ASSAULT AND BATTERY
In California and many other places, assault and battery are frequently viewed as a single crime. However, the law shows they are two distinct offenses that often follow one another closely. Assault is the creation of a threat of physical injury, while offensive touching or physical contact constitutes battery. Whether you are charged with assault, battery, or both offenses, conviction can result in serious, life long consequences. An experienced Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney can help you make the best of a bad situation
In California, simple assault charges apply if:
- You acted in a way that would likely result in use of force against someone
- You acted willfully
- You understood and were aware the act would result in force being used against someone
- You had the ability to cause harm
The threat of violence is illegal in and of itself; injury is not necessary. However, words alone are usually insufficient to constitute assault. There must be both intent and action behind your words.
Assault may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, and the penalties for conviction of each charge vary with the severity of the assault. Misdemeanor or “simple” assault may warrant up to 6 months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. However, if aggravating circumstances exist – such as an assault on a public worker like a firefighter or peace officer–the case may be filed as a felony and the penalties increase to a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 1 year in jail. You may also face increased penalties if you have a prior conviction for assault or other crimes.
AGGRAVATED ASSAULT/ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON
Aggravated assault in California is commission of an assault with either a deadly weapon or by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. A weapon may include obvious choices such as a gun, but it can be any object which is capable of causing serious injury or death. The law is intentionally vague to encompass any item which is used to attack or hurt another person.
Aggravated assaults are serious crimes that carry harsh potential sentences if convicted. These crimes may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the circumstances, your criminal history, the victim’s status as a protected person like a firefighter, and the severity of harm done to the victim. A felony conviction can result in:
- Up to 12 years in prison depending on the weapon used
- Up to $10,000 in fines
- A strike under California’s“Three Strikes Law”
Even a misdemeanor conviction for aggravated assault can cost you 5 years of probation, up to a year in jail, and/or a fine up to $1,000.
California defines battery as willful and unlawful use of violence or other force on another person. No injury to a victim is necessary to be convicted of battery–any unwanted or offensive touching satisfies the legal standard because the crime is based on the victim’s perception. Like assault, there are degrees and types of battery with different potential punishments depending on the facts of your case.
Whatever battery charge you are facing, it’s important to have an experienced Santa Barbara criminal defense lawyer providing personalized, compassionate representation during this difficult time to give you the best possible outcome and help avoid negative consequences that can last a lifetime.
MISDEMEANOR “SIMPLE” BATTERY
If you willfully or unlawfully used force or violence on another person, a conviction of misdemeanor or “simple” battery may result. This can bring up to 6 months in jail and/or up to a $2,000 fine.
BATTERY WITH SERIOUS BODILY INJURY (AGGRAVATED BATTERY)
The crime of battery with serious bodily injury, is also called “aggravated battery”. This charge requires showing that you willfully touched another person, resulting in great bodily harm to your victim. The law requires evidence you intended to harmfully or offensively touch the victim. In these cases, the evidence helps a judge or jury decide if there was “serious bodily injury”.
For example, broken bones, a gunshot wound, or a stab wound. In California, the victim doesn’t need to receive medical treatment for their injuries to support a finding of “serious bodily injury”. Based on the circumstances, prosecutors may charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction potentially involves:
- Up to 1 year in county jail
- Fines up to $2,000
- Restitution to your victim
- Anger management classes or counseling
Felony battery, on the other hand, can leave you with lifelong consequences outside the sentence for a conviction. These include, loss of gun rights, inability to vote, and result in a felony on your permanent criminal record. Among other things, felony battery convictions carry the potential for:
- Up to 4 years in prison
- Fines up to $10,000
- Formal probation
California considers felony battery a violent felony, so it counts as a strike under the California “Three Strikes Law”. This means enhanced penalties of up to 25 years to life in prison may apply if you have two prior strikes.
BATTERY ON A PEACE OFFICER
In California, battery on a peace officer is specifically prohibited and often results in harsh penalties. It is illegal to use force or violence willfully and unlawfully against someone you know or reasonably should know is a peace officer who is engaged in the performance of their duties. “Peace officer” is a broad category that includes police officers, traffic cops, paramedics, lifeguards, and firefighters, among others. Like “simple battery” injury is not required. Additionally, a peace officer does not have to be “on the clock” to be engaged in official duties. For example, an off-duty police officer who witnesses a traffic accident, steps in, and calls for backup, would likely be performing their official duties for purposes of this statute.
Battery on a peace officer is a “wobbler” offense and may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted of “simple battery” you may face up to 1 year in jail. However, if the victim was injured, you may face felony charges that can bring up to 3 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
LEGAL DEFENSES TO ASSAULT AND BATTERY CHARGES
Due to the serious consequences a conviction may bring, raising all possible legal defenses that apply in your situation is vital for your future. In California, several defenses to assault and battery charges may apply in your case, including:
- Defense of Others
- Mutual (Voluntary) Combat
- Police Conduct
A skilled Santa Barbara criminal defense attorney like Christy Horowitz understands the importance of being proactive in these cases. She will use her experience as a former prosecutor to present all applicable defenses and work with prosecutors to reduce and/or dismiss charges and negotiate favorable plea agreements.