Battery with Serious Bodily Injury

A criminal record can be difficult to live with. Depending on the crimes committed, one could see a big impact on their employment opportunities, higher education goals, housing choices, and gun rights.

That being said, facing charges for battery with “serious bodily injury” is something you should not take lightly. The long-term damage alone is enough to get you thinking about finding a criminal defense attorney who can help.

Aside from the long-term consequences, violating this law could result in felony penalties. Finding an effective legal representative who can fight on your behalf would significantly increase your chances for the best possible outcome. To gain a better understanding of what this law entails, we must first look at how California defines it.

How does California define battery with “serious bodily injury”?

Aggravated battery, also known as “battery with serious bodily injury” is defined under California’s Penal Code 243(d). It states that when:

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Someone willfully touches another individual,

the touching was in a harmful, violent, or offensive manner, and

That unlawful touching caused the alleged victim to suffer a serious bodily injury.

What is willful?

To act willfully means you acted on purpose. Regardless of your intentions, purposely getting physically violent with someone is in and of itself considered an anger-driven or malicious action.

What is considered harmful touching?

Any touching of another person that is beyond just trivial or annoying, that is offensive, and/or violent is considered harmful touching. This includes any touching that could be deemed rude, angry, disrespectful, or hurtful.

This kind of action takes it beyond just a simple case of “battery” under Penal Code 242. In simple battery cases, there does not have to be any physical evidence to be charged with the offense.

For PC 243(d), the battery must have a causal connection to the alleged victim’s serious bodily injury. Even if it was only a slight touch, under this law, the touching does not have to be forceful. Even if the touching was seemingly minor, it can be taken into account if it is found to be a cause for another individual’s serious bodily injury.

What bodily injuries can be considered serious?

The following are prime examples of what is considered serious bodily injuries, however, this does not include everything. The definition of a serious injury is any serious bodily impairment to another person’s physical health. This is a broad definition, so keep in mind that the seriousness of a bodily injury is determined by the jury on a case by case basis.

Examples:

Sprained, fractured or broken bones,

Loss of consciousness,

Concussions,

Loosened or knocked-out teeth,

Cuts or lacerations that require stitches,

Noticeable to severe disfigurement, 

Impairment of a body part or organ, and

Major/deep bruising that can take a long time to heal.

The following illustrates instances in which harmfully touching another person would result in aggravated battery charges.

Pushing someone hard enough that they fall to the floor, breaking their wrist.

Sticking your foot out, tripping another person, resulting in them falling on their face, breaking their nose.

Shoving someone into a glass sliding door, causing them to crash through it. The crash and fall result in several lacerations that require multiple stitches.

Poking another person in the chest, forcing them to take a step backward, in which they slip, trip, and fall, spraining their ankle.

Closely-Related Offenses

California Assault Laws, Penal Code 240;

Assault, also known as “simple assault” is one law that many people tend to confuse with battery. What sets assault apart from ‘battery’ is assault is an action the might have had the potential to inflict physical harm or unwanted, offensive touching on another person. Battery involves physical contact in which actual force was used against another person. 

California Battery Laws, Penal Code 242;

As mentioned earlier on, battery, also known as “simple battery” is touching another person in an unlawful, harmful or offensive way. The difference between this law and serious bodily injury from “battery” is a simple battery offense can be charged even if the victim did not get hurt. For example, a jogger was attempting to get around a group of people on his run. Getting annoyed, he rudely pushes them aside to run passed them.

California Battery on a Peace Officer Laws, Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c);

This is similar to the battery laws previously mentioned, however, the main difference is it focuses on who the affected party is. If the alleged victim was a police officer or considered a protected official, you could be charged with this offense instead of a simple battery charge.

Essentially, if you unlawfully touch another individual in a violent, harmful, or offensive manner and this person is a police officer or other protected official, you could be facing charges for Penal Code 243(d) and 243(c). 

Associated/Similar Offenses

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

This definition is very similar to simple battery, except this falls under domestic violence laws because of who the alleged victim is. It states it’s a crime to unlawfully touch a current or former spouse, fiancee, boy/girlfriend, co-parent, or cohabitant in a manner that is considered unlawful, harmful, and/or offensive.

California Penal Code 273.5, corporal injury on an intimate partner;

It is a crime to willfully inflict minor or serious physical injury on someone who is your current or former intimate partner, spouse, co-parent, fiancee, boy/girlfriend, or cohabitant.

The Prosecution

To get a conviction for violating Penal Code 243(d), battery with serious bodily injury/aggravated battery, the prosecution must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all the facts or elements of the crime took place. The elements of the crime are:

  • You willfully touched another individual,
  • The touching was harmful or offensive, and
  • The touching resulted in serious bodily injury.

It's important to note, even if you did not intend to seriously injure someone, the fact that you physically touched them, either directly or indirectly, and that touching was a causal factor in their injury, is enough to face charges for aggravated battery.

For instance, throwing a pillow at someone’s face, if done in an offensive or harmful manner could be construed as simple battery, depending on the context. What raises something like this to a battery with serious bodily injury is if that pillow caused this person to slip, trip, or fall, resulting in a broken bone or other physical trauma.

Who Can Be Charged

There are a variety of physical altercations that could result in violating California’s aggravated battery laws. The following illustrates just some of the scenarios that can lead to charges for battery with “serious bodily injury” under Penal Code 243(d).

Mel had been drinking too much at her softball game and got angry that her team was losing. She picked up her bat and began hitting softballs into the dugout of the opposing team. Several of the balls hit people in the eye, lips, mouth, and head resulting in bruising and cuts that required sutures.

Mel could face multiple offenses for aggravated battery because her actions resulted in more than one person having to seek medical treatment for swelling, deep bruising, and stitches.

Lance got offended that another biker, Tom, was at the bar hitting on the bartender he liked. He approached Tom and told him to back off. Tom laughed and continued flirting with her. Lance went outside and kicked Tom’s motorcycle over. When Tom went outside to investigate, Lance immediately tackled him to the ground and elbowed him in the face. The elbow attack caused a cut on Tom’s forehead, deep enough to see the skull. Tom required medical treatment and several sutures for it. 

Lance was the instigator throughout this whole incident and could be charged with battery with serious bodily injury. He could also be held accountable for any medical bills Tom might have accrued from the injury.

Frank was lifting weights in the gym when he overheard another man saying offensive things about him. Things quickly escalated and soon he was yelling at the man, who only continued his offensive talking. Unable to control his anger, Frank picked up a medicine ball and threw it at the man. The weighted ball hit the other guy in the gut with enough force to knock the wind out of him. He stumbled backward, toppled over a workout bench and hit the head, knocking him unconscious.

Even though the other man was the antagonizer and using offensive language, he did not get physical, Frank did. Because of this fact, Frank could be charged with aggravated battery under Penal Code 243(d).

Legal Defense

It’s important not to forget that you can be convicted of aggravated battery even if you did not intend on causing any serious bodily injury. Based off of the particulars of your case, a skilled criminal defense attorney can help recognize what legal defenses can be asserted in court on your behalf.  

Did the defendant willfully touch another person or was it an accident?

To be convicted of battery of any kind, you would have to have been acting on purpose/willfully. If it was not willful, you would not be guilty of committing battery as defined under Penal Code 243(d).

Example:

Tina was swinging on a playground swing, staring up at the sky. When she stuck her feet out to get higher, her feet struck a passerby in the face, causing a nose bleed. This was an obvious accident, as Tina did not willfully touch another person, nor did she intend on hurting or offensively touching them. 

Was the physical contact harmful or offensive?

If the touching had intended to be violent, hurtful, unlawful, and/or offensive, or done with anger or malice as a driving factor, it could be charged under this law. With that said, if the touching was done willfully, but the act was not violent, rude, angry, or disrespectful, it would not be considered battery with serious bodily injury under Penal Code 243(d).

Example:

Max was a rugby player and after making his first try/goal in a game, his teammates picked him up and paraded him up above their heads. They are all happy until they stumble and Max falls, resulting in a couple of broken fingers.

This celebratory act was mutual and Max had participated in it. He understood everyone’s excitement, including his own and knew his teammates did not lift him to harm, hurt, or offend him. They may have willfully touched him, but this would not likely be considered battery with a serious bodily injury because the touching was friendly, not unlawful, offensive, disrespectful, or rude.

Were you acting in self-defense?

This explanation can be used if you were acting in self-defense or for the defense of someone else. However, there are specific criteria that have to be met for this to be a solid legal defense. They are:

You had a reasonable belief that you or another person were in immediate/imminent danger of sustaining a serious bodily injury or of unlawfully getting touched;

Therefore you had a reasonable belief that the use of physical force was needed to defend yourself or another individual; and

You only used a reasonable amount of force, enough necessary to protect yourself or another person from that imminent danger.

Example:

Sue was walking home when she saw a man hitting another woman. She yelled at him to stop. When he ignored her and continued hitting the woman, Sue ran up to him and tackled him. He fell and bounced his head on the pavement, causing a concussion.

Even though Sue willfully intended on touching the man in a harmful way(by tackling him), she did so to help the victim he was attacking. In this case, she committed battery, but can legally defend herself against such charges because she was coming to the aid of another person she believed was in imminent danger.

Penalties for battery with serious bodily injury, Penal Code 243(d)

Aggravated battery is a wobbler in California, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor;

Informal (summary) probation,

Up to one thousand dollars in fines, and/or

Up to one-year county jail.

Felony;

Formal (felony) probation,

Fines of up to ten thousand dollars, and/or

2, 3, or 4 years in the county jail.

Lose the right to own, buy, possess, or acquire a firearm.

Enhanced Penalties

If the injuries sustained by the alleged victim are deemed more than just serious, if the jury decides the victim suffered “great” bodily injuries, the penalties are enhanced. What would be considered great is determined on a case by case basis. The punishments for a “great” injury would be:

3 to 6 years added to your sentence, this is in addition to the consequences you face for Penal Code 243(d).

The alleged victim also has the right to sue you for further damages, so you could also be facing;

Punitive damages,

Covering the legal costs of the alleged victim,

Covering any medical bills the alleged victim accrued as a result of the injuries, and/or

Paying loss of wages/income.

If the court decides your violent behavior warrants further treatment, you could also be required to:

Take anger management classes,

Enroll in a batterer’s intervention program, or

Seek counseling.

Punishments for Associated/Similar Penalties

California Assault Laws, Penal Code 240;

Misdemeanor;

Up to one thousand dollars in fines, and/or

Up to six months in county jail.

California Battery Laws, Penal Code 242;

Misdemeanor;

Up to two thousand dollars in fines, and/or

Up to six months in county jail.

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

Misdemeanor;

Fines of up to two thousand dollars, and/or

Up to one year in the county jail.

Completion of a 52-week/1-year domestic violence/batterer’s intervention program.

California Penal Code 273.5, corporal injury on an intimate partner;

Misdemeanor;

Fines of up to six thousand dollars, and/or

Up to one year in the county jail.

Felony;

Up to six thousand dollars in fines, and/or

2, 3, or 4 years in a California state prison.

Lose the right to own, acquire, or possess a firearm.

Who To Call For Help

If you or someone you know is facing charges for aggravated battery or a similar offense, do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. As a former prosecutor and award-winning lawyer, Attorney Yum understands the intricacies of California law and knows what would be the best options to use when it comes to your case.

If you are located in the greater San Diego area, Los Angeles, Orange County, or the state of Illinois, contact our law offices for a free consultation. You should not have to face these allegations alone. Let us help you maintain control of your future and your freedom.

For more information on battery and related laws, please feel free to peruse here or call us at 619-233-4433.

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