Assault & Battery
HOW TO NAVIGATE ASSAULT & BATTERY CHARGES
Assault and Battery are two criminal charges that are ordinarily prosecuted together. The technical definition of a battery is the “willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Assault, though similar, is an attempt to commit a battery.
What does the D.A. need to prove if charging you with battery?
To prove that a defendant is guilty of simple battery the D.A. needs to prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant willfully touched the victim in a harmful or offensive manner; AND
The defendant was not acting in self-defense at the time of the touching.
The term willfully means that the defendant acted willingly or on purpose. Thus, all that needs to be proved is that the defendant knew he was performing the physical act. It does not matter that he or she was not intending to break the law or hurt the victim. Moreover, the victim does not have to suffer any injury for someone to be convicted of battery. The slightest touching can be enough to commit a battery if it is done in a rude or angry manner.
What is the punishment for battery?
Simple battery is a misdemeanor under the California Penal Code. If convicted, you face up to 6-months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. However, there are more serious forms of battery – e.g., domestic battery or battery causing serious bodily injury – that can increase your battery charge to a felony. When charged as a felony, you could be looking at time in prison.
What does the D.A. need to prove if charging you with assault?
To find someone guilty of simple assault, a jury (or judge, if it is a bench trial) must find the following to be true beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant willfully did an act that by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to a person;
When the defendant acted, s/he was aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that (his/her) act by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to someone;
When the defendant acted, (he/she) had the present ability to apply force to a person; AND
The defendant did not act in self-defense.
Unlike simple battery, there does not have to be any kind of touching to violate the law. All the D.A. has to prove is that the defendant committed an act that would reasonably result in force to another person. Therefore, even if you were just trying to scare the other person, you could be convicted of simple assault.
What is the punishment for committing simple assault?
Like battery, simple assault is a misdemeanor under California law. If convicted of simple assault, you face up to 6-months in jail and a $1,000 fine. That said, just like battery, assault can be charged as a more serious felony offense when committed with the intent to cause serious bodily injury.