Guide to Assault Charges

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Our expert attorneys discuss assault and battery and the implications in Los Angeles, CA. Penalties, Jail Time, and possible defenses to charges.

Unfortunately, personal assaults happen all the time in California and many are not reported. Some victims may not know that assault is a crime and others may be hesitant to report the behavior out of fear. If you are a victim of assault in Los Angeles, you can find support and legal defense from a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney.

What is assault in California?

The Assault Law in California, often referred to as “Simple Assault,” is willfully doing anything that would result in applying force to another person while having the ability to do so, and knowing that a reasonable person would realize that the act would result in injury to another person. The offender must have the ability to apply force, intend to do so, and not be acting in self-defense or protecting someone else.

Put in simple terms, assault is the attempt to use force or violence against another person even if that attempt did not actually hurt that person.

Assault takes many forms. “Simple Assault” could be swinging at someone close by or throwing an object at that person with the intention of causing injury is considered an assault. The identity of the victim can help determine the penalties for assault.

A more serious assault would be an act against healthcare providers or public workers engaged in the normal performance of their duties. These include doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel; firefighters; school personnel; members of the military when such act is motivated by the fact of service; lifeguards; and transportation employees.

What is the difference between assault and battery? While assault is basically the intent to harm, battery is actually inflicting harm to another. “Simple Battery” can be the striking or shoving of another person or hitting someone with an object that causes injury.

Many Simple Batteries are considered misdemeanors, but some are more serious and can be classified as felonies. As with assault, battery against certain classes of individuals can lead to higher penalties. These include domestic violence against an intimate partner or family member; a disabled or elderly person; school employees or someone on school or hospital property; and sports officials while performing their official duties.

Aggravated Battery is an act that causes serious bodily harm to another. It involves touching or striking another person in an offensive or harmful way causing serious injury. Similar to assault, the crime of battery can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances involved and the extent of the injuries.

A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer can help point out the differences between assault and battery and explain the levels of seriousness and the penalties involved.

CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE §240

To be convicted of assault in California, the prosecution must prove several elements to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. They are:

  • The person acted directly with the probable result that the act would result in the application of force to someone else, AND…

  • The person acted willfully, AND…

  • The person was aware of facts that a reasonable person would realize that the act would result in the application of force to another person, AND…

  • When the person acted, they had the ability to apply the force, AND…

  • There was no legal excuse for the act (i.e., the person did not act in self-defense or the defense of someone else).

CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE §243(D)

The Penal Code 243D describes Aggravated Battery as:

  • Willfully using force against someone, AND…
  • That force caused injury. Examples of Aggravated Battery include the intentional pushing of someone who then breaks their arm in a fall or someone who punches another person in the face, breaking their nose. Any intentional act to hurt another that results in actual harm or injury can be classified as Aggravated Battery.

Assault and Battery penalties in California

The fact that Assault and Battery crimes in California can be filed as either misdemeanors or felonies means they are considered “wobblers,” and this leeway gives the prosecutor the option to charge the crime at either level.

Simple Assault is a misdemeanor that is punishable as jail time for up to one year and/or fines of up to $2000.

Felony battery is punishable as jail time for up to 16years and/or larger fines, depending on intent and level of harm caused. The law looks at different levels of injury including Bodily Injury, Serious Bodily Injury, and Great Bodily Injury.

Defenses to assault charges

There are several possible defenses to assault charges:

  • The defendant did not act willfully; it was an accident

  • The injury was not as serious as the victim claims

  • The defendant’s actions were done in self-defense or defense of others

The self-defense argument usually must demonstrate:

  • The defendant faced a threat of unlawful harm or force

  • There was a real fear of harm to themselves – with some reasonable explanation to support this

  • They did not provoke the incident

  • There was no reasonable way to retreat or escape the situation

The defense of others is similar to self-defense but there must be reasonable grounds for their perceived threat to others.

Other defenses can be used including defense of property and victim consent. Force is not usually recognized as a legal way to retrieve stolen property, but in the case of personal property (wallet or purse), the defendant may have the right to use reasonable force to retrieve them.

Consent may absolve the assault/battery charge in most cases, but it is possible that the act of harm or violence still exceeds the permission given and the courts may decide in favor of the victim.

Contact our Los Angeles Assault and Battery Attorneys If you are the victim of assault or battery in Los Angeles and want to know your rights or need assistance, contact Attorney Daniel Perlman or Matthew Cohen at Perlman & Cohen.

Perlman & Cohen (310) 299-0062

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