How to Defend Assault and Battery Charges in California?

Updated: Sep 12

Learn the possible defenses to assault and battery charges in California


Assault, as described by California Penal Code (PC) 240, is a misdemeanor that includes instilling fear of imminent violence (whether attempted or threatened). Battery (California Penal Code 242) is a much more serious crime that includes the use of force or intimidation.


Notice that in some situations, the battery is a "wobbler," meaning it can be charged as a crime or a felony. The best Criminal Defense Attorney In California may be able to help you with the complicated details of your case.


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Depending on the form of attack or battery, there are different degrees of severity. Charges of simple assault and battery, for example, are much less severe than charges of aggravated assault and battery.


Keep in mind that if a person is seriously hurt, a simple battery can quickly escalate to an aggravated battery. California assesses seriousness based on the severity of the injury. Civil responsibility for the assault and battery torts is also a factor to consider, so we'll stick to criminal liability for now.


What is Characterized as an Assault?


Since assault is often confused with battery, finding facts about it can be difficult. So, what does it mean to be assaulted? If you are physically assaulted, it means that the following is true:

  • It creates an imminent danger of Aggression or coercion.

  • They either do or say something that makes you feel fearful or apprehensive right away.

  • They acted knowing that their acts could hurt or force the other individual.

The only difference between an assault and a battery is that you didn't succeed in inflicting violence. Here's an example of a simple attack misdemeanor:

A quarrel has erupted between two people. One individual raises their fist and tries to punch the other, instilling fear and anxiety in the other. Or this same person raises their fist and swings it at the other person, but the other person avoids it, so there is no physical aggression, only a threat.

Assault (Simple)


In California, swinging at others during a heated confrontation (and missing) is considered a clear attack if the intended victim was within striking distance. While threats to hit someone with an object are not considered assault unless they are followed by an act or behavior that shows intent to carry out the threat, threats to hit someone with an object are considered assault when they are accompanied by an action that shows intent to carry out the threat. When it comes to assault charges, the identity of the victim plays a big role in deciding the seriousness of the crime and the potential penalty.


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Assaults on many healthcare professionals who offer emergency services outside of a hospital or clinic, as well as assaults on many public employees who are doing their duties, carry harsher punishments than mere assaults, as long as the offender knew or should have known that the victim was a healthcare professional or a public worker doing his job. Among the healthcare professionals and government employees are:

  • Nurses and doctors

  • Paramedics and emergency medical technicians

  • Employees at the school

  • A group of firefighters

  • Lifeguards are people who protect people from damage.

  • Officers in charge of animal welfare

  • Staff on the highway

  • Members of the US military, when the attack is inspired by their military service.

  • Employees of public transit

  • Employees of the probation service

Assault (Wobblers)


The following are "wobblers," or simple attacks that may be charged as felonies or misdemeanors:

  • attack on a jail or prison official, such as a corrections officer

  • attack on a police officer from the school district, and

  • A party to the case assaulting a juror or substitute juror.

What is Characterized as a Battery?


According to California Penal Code 242, the key distinction between battery and assault is the actual use of Aggression or force. Let's assume that after missing on the first swing, this person swings again, this time hitting the person square in the chest. The individual complains of minor discomfort but is not seriously injured. This is a straightforward battery.

Battery requires not only harmful but also offensive contact, and sexual battery (California PC 243.4) is punishable as a misdemeanor or felony (discussed in Sex Crimes). The key distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony is often the use of force or the abuse of authority.

A battery may be classified as domestic abuse, depending on the nature of the relationship. PC 243(e)(1) of the California Penal Code specifically discusses the use of force and abuse against an intimate partner. On our related page, you can learn more about domestic abuse.


The different degrees of battery, primarily simple battery vs. aggravated battery, play a role in determining whether a charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. This can be further explained to you by a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney.


Battery (Simple)


During an altercation, striking another person with a fist or shoving them are both examples of battery. Battery may also be described as pushing or hitting someone with a small object, causing physical harm to the other person.


The identity of the victim, as with the attack, is a key factor in deciding the seriousness of a battery crime and the potential penalty. Many public workers and healthcare providers, such as firefighters, lifeguards, public transit workers, animal control officers, and probation department employees, face harsher penalties than simple battery against other victims if the perpetrator knew or should have known that the victim was a public worker.


Simple battery against other victims is a misdemeanor, but the following simple battery charges carry harsher punishments. Assaults are made against:

  • a romantic partner or members of one's family (domestic violence battery)

  • a senior citizen or a disabled adult

  • a commuter on public transportation

  • anyone in a public transit vehicle or on public transit land

  • a school employee in the course of his or her duties, or in retribution for acts taken by the school employee in the course of his or her duties

  • a contractor on the highway

  • when conducting his duties as a sports official at a sporting event, and

  • someone on the grounds of a school, a public park, or a hospital.

Battery (Wobblers)


Battery offenses that may be charged as felonies or misdemeanors include:

  • a crime committed against a law enforcement officer when he or she is doing his or her duties

  • by a party in the case against a juror or substitute juror

  • the battery on different public employees or healthcare providers (resulting in injuries requiring medical treatment)

  • While performing his duties or in retribution for action taken while performing his duties, a school employee is subjected to battery (resulting in injury requiring medical treatment)

Intentional or Willful Behavior is Required


In order for an act to be considered criminal assault or battery, it must be done on purpose. An unintentional behavior is not a crime. For example, someone does not have criminal intent if they brush up against a friend in a sexually provocative manner as a joke. However, an offender's argument that he was unaware that a deliberate, angry, and/or threatening act was illegal is seldom a defense and does not negate intent.


California's Assault Penalties


If you are convicted for a simple assault, you may face the following penalties:

  • a maximum of six months in prison

  • a fine

  • Probation period of up to six months

Simple assault done against a healthcare provider or public employee (as mentioned above) while performing his duties can result in the following penalties:

  • up to a year in prison

  • a fine

  • Probation period of up to one year

Wobbler assault charges will result in the following consequences:

  • up to a year in prison or

  • Depending on the offender's criminal background, he or she could be sentenced to sixteen months, two years, or three years in a county jail or state prison.

  • a fine

  • Probation for one or three years is possible


California's Battery Penalties


The following are the basic penalties for simple battery charged as a misdemeanor:

  • a maximum sentence of six months in county prison

  • a fine

  • Probation period of up to six months

Some battery offenses, such as battery against a healthcare provider or public employee, domestic violence battery, and battery on school grounds, carry a stiffer penalty:

  • a maximum sentence of one year in county prison

  • a fine

  • Probation period of up to one year

The following are the penalties for felony wobbler batteries:

  • Depending on the offender's criminal background and pending criminal charges, the sentence may range from sixteen months to two to three years in county jail or state prison.

  • a fine if the victim is a juror, or fined for much more if the victim is a public transportation worker or passenger) and a year in prison

  • Probation for up to three years is possible


Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer


If the victim or target of a simple battery charged as a felony is a law enforcement officer in the course of h