Many people carry misconceptions regarding the various types of violent offenses that might be prosecuted in California. For example, while many people are familiar with the term “assault and battery,” California state law assigns different definitions to “assault” and “battery,” making them distinct from one another, but they are often prosecuted in tandem.
An assault occurs when one party threatens or attempts physical harm to another party. Battery occurs when someone completes a threat or attempt and makes physical contact with the other party. For example, threatening to hit someone in the face or taking a swing at them would constitute an assault in California. If they make physical contact, even if they do not cause injury, this would be battery under California law.
If you face any form of assault charge, any level of battery charge, or a combination of both offenses, it is natural to worry about the potential penalties you face. Any criminal offense involving physical harm to another party will likely incur severe penalties. A good defense attorney is the best asset on your side if you face any assault and/or battery charges in California.
Potential Penalties for Assault and Battery
At the lowest level, assault can qualify as a Class C misdemeanor in California. For example, if the defendant threatened or attempted to harm another party but did not cause any harm, this would still constitute assault under state law. Class C misdemeanor assault will typically incur a penalty of up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $500. However, if physical contact is made in any way, even if the defendant did not cause serious harm to the victim, the incident escalates to battery. At the lowest misdemeanor level, simple battery that does not cause serious harm can still lead to up to $2,000 in fines and up to six months in the county jail.
Whether a defendant faces charges of assault, battery, or both, penalties can increase dramatically in response to any aggravating factors present in the case. For example, if the defendant committed assault and battery but used a deadly weapon in the act, this would likely push the offense to felony status. Assault and battery are typically considered “wobblers” in California, meaning they “wobble” between felony and misdemeanor classifications based on the specific details of a case.
When a person has committed an assault and battery with a deadly weapon, or if they inflicted severe physical harm to a victim, they are likely to face felony prosecution and a host of penalties beyond those assigned by the court. Violent felonies can be punished by many years in a state prison, heavy fines, and loss of constitutional rights, such as the right to own a firearm.
It is important to remember that a defendant can potentially face serious penalties for assault and battery if they inflict serious harm of any kind, even if they did not intend to harm the victim as much as they did. However, intent can influence sentencing or even escalate assault and battery charges to attempted murder or murder. If a defendant committed an assault and battery with a premeditated intention of harming or killing the victim, the prosecution could seek murder or attempted murder charges.
Defending Yourself Against Assault and Battery Charges
California recognizes few defenses against violent crimes. If you did not commit the offense because of a wrongful accusation or simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, an experienced defense attorney is the best resource to consult to determine how to build your defense. The prosecution has the burden of proving guilt, but it’s best to be proactive in your defense if you know you did nothing wrong so you can avoid further disruption in your life.
It is possible that you did commit the act in question but for a legal reason. Self-defense is an affirmative defense in many assault and battery cases, but there must be solid proof that you acted in response to a clear and immediate threat posed by the alleged victim. California’s self-defense laws are not as robust in favor of the victim as other states’ laws, but if you can demonstrate you acted purely in self-defense in response to a credible threat, your attorney can help you prove the truth.
It is also possible for any criminal case in California to fall apart due to the prosecution’s failure to meet its burden of proof. Your attorney will be invaluable when it comes to determining the best strategy for your defense. For example, if a defendant is convicted of assault and battery charges in California, a reliable defense attorney will still be invaluable in helping them minimize their penalty.
Find Legal Representation Near You That You Can Trust
Every American has the right to legal representation when facing criminal charges. However, if a defendant cannot afford an attorney or if they don’t wish to spend money on one, the court can provide a public defender free of charge. Some think this is the best way to handle a criminal case because they will not have to pay legal fees. However, although public defenders generally are capable attorneys, they have very demanding jobs, leaving them little time or flexibility to provide clients with much individual attention. If you can hire private defense counsel, they will offer more personalized and attentive legal representation. You need an attorney dedicated to your case.
The Exum Law Offices provides client-focused defense counsel to clients throughout the Riverside, CA, area facing criminal charges. It is easy to feel as though the whole criminal justice system of California is pitted against you if you are facing any assault or battery charge, especially if you did not commit the offense in question or acted strictly in self-defense. However, whether you need help proving your innocence or know you broke the law and need help formulating a defense, our team is ready to represent you. Contact the Exum Law Offices today and schedule your case evaluation with our team.