California Assault & Battery Attorney
Many people believe that “assault and battery” are the same thing, but actually they are two separate crimes. An assault (Penal Code sections 240-241) is an attempt to violently injure another person. A battery (Penal Code sections 242-243) is the unlawful use of force or violence upon another person. An assault doesn’t require any physical contact, but a battery requires some type of physical contact.
Another way of distinguishing an assault and battery is to think of an assault as an attempted battery. And a battery is a completed assault. If you were to punch someone in the face – when your punch is still in the air – that’s an assault. When your punch actually lands on someone – that’s a battery.
Assault and battery are both “general intent crimes”. This means that it doesn’t matter if you intended to scare or hurt the other person; all that matters is whether you acted on purpose.
Assault and Battery Sentencing
Normally an assault or battery is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of six months in jail. However, there are certain circumstances that can increase the penalties and/or allow for these crimes to be charged as felonies. Some of these circumstances include:
- special victims, i.e. police officers, firefighters, paramedics, etc.
- romantic relationship with the victim or domestic violence
- special locations, i.e. schools, hospitals, etc.
- use of weapons, especially assault with a deadly weapon
- extent of the injuries, especially great bodily injury
- sexual battery
Elements of Assault or Battery
In order for the District Attorney to prove that a defendant committed an assault, they would have to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant did an act that resulted in the application of force;
- The defendant did that act willfully;
- The defendant was aware that the act would result in the application of force;
- The defendant had the present ability to apply force;
- The defendant was not acting in self-defense or defense of another.
In order for the District Attorney to prove that a defendant committed battery, they would have to prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant willfully and unlawfully touched someone in a harmful or offensive manner;
- The defendant did not act in self-defense or defense of another or was not disciplining a child.
Assault and Battery Defenses
The three most common defenses to assault and battery are:
- Self-defense. This is the most common defense to these charges. However, a person can’t claim self-defense if the reaction is far more violent than the attack. For example, if the victim slaps the defendant and the defendant responds by shooting the victim, then the defendant’s claim of self-defense won’t apply because his reaction was far more excessive than the initial attack.
- Lack of intent. Although assault is a general intent crime,
Not only can an assault or battery conviction lead to criminal penalties, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences. Assault and battery crimes are crimes of violence. Having an assault or battery conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job. Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who has an assault or battery conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place. Perhaps the most severe impact of an assault or battery conviction involves immigration consequences. Under certain circumstances, non-citizens who are permanent residents (green card holders), or temporary visitors, with a visa, can be denied admission or naturalization or even deported, with assault or battery conviction on their record.
What Not to Say
Some attorneys just do not understand the law regarding assault and battery. For instance, some attorneys will argue that you did not have the specific intent to hurt someone. That’s irrelevant. Assault and battery are general intent crimes, which means that you don’t have to intend to hurt someone in order to be found guilty. Your attorney might argue that you were drunk and therefore not responsible. However, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to either assault or battery. Your attorney might argue that you the victim insulted you which justified your actions. However, insulting words are not a legal justification for assault or battery. You don’t want an attorney who looks incompetent in front of the DA or judge. Hiring the wrong lawyer will lead to the wrong result.
The Right Lawyer
Choosing the right criminal defense attorney will be the most important decision someone can make when facing criminal assault or battery charges. Many people who face the charge of assault or battery are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment. There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of assault or battery, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence. You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively. You need an attorney like Fred Thiagarajah.
As a former Deputy District Attorney, Fred Thiagarajah has the negotiating skills and trial experience necessary to get the best results for his clients. Fred Thiagarajah has actually gone to trial on these types of cases as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney – and he has won on whichever side he was on. For an example of his work, please see his case results and read his client testimonials. With offices in Newport Beach, Beverly Hills and Riverside, Fred Thiagarajah has criminal defense experience in Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside Counties.
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