Most of the time, people use the terms assault and battery interchangeably.
However, in legal terms, there’s a clear difference between assault and battery. Both criminal offenses have separate, distinct elements, although in certain states, these offenses are combined.
To define either term fully, the intent and act requirements are also included.
While legal definitions of battery may differ depending on the jurisdiction, a general definition of battery refers to intentional, offensive, unlawful, or harmful physical contact of another person without their consent.
Battery: Intent Requirement
Battery generally does not require the perpetrator to have any intent to harm the victim (although such intent may exist in certain battery cases). What only needs to be established is the perpetrator’s intent to have or cause contact with an individual.
Battery: Act Requirement
For physical contact to be considered battery, offensive, unlawful, or harmful contact must transpire. Contact here may stem from an obvious physical attack, such as hitting, punching, or kicking. But contact may also be minimal in certain cases.
A battery charge does not require a victim to be injured or harmed. What is crucial is establishing the offensive, unlawful, or harmful contact. For example, spitting on someone won’t physically hurt or injure them. However, the offensive contact is enough for the act to be considered an act of battery.
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Like battery, the legal definition of assault may vary depending on the state. In general, however, assault is usually defined as a threat or an attempt to injure or inflict physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon a person. In certain situations, assault may involve threatening behavior against another person or other people.
The California Penal Code describes assault as an unlawful attempt to cause a “violent injury on the person of another.”
Assault: Intent Requirement
For an assault to have occurred, the perpetrator must have general intent, so a person cannot accidentally assault another person. But if a person behaves in a manner that’s regarded as dangerous to other people, it may be considered sufficient ground for assault charges, even when the perpetrator had no intent to cause particular harm to a particular individual. Also, assault charges would be in order if the intent to scare, incite fear, or frighten another person is established.
Assault: Act Requirement
Contact may not be necessary for an assault charge. However, an assault conviction requires an act of wrongdoing. There are many types of acts that may be classified as assault. Generally, though, any overt or direct act that leads a person to fear for their safety would constitute assault. Threats are not enough to constitute an assault. The perpetrator has to back their spoken words with action/s that lead the victim to fear imminent harm.
The California PC §242 defines battery as “the willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Battery entails the use of force; assault requires only the perpetrator’s present ability and the intent to use force, injure, or inflict physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon a person.
According to the California PC §242, simple battery is a misdemeanor.
The typical penalties for California battery include a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to six (6) months of county jail time.
However, if the victim is a public servant (e.g., a policeman or EMT) and they suffer any type of injury, you may be charged with a more specific, severe crime of battery.
You may be unpleasantly surprised to know you are facing battery charges in California after a minor scuffle where no one was hurt or hurt badly. In such cases, there are certain legal defenses you can use to defend yourself, including the following:
In case you have been charged with battery on your child, your legal defense would be that you were acting well within your rights as a parent to discipline your child reasonably.
Other crimes that are closely related to battery and assault are discussed below.
The California Penal Code 243(d) defines aggravated battery as causing serious bodily injury. It can happen by touching or striking another person in a harmful or offensive manner, leading the victim to suffer a serious injury. Depending on the situation and the extent of injuries, the offense may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
The California Penal Code 243b and 243c tackle the crime of battery committed against a peace officer or police officer while they are performing their official duties. Anyone who commits this offense by willfully and unlawfully touching a peace officer or other public official in a harmful or offensive manner may be charged with a misdemeanor.
The California Penal Code 243e1 defines the crime of domestic battery as the use of force against an intimate partner. It involves the use of any willful and unlawful force or violence against the victim. Examples of intimate partners include one’s spouse or former spouse, a fiancé, a dating partner, or a co-parent. Domestic battery is considered a misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to one year of jail time.
The Penal Code 243.4 in California prohibits sexual battery (a.k.a. “sexual assault”). Sexual battery is said to have transpired if the perpetrator touched the intimate parts of another person, against that person’s will, to achieve sexual gratification, arousal, or for the purpose of abuse. Sexual battery may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony, with a corresponding penalty of up to four years in jail or prison.
According to the California Penal Code 368, elder abuse is a crime involving the physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of an elderly victim age 65 or older. Elder abuse may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. It is punishable by up to four years of jail time or imprisonment.
The state of California categorizes assault and battery as two different crimes. Assault is the attempt of committing violence, while battery is the violence that’s inflicted. Assault and battery are sometimes charged together when the perpetrator attempted to injure someone and followed through. Both charges, individually or together, can result in major penalties.
The legal definitions for assault and battery are quite generalized, so even what appear to be innocent gestures can be misconstrued as assault.
But with a skilled criminal defense attorney to fight with you against assault and/or battery charges in California, you’ll have the opportunity to build your defense and achieve a desirable outcome.
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If you are involved in an assault and battery case where you know you acted with no criminal intent or desire to offend, you need to have a criminal defense attorney who is well-versed with assault and battery laws and can expertly defend you.
Please reach out today to Ezquerro if you need a seasoned criminal defense attorney to see your assault and/or battery case through.
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