California law defines assault as the intentional attempt to cause injuries to another person. Although assault does not involve physical contact, it is still considered a severe offense. There are different forms of assault with which you can be charged, including simple assault, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon, and the assault of a peace officer.
Assault crimes are divided into misdemeanors and felonies depending on the specific statute under which you are charged. A conviction for an assault crime attracts severe legal penalties, including a lengthy jail sentence and hefty fines.
Do not hesitate to seek legal advice if you or a loved one faces assault charges. A skilled attorney can help you investigate the facts of your case and build a strong defense against the charges. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we are dedicated to ensuring that your case receives the attention and times it deserves to secure a favorable outcome.
Simple Assault, PC 240
Under California PC 240, simple assault is the attempt coupled with the present ability to use force against another person. When seeking to convict you for assault, the prosecution must prove these elements:
- You Engaged in an Act that Could Result in Application of Force
The first key element that defines assault is that you acted in a way likely to produce excessive force against another person. Under this statute, the application of force is any form of offensive physical touch. Any improper conduct can attract PC 240 charges even when you fail to apply the force.
- Your Actions Were Willful
You are not guilty of assault unled your actions were deliberate. The requirement to prove the willfulness of your acts helps avoid convictions of individuals who apply force on others accidentally.
- You Knew that Your Action Would Result in Application of Force
The prosecution must not prove your intent to hark the alleged victim. However, you must have known that your actions could cause the application of force.
- You Had Present Ability to Apply the Force
The last element of assault under PC 240 is your ability to inflict physical force against the victim. Lack of the present capacity to apply force eliminates your liability under this statute.
The difference between assault and battery is that assault is an attempted battery. A conviction for the battery will require evidence to prove that you caused actual injury to the alleged victim. Simple assault is a California misdemeanor. If your case ends in a conviction, you could face a six-month jail sentence.
Additionally, you must pay a fine of up to $1,000 for each assault. If you face charges for multiple counts of simple assault, your jail sentence could increase significantly. Additionally, your penalties may increase depending on the alleged victim. Assault of peace officers who are on active duty could increase your jail sentence by up to one year and double your court fines.
Your defense against simple PC 240 charges is based around attacking the credibility of the prosecutor’s testimony and creating doubt in the elements of the crime.
Aggravated Assault, PC 245
Aggravated assault involves a clear intent to inflict serious bodily injury on another person. An assault charge becomes aggravated if your intentions to cause injury and disregard for the alleged victim's life are evident. Aggravated assault is addressed under California PC 245, and a conviction attracts serious legal consequences.
Aggravated assault is a wobbler. The prosecution can file a felony or a misdemeanor charge. As a misdemeanor, aggravated assault attracts the following punishment:
- A one-year jail sentence
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
- Victim restitution
- Community service coupled with anger management classes
- Informal probation
If the court files felony charges, you will face the same penalties as a misdemeanor with a lengthy jail sentence. A felony PC 245 conviction is a strike under California's three strikes law. Therefore, if you already have another strike on your record, your jail time is doubled in the current conviction. If your PC 245 conviction is your third strike, a conviction results in twenty-five years to a life sentence.
When you face charges for aggravated assault, the prosecution bears the burden to prove that you committed the crime. A skilled attorney can help you establish doubt in all the prosecutor's evidence and argue that you are incapable of committing a violent felony. If you can prove insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction, the court could reduce your charges to simple assault or dismiss them.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW), PC 245(a)(1)
California law defines assault with a deadly weapon as attacking or attempting to attack another person using a dangerous weapon. ADW is charged under California PC 245(a)(1) and has the following elements:
You Acted in a way that Would Result in the Application of Force
The prosecutor must prove that chances were high your actions could result in the application of force against the alleged victim. Under this statute, the application of force is offensive and harmful touching. You can be charged with assault with a lethal weapon even when your contact with the victim was indirect. Additionally, you must not have succeeded in applying the force for a conviction.
You Performed the Alleged Act with a Dangerous Weapon or Force Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury
Under PC 245(a)(1), a lethal weapon is any object that could be used to cause death or severe bodily injury. The definition of a deadly weapon covers obvious weapons like knives and guns. Other objects such as unloaded guns, BB gum, a vehicle, or a beer bottle can suffice as weapons.
After proving that you used a dangerous weapon, the prosecutor must further show that you used a force that could produce significant injury. California law defines significant bodily injury as any substantial physical harm. Some examples of significant bodily injuries include the black eye, lacerations, gunshot wounds, and bone fractures.
Your Actions Were Deliberate
The prosecution will only obtain a conviction for ADW if your actions against the alleged victim were willful. However, you don't need to intend to annoy someone or violate the law.
You Knew that Your Actions Could Result in Application of Force to the Victim
Another factor that the prosecutor needs to prove when seeking a conviction under PC 245(a)(1) is your knowledge. You must know the nature of your actions and their potential to produce significant force against the alleged victim. Additionally, it must be clear that you could use force against the person.
Assault with deadly weapons other than firearms is a wobbler. A wobbler is a crime that attracts misdemeanor or felony charges. The type of weapon you use is critical in determining the nature of your charges. As a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by summary probation, a one-year jail sentence, and a $1,000 fine. As a felony, the punishment for ADW is a maximum of four years in state prison and a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000.
AWD is charged as a straight felony when committed using the following types of firearms:
- A .50 BMG rifle
- Assault weapon
- Semiautomatic firearm
A straight felony is always charged as a felony. Such an offense cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor under any circumstances. A straight felony under PC 245(a)(1) is punishable by a twelve-year prison sentence.
In addition to prison time, felony assault with a lethal weapon is a strike under California's three strikes Law. The three strikes law is a sentencing enhancement scheme that imposes a prison sentence of twenty-five years to life for defendants with three consecutive felony convictions.
If you have a strike in your record, your prison sentence for felony ADW will attract a double sentence. On the other hand, third strikers face a minimum of twenty-five years. Assault with a lethal weapon is an aggravated felony. Therefore, a conviction can have negative immigration consequences like deportation.
Assault with Caustic Chemicals, PC 244
California Penal Code 244 criminalizes assault using caustic or flammable chemicals. The following elements are crucial to PC 244 and must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction:
1) You Willfully and Maliciously Threw, Placed, or Caused to be Thrown
A person’s actions are considered willful if they do something on purpose. On the other hand, a malicious act is the one you know is wrong but still do it. Unlawful acts that annoy, injure or defraud another person fall under this category.
2) You Threw or Caused a Caustic Chemical to be Thrown on Another Person
Under this statute, a caustic chemical could be a flammable substance or any other chemical that can erode natural skin tissues and damage body organs. Common caustic chemicals that are addressed under PC 244 include:
- Crude oil
- Motor oil
- Diesel fuel
3) You Acted With an Intent to Injure or Disfigure the Alleged Victim
Assault with an explosive chemical is a specific intent crime. Therefore, the court requires the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your willful or malicious acts were intended to cause harm to the alleged victim. For example, if you have problems with a neighbor entering your property and they fail to do so, throwing acid on their face out of frustration is enough to establish the specific intent.
If you face charges for violating PC 244, you must begin to gather the necessary evidence to build a defense. Additionally, you must have a skilled attorney to guide you and protect your rights.
Assault with a caustic chemical is more severe than simple assault, and prosecutors charge it as a felony. A conviction for this offense attracts a prison sentence of two, three, or four years. Additionally, the court could impose fines and penalty assessments amounting to $10,000. The judge could impose felony probation instead of prison time for first-time offenders.
Felony probation allows you to spend part of your prison sentence out of jail. Unfortunately, probation is not automatic. Your attorney must negotiate with the prosecutor for this sentence. If you believe serving probation is not in your best interests, you can decline the offer and serve your prison time. Formal probation lasts for up to five years and has the following conditions attached to it:
- Constant contact with a probation officer
- Victim restitution. Assault with a caustic chemical often results in injury to the victim. After your conviction, the court may order you to pay the victim for the losses associated with the injuries you caused them.
- Group or individual therapy
- Community labor
- Compliance with restraining and protective order
- Mandatory attendance in anger management classes
If you violate the terms of your felony probation, you risk revocation of your probation. Probation revocation is followed up by:
- Reinstatement of probation with harsher terms
- Reinstatement of your original prison sentence
- Resentencing with the maximum prison sentence for your crime
Assault on a Police Officer, PC 242
California PC 242 defines assault on a police officer or other public safety officer. Before you face a conviction under this statute, these elements must be clear:
- You performed an act that could cause applications of force
- You acted willfully
- A reasonable person in your position would have known that their actions could cause the application of force.
- You had the present ability to apply force to the victim
- The alleged victim was a police officer or first responder performing their duties
- You knew or should have known that the alleged victim was a protected person
Assault on a peace officer is treated as a misdemeanor and is punishable by custody in county jail for a year. Fines amounting to $2,000.
Defense Against Assault Charges in California
In California, you don’t need to cause injury to another person for you to be arrested and charged with assault. Slight offensive touch could suffice as an assault under California Penal Code 240.
Depending on how you carried out the rime and the weapon used, you can face a conviction for various assault crimes. An assault conviction not only attracts jail time but can also affect all aspects of your life. Therefore, putting up a strong defense against the charges is critical. Common defenses available for assault charges include:
One of the most robust defenses you can use against your assault charge is claiming self-defense. No law prohibits a person from defending themselves when danger arises. Therefore, you can argue that your action towards the alleged victim resulted from self-defense. Self-defense is applicable when you can prove the facts:
- You believed that your safety was in jeopardy
- You believed that you were are risk of harm or offensive touching
- You reasonably believed that physical force was necessary to protect yourself
- The amount of force you used was not excessive
Defense of Another Person
In addition to protecting yourself, California law allows you to act in defense of another person. This could be a friend or loved one. The circumstances that you need to prove when arguing a defense of others are similar to that of self-defense, and they include:
- You believed that another person was in danger
- Application of force was necessary to protect that person
- You used a force that was only enough for a defense under the circumstances
There are many instances where you could be involved in consensual behavior that is misinterpreted as an assault or threat of violence. For example, an intimate partner could regret a private sexual encounter and report it as assault. If you believe the alleged victim consented to the act, you can use this as a defense to your case.
Lack of Intent to Commit the Crime
In some assault crimes like aggravated assault, the prosecution must prove that your act was willful and you intended to harm the alleged victim. Since criminal intent is challenging for prosecutors to establish, you can anchor your defense against assault charges on this argument.
When a person suffers an assault, they may panic and fail to remember the face of the offender. It is not uncommon for a person to be wrongfully identified by a disoriented victim or unreliable witness. With the help of your defense lawyer, you can offer an alibi for the time when the assault occurred and clear the misunderstanding.
Since an injury is not a factor in an assault charge, you can fall victim to false allegations. A person with anger or jealousy against you may accuse you falsely so you can suffer the harsh consequences of an assault conviction. If you believe you are a victim of false allegations, your attorney can help you uncover the truth.
Can I Expunge an Assault Conviction in California?
The consequences of an assault conviction go beyond jail time and fines. Your felony or misdemeanor conviction remains on your record and can affect your life for a long time. Criminal convictions are public records in California. Therefore, any individual interested in your history can find the convictions. Different aspects of your life that are impacted by an assault conviction include:
- Firearm possession. Following a felony assault conviction, you will lose your right to purchase or use a gun.
- Employment. Most employers do not want to associate with individuals with criminal records. Therefore, if they discover your assault conviction during a background check, they can use it to disqualify you.
- Social stigma. Assault is a serious offense. When you are charged with a felony and spend time in prison, your relationships may be ruined. This is because your friends and family could avoid interactions with you.
Fortunately, you do not have to live with the consequences of your conviction for a lifetime. Through an expungement, you can be relieved from the disabilities of your conviction. Under California PC 1203.4, expungement is a post-conviction relief where the court allows you to withdraw the guilty plea. However, not all defendants can expunge their assault convictions. You must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- You must have completed your probation successfully. If the court sentences you to probation for your assault crime, you must complete the probation before filing a petition under PC 1203.4. You complete your probation when you serve the entire term and follow all the conditions.
- You should not be facing additional charges. Filing for expungement with pending criminal charges could result in a dismissal of the petition.
- You served your sentence in jail. Even when you suffer a felony conviction for an assault, you should not have served time in state prison for your offenses.
Expunging your convictions involves compiling all criminal conviction documents and filing a petition with the court. At your expungement hearing, you can prove to the court that you meet the eligibility criteria, and it would serve justice to expunge your record.
Although an expunged criminal conviction will still appear on the background check, it cannot be used against you. Although expunging your assault conviction offers significant benefits, this action will not help you regain your gun rights.
Find a Reliable Defense Attorney Near Me
A conviction for an assault crime requires the prosecution to prove to the court that you intentionally performed an act that could cause injury to another person. Additionally, it must be clear that you acted willfully. The consequences of an assault conviction are severe and life-changing. After serving your jail time, the felony or misdemeanor becomes a permanent criminal record that has long-lasting implications on your life. There is always an opportunity for defense against assault charges. This is because of the various elements that the prosecutor has to prove for each crime.
There is no perfect defense that applies to all assault crimes. The defense strategy and arguments you use for your case will depend on the specific assault charge you are facing and other circumstances of your case. Seeking legal guidance is critical when you battle assault charges. However, your choice of attorney can make a difference in the outcome of your case. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, our lawyers have the knowledge and experience to fight your charges and help you avoid the harsh consequences of an assault conviction. Contact us today at 424-333-0943 to discuss your case details and receive the much-needed legal insight.