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San Diego Assault and Battery Criminal Defense Lawyer

Assault and battery are serious criminal charges in Southern California and throughout the United States. The consequences for a conviction include serving jail time and paying steep fines.

If you have been charged with assault and battery, the best course of action is to retain representation by an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can best represent your interests. Contact The Law Offices of Anna R. Yum right away to schedule a free, no-obligation legal consultation.

How are assault and battery defined in San Diego?

The first thing to understand about these charges is that assault and battery are not one single crime; they are two separate offenses. While it is possible for an individual to be charged with both battery and assault, it is also possible to be charged with just one or the other.

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The difference between assault and battery is an attempt versus contact. An important term to know when considering charges of battery and assault is the “application of force.” Application of force is contact that is harmful or offensive; it is typically the legal phrase used when discussing instances of battery and assault.

  • What is assault? –California Penal Code Section 240
    Assault is an attempt to touch or hit another person— “an application of force”—without his or her consent. Even a slight touch that causes no pain or injury might be considered assault if it was done in a harmful, offensive, or hostile way.
  • What is battery? –California Penal Code Section 242
    Battery is the actual touching or hitting of an individual—at whatever degree of severity—with or without an object. Making any sort of rude or offensive contact with another person, even if it does not cause pain or injury, is often enough to qualify as battery.

    Further, if physical contact is made on an object that is close to a person—for instance, if a person is riding a bike and another person knocks the bike out from under him/her—that may also be considered battery, because of the close proximity of the object to the victim.

    Even simple battery—or battery that does not cause serious physical injury to another individual—is considered a violent crime, and is searchable in criminal background checks conducted by employers, landlords, and government agencies.

Closely Related Offenses

California Penal Code 243(d), battery causing serious bodily injury;

Someone can commit this crime by unlawfully and willfully touching another person in a harmful and/or offensive manner, causing this other person to suffer a serious bodily injury. This crime is also known as aggravated battery.

California Penal Code 245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon;

Also referred to as aggravated assault, this crime takes place when someone unlawfully attempts to violently hurt/injure another person with either a deadly weapon or by using force that would likely cause great bodily injury.

California Penal Code 243(e)(1), domestic battery;

Committing battery on a victim who is your current or former spouse, fiance(e), cohabitant, someone you were in a dating relationship with, or the co-parent of your child is considered domestic violence, and can be charged under PC 243(e)(1).

California Penal Code 243.4, sexual battery;

It is a crime to unlawfully touch an intimate part of someone else for the purposes of sexual abuse, arousal, or gratification.

California Penal Code 261, rape;

Having non-consensual intercourse with another individual by using force, fraud, or threats is a felonious crime.

California Penal Code 422, criminal threats;

Threatening to kill, physically injure, or harm another person, placing this person in a state of sustained fear for their safety or for their family members is a crime.

California Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c)(2) battery on a peace officer;

Willfully and unlawfully touching a police officer or other protected official in an offensive and/or harmful manner while they are trying to perform their duties is a crime. 

How do assault and battery cases work in San Diego’s courts?

Various factors determine how an assault and/or battery case will be tried in court. For instance, there are multiple ways a defense attorney might choose to argue his or her client’s innocence, and likewise, there are numerous ways a prosecutor might argue that a defendant is guilty.

What The Prosecution Does

  • How do you prove someone committed assault in San Diego?
    When an individual is accused of assault, the prosecutor of the case must prove four main points, referred to as the elements of the crime;
    1. The accused was directly responsible for an act that would most likely result in an “application of force” on another individual.
    2. The accused intentionally committed this act or intentionally threatened to commit the act.
    3. When the accused committed or threatened to commit the act, he or she reasonably understood that their actions would cause an application of force (contact that is harmful or offensive).
    4. When the accused committed or threatened to commit the act, he or she was physically able to use force upon the other individual.
  • How do you prove someone committed battery?
    When an individual is accused of battery, the prosecutor must prove these two main elements:

    1. The defendant touched an individual with the intent to cause unlawful harm or offense.
    2. The defendant committed this unlawful, harmful, and/or offensive contact while NOT acting in self-defense, NOT defending someone else, and NOT reasonably disciplining their child.

Who Can Be Charged

For a deeper understanding of situations that can lead to charges of PC 240, assault and/or PC 242, battery, take a look at the examples below. These scenes illustrate who can be charged with assault and/or battery. 

Example 1:

Casey was bringing in her groceries when her neighbor, Skye pulled into the spot beside her. As she got out, her car door accidentally slammed into Casey’s car. Angry, Casey yelled at her, stating she was going to pay for a new paint job if there was damage. Skye laughed, shook her head no, and walked toward her front door. Casey picked up a can of corn and threw it, attempting to hit Skye with it.

Casey could be charged with assault under PC 240. Even though the canned corn missed its target, the attempt to physically harm Skye was evident.

Example 2:

Let’s continue with the example above. Casey threw the canned corn and it actually hit Skye in the head, causing a bloody gash across her forehead. This would raise the case to the level of battery and Casey would face charges under PC 242.

Example 3:

What is Skye inadvertently hurts Casey? Let’s say, after getting hit with the can, Casey picks up two more cans of food and prepares to throw them. Skye runs up to Casey and grabs her wrists so hard, her grip leaves a mark. The cans fall from Casey’s hands.

Casey tries to claim battery, however, Skye would not be guilty of any charges, because she was acting in self-defense. She felt it was necessary to apply a certain amount of physical force to prevent Casey from throwing another can of food at her.

Casey was the aggressor in the scenario. Not only did she already cause a bloody injury across Skye’s forehead, but she also showed no signs of slowing down her violent attack. Skye only acted out of self-defense and would not face charges for assault and/or battery.

Legal Defense

There are steps you can take to fight against serious allegations of assault and/or battery. One of the first things legal experts recommend is finding a criminal defense attorney who understands all the elements of PC 240 and PC 242.

Take a look at the following list of common defenses that have been used to contest accusations of assault and/or battery.

Is there a lack of intent?

If you did not intend to hurt anyone, you would not be guilty of assault and/or battery. For instance, Tommy has PTSD and struggles to maintain his composure, even when he’s sleeping. While asleep on the greyhound bus, he starts to yell-out unintelligible things and flails his arms and legs. The passenger beside him is hit by Tommy’s arms. They call the police. The greyhound bus is pulled over and Tommy wakes up to police officers placing him under arrest for battery.

Even though the neighboring passengers were harmed, Tommy did not intend to willfully attack or hurt them, especially considering he was asleep. He would not be guilty of PC 242, battery.

Was it a false accusation?

Unfortunately, false accusations can be made and allegations for violent or potentially violent crimes can lead to a wrongful arrest. This can happen in complicated domestic violence cases or in cases where the accuser simply wants revenge.

For instance, Sally was jealous that her ex-boyfriend was dating someone else. She confronts him in front of his house and attempts to enter his apartment while yelling obscenities at him.

While trying to force her way inside his home, he slams the door in her face. She ends up falling to the ground and falsely claims he committed assault and battery on her.

He would not guilty of either PC 240 or PC 242 for simply protecting himself and his home from unlawful entry by his ex-girlfriend.

Were your actions an accident?

Accidentally hurting someone means you lacked the willful intent to commit assault and/or battery. These elements are important for determining whether an actual crime was committed. If physical harm and/or injury was caused as a result of your clumsiness, it would not rise to the level of PC 240 or PC 242 and you should not be held guilty of either count. 

For example, Bill and George were playing football with other guys at the park. Bill catches the ball and runs toward the endzone. George swiftly catches up and tackles Bill to the ground. When they go down, Bill’s head bounces off the ground hard enough to cause a concussion. Bill wants to press charges for battery under PC 242, claiming George tackled him too hard.

As mentioned before, the lack of intent plays a huge role in these crimes. Tackling someone else is known to cause physical harm and/or injury, but during a full-contact sport, all parties involved understand the risk.

Even though George purposely tackled Bill, it was under the context of a football game. All parties involved were under a mutual agreement to play, despite possibly getting hurt from physical contact. George is not guilty of assault or battery and should not face either offense.

An Overview: Assault, Battery, and Self-Defense in San Diego

In instances of assault and/or battery in the state of California, an individual has the legal right to fight back and defend themselves if they reasonably believe that they or others are about to be harmed by another person or become the victim of a crime.

In the case of battery, it can also be argued that any physical contact that occurred was unintentional. An experienced San Diego assault and battery defense attorney may argue that their accused client did not act willfully—with intent—and so the “application of force” was actually accidental.

Assault and Battery: Misdemeanor and Felony Charges in San Diego

  • Assault and Misdemeanor Charges
    Simple assault is considered a misdemeanor offense and might also invoke a civil lawsuit against the accused. Punishments for misdemeanor assault charges include:

    • Up to six months in prison, and/or
    • Up to one thousand dollars in fines,
    • The requirement to undergo anger management courses or other related programs (rehabilitation, etc.),
    • Community service or labor requirements.
  • Simple Battery and Misdemeanor Charges
    Simple battery—or battery that does not cause serious bodily injury—might involve these penalties:

    • Up to six months in prison, and/or
    • As much as two thousand dollars in fines,
    • Anger management counseling/courses,
    • Other appropriate forms of counseling,
    • Summary (informal) probation,
    • Community service.
  • Battery Causing Serious Physical Injury
    If a perpetrator of a battery causes serious bodily injury to the victim, then the perpetrator may face the following penalties:
    • Up to four years in prison, and
    • A strike on his/her record that would significantly affect any future convictions that might occur and would appear on a criminal background check.

Assault and Battery: Increased Penalties

Assault and/or battery charges can be added to other charges, as well. For instance, instead of simply being charged with assault, an individual might be charged with assault with a deadly weapon (ADW)—committing the assault with a gun, car, or other types of weapons — assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury or assault on a police officer. These additional charges come with more severe penalties and long-term consequences.

Penalties for Closely Related Offenses

It is important to mention that the following offenses are sometimes associated with violent crimes and can be charged in addition to PC 240 assault and/or PC 242 battery.

California Penal Code 243(d), battery causing serious bodily injury;

Misdemeanor;

Informal (misdemeanor) probation,

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

2, 3, or 4 years in county jail, and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

California Penal Code 245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon;

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

Up to one year in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to one thousand dollars.

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

Up to four years in state prison, and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

California Penal Code 243(e)(1), domestic battery;

Misdemeanor;

Informal (summary) probation, and/or

Up to one year the county jail,

Up to two thousand dollars in fines, and

Enrollment in a batterer’s treatment program for up to one year.

California Penal Code 243.4, sexual battery;

Misdemeanor;

Informal (misdemeanor) probation for up to five years,

Up to six months in county jail, and/or

Up to two thousand dollars in fines.

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

2, 3, or 4 years in state prison,

Up to ten thousand dollars in fines, and/or

Lifetime registration as a tier three sex offender.

California Penal Code 261, rape;

Felony;

3, 6, or 8 years in state prison,

Up to ten thousand dollars in fines,

Lifetime registration as a tier three sex offender, and

A strike under California’s Three Strikes Law

California Penal Code 422, criminal threats;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one year in county jail, and

Up to one thousand dollars in fines.

Felony;

Up to three years in state prison, and

Up to ten thousand dollars in fines.

California Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c)(2) battery on a peace officer;

Misdemeanor;

Summary (informal) probation,

Up to six months in county jail, and/or

Fines of up to two thousand dollars.

Call Us For Legal Help

Any criminal charge can be defended against. There may be extenuating circumstances for an assault or battery, such as self-defense, defending someone else, or defending property. As an experienced and nationally recognized criminal defense lawyer, San Diego attorney Anna R. Yum can work within the criminal justice system to potentially reach an acquittal, negotiated plea agreement, an alternative sentence, or diversion. She will fight for you by using her years of experience both as a former prosecutor and award-winning criminal defense trial attorney.

Each case of assault and/or battery involves unique circumstances in San Diego County. To speak to a reputable, highly rated criminal defense lawyer about the details of your case in a confidential, zero-commitment setting, contact us today at the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum.

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