Battery is one of the most frequently occurring crimes in California as nearly every time someone gets in a fight at a bar, school, sporting event or anywhere else, they’ve committed this offense. If you have been accused of this violent crime, it is important you insist on speaking with a San Diego battery attorney as soon as possible.
Differences Between Assault and Battery
Although assault and battery are often mistaken for one another, they are indeed two completely different crimes under California law, each carrying their own distinct criminal penalties. Assault, covered by California Penal Code section 240 (PC), is the attempt to injure someone paired with the ability to do so, but battery, covered under Penal Code section 242 (PC), is the actual willful and unlawful use of force against another person.
Aggravated Assault and Battery
Assault does become the much more serious offense of aggravated assault filed under 245 (PC) when a deadly weapon is involved, if there was a high likelihood that the attack could have caused great bodily injury or if the victim was a peace officer or other victim in a specifically protected class. Similarly, battery is considered aggravated in California when someone has suffered great bodily injury, if the aggressor was in an intimate relationship with the victim (aka domestic violence) or if the victim was on duty as an EMT, police officer, fire fighter or operating in some similar professional capacity.
It’s worth recognizing that battery doesn’t always include throwing punches or kicking a victim. In fact, throwing something at someone (even a milkshake) and spitting in someone’s food (or licking ice cream in a grocery store for that matter) are both considered battery under California law.
California Battery Law Penalties
Battery can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries. Simple battery that does not cause severe injuries is a misdemeanor in California as long as it is a first offense. In this case, the charges is punishable by up to six months imprisonment in a county jail and $2000 in fines, in addition to restitution made to the victim.
If the victim suffers serious bodily injury (such as loss of consciousness, broken bones or serious wounds), then the crime becomes aggravated battery, which is a wobbler in California, meaning it can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, it can carry up to one year in county jail. As a felony though, the penalties will increase drastically and you could be sentenced to up to 4 years in state prison and have a “strike” added to your record under the state’s three strikes law.
Aggravated Battery Penalties
There are some circumstances that can result in even more strict penalties though. First, if the victim was a person performing duties as the member of a protected class, such as a firefighter, police officer, EMT, etc. and the suspect knew or should have known that the victim was one of these protected workers, then the sentence will increase up to one year for simple battery charges. If the victim in these circumstances was injured, the sentence can immediately shoot up to 3 years.
Similarly, if the victim was a romantic or sexual partner, such as a spouse, the crime falls under the state’s domestic violence laws which carries a sentence of up to one year in jail for misdemeanor charges and up to 4 years if charged as a felony.
A San Diego Battery Attorney Can Help You
In many cases, a skilled criminal defense lawyer will argue that the battery occurred as a matter of self-defense or the defense of others. If he can prove to the jury that your actions were justified, you will not be convicted of this serious offense because defense of others of yourself are both considered fully justified under the law. Remember that what you say can be used against you though, which is why it is best to contact a battery attorney in San Diego as soon as possible so you can avoid saying something that will harm your criminal defense.
It’s worth knowing that sometimes the District Attorney’s office will offer reduced criminal charges in battery cases if the defendant takes an anger management course. If a defendant is proactive at the start of the case and takes an anger management course or goes to counseling, this shows the prosecutors the defendant is serious about changing his behavior. Your battery defense attorney may help arrange for you to enter a program that could help reduce the criminal charges you will face before you ever go to court.
Some of the groups of people most commonly charged with battery are minors and security guards, who must walk a fine line in order to perform a legal citizen’s arrests without using criminal levels of excessive force. In these cases it is critical you work with a top violent crimes criminal defense attorney with experience handling all types of legal defenses based on the circumstances of the crime.
If you have been accused of any violent crime in in San Diego County, please call battery attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 as soon as possible to schedule a free consultation discuss your case.