re facing an assault and battery charge, you probably have a lot of questions. With your freedom on the line, it’s important to do everything you can to understand and protect your rights.

Assault and battery cases are complex criminal matters. If you’re here, you’re off to a good start. Finding the right attorney and doing the research is more important than ever. Read on for some information on the basics of assault and battery law.

How Does California Law Define Assault and Battery?

The California Penal Code defines assault and battery as separate charges. California Penal Code Sec. 240 PC describes assault as “an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” As to battery, California Penal Code Sec. 242 PC states that “battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”

Notably, assault itself does not require that you actually injure or make contact with another person. The attempt itself (and the ability to execute the attempt) is all that is required for criminal assault. For battery, there needs to be the actual use of force/contact.

At first glance, these definitions seem fairly straightforward, but these cases can become very complex.

What Are the Penalties for Assault and Battery?

Simple assault cases are misdemeanors under California law. For simple assault, a defendant can be fined up to $1,000 and/or sentenced to up to six months in jail. Simple battery cases are also misdemeanors, punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or six months of jail.

There are more serious charges for more grave situations, such as aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, battery causing serious bodily injury, domestic battery, felony battery, and more. These types of charges will result in higher fines and more jail time.

Whether you’ve been charged with simple or aggravated forms of assault and battery, you need a criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights.

Potential Defenses to Assault and Battery

Both crimes have distinct elements. If the prosecutor fails to prove any of the elements for a crime, then that charge will fail. Further, numerous defenses could come into play, all dependent on the facts of your case.

Examples of Defenses

One of the most commonly known defenses to assault is self-defense. If you were acting in self-defense or defending another person from a threat of violence, your assault charge should be dropped. However, you must only have used enough force to deter the threat. You could not use more force than necessary to prevent an assault or battery and still claim self-defense.

Proving assault requires a “present ability” to commit the violent injury. If you were unable to carry out your intentions, you have a viable defense. For example, if you said, “I’m going to shoot you next week,” you would not have the “present ability” to commit violent injury. Therefore, you would not be guilty of assault.

As to both assault and battery, proving that you were falsely accused is a defense to either crime. And finally, it’s key to understand that assault and battery are “intentional” acts. You had to have the intent to do the act in question. In legal terms, this is often referred to as “mens rea.”

Intent can be a tricky area of the law. For example, “transferred intent” may come into play. In the case of assault, if you intended to assault or batter Person A but instead committed the act on Person B, you could still be guilty of the crimes due to the transferred intent doctrine.

Contact An Experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney For Help

Assault and battery charges are serious offenses and complicated charges. Even the most simple of cases can escalate to more aggravated charges. You owe it to yourself, your freedom, and your future to get the best representation you can.

Do not hesitate to contact a criminal defense lawyer for help with your charges. They can investigate the circumstances of your charges to gather exculpatory evidence. They can also negotiate with prosecutors for a dismissal or favorable plea deal.