Battery, alongside assault, is one of the most severe offenses that can be directed on a person. Thus, the state of California prosecutes battery and related charges aggressively, and in most cases, the offense could carry sentence enhancements especially when the victims are peace officers, children, emergency officers, and other special groups of people. However, with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you may avoid a conviction of battery through proper legal representation. Below is all you need to know about the battery offense and how the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney can help you to fight the charges.

Definition of Battery under PC 242

California Penal Code (PC) 242 makes it a criminal offense to intentionally and unlawfully touch someone else in a harmful or offensive manner without their consent. This includes punching, kicking, poking, slapping, spitting on someone or kissing someone against their will. Doing any of these acts may contribute to battery charges. Many people think that for an action to qualify as battery, there has to be an injury or severe beating. This is not the case since you can still be charged with battery if you did not inflict any injury or pain on the victim. The touching can be indirectly by using an object or directly by someone touching another person’s body.

What Differentiates Battery from Assault?

Although often used interchangeably, these crimes are not similar. While battery involves the actual act, assault is basically an attempt to do the act. Unlike battery where the aggressor must make physical/bodily contact (however slight) with the victim, assault does not involve any physical contact or causing injury. For instance, slapping someone will be battery while threatening to slap someone will be assault. Assault is a lesser offense than a battery, but you can be charged with both if you threatened to harm someone and then carried out the threat.

Elements of Battery

For you to be charged with battery, the following elements must be true. It is the prosecutor that bears the burden of proof, therefore, she/he must prove to the court beyond any doubt that each of these happened in order to build a strong case.

  1. You touched another person

Any bodily contact regardless of how slight it might be is considered as touch. You don’t have to cause an injury or pain for you to be guilty. For instance, spitting on someone does not cause any injury but it is an offensive kind of touching. As earlier stated, touching does not have to be direct. If you threw a bottle at someone and the bottle hit them, you have committed battery. Touching an item that is close to a person is also a violation of Penal Code 242. For instance, tearing off someone’s trousers or a shirt he is wearing or hitting an object they are holding off their hand by using force would be considered battery acts. The prosecutor has to prove that you made contact through either of the mentioned ways for you to be found guilty.

  1. You acted willfully

The prosecutor must show that you touched the victim intentionally for you to be guilty of these charges. Acting willfully doesn’t necessarily mean that you had an intention to break the law, injure the victim, or the touching was to your advantage. Simply put, you don’t need any intention to commit a battery for a battery conviction. You only need to have the intention of performing an act that resulted in a battery. 

For example, two sisters Jane and Monica are arguing over jewelry. When the argument gets intense, Jane can’t hold her rage anymore. She picks a glass bottle and hurls it over to the wall in Monica’s direction. The glass accidentally hits Monica. Jane has violated PC 242 because even though she didn’t have the intention of hitting Monica with the glass, she intended to hurl it in her direction knowing Monica can be hit.

  1. You acted in an offensive or harmful manner

It only qualifies to be battery if you touched someone in a harmful or offensive way. A rude, violent, disrespectful or angry touching is considered to be offensive. For instance, Terry doesn’t like Jimmy at all but Jimmy doesn’t know it yet. One day Jimmy approaches Terry to ask her out on a date but Terry feels disgusted and spits on Jimmy. Terry could be prosecuted for battery because she ‘touched’ Jimmy in an offensive way. Kissing someone against their will is also offensive touching.

Penalties for a Battery Offense

Simple battery in California is a misdemeanor. Simple battery is the battery that doesn’t result in serious injuries. Possible penalties include;

  • Summary probation
  • Six months county jail time
  • A maximum fine of $2,000
  • Firearm ban for 10 years
  • You can be required to enroll in anger management classes. Your attorney can negotiate the period for the classes

Common Legal Defenses to Battery Charges

Since battery cases rely heavily on the victim and witness testimony, there is a chance that you are being wrongfully accused or it was just a simple misunderstanding. Thus, you should not go down without a fight. There are a number of legal defenses your attorney can argue which may make you acquitted. They include;

  1. Self-defense or defense of another person

If you had a reason to believe that either you or some other person was in looming danger of sustaining bodily harm or of being unlawfully touched, and you applied the necessary force since you believed it was the only way to defend yourself or that other person against the danger, you are not guilty of battery. Let’s say you are at a parking lot ready to start your car, then at a distance, you see two people who seem to be arguing. One person seems to overpower the other and throws the first punch. The other person is frightened to a point he cannot defend himself. You run to his rescue and you push the aggressor away using necessary force. The aggressor stumbles over a rock and falls, injuring his arm. You are not guilty in this case because you were acting in defense of someone else.

Note that retaliating against someone with an unlawful touching because she/he uttered offensive words against you is not self-defense. For instance, slapping a person for talking ill against you. A self-defense claim is only when you believed you or someone else was facing the danger of a physical injury or offensive act.

  1. The touching was accidental

To be convicted of this offense, it is not necessarily that you intended to hurt the victim. However, you need to have performed the action that amounted to battery willfully. Thus, if your attorney can successfully argue that your action was only but an accident, you may not be convicted.

  1. Mutual combat

It is not a battery when two people are involved in a fight with each other. Your attorney can argue that you didn’t attack the victim. Rather, it was a fight between both of you especially if the victim also threw some punches. For example, Randal and Brad are in a heated argument. When he loses his temper, Randal throws a punch at Brad. Brad retaliates by punching Randal back in the face which leaves an injury. Randal decides to file battery charges against Brad. It is more likely that Brad is innocent since they both were in a fight.

  1. Parental/Guardian right to child discipline

Parents can sometimes be charged with battery and child abuse for using force in disciplining their children. California law permits parents to use physical but not excessive force while disciplining their children. A good attorney will argue this defense by showing the fact that you only acted within the rights of disciplining a child.

  1. Consent

This is a possible defense in cases where a person engages in activities that have an extensive risk of battery like sports games and other dangerous activities. During a soccer game, there are many chances that you will get to hit other players with a ball. That is not a battery because it is somehow what the game involves and the players consented to it.

However, if your actions extend to situations outside the rules of the game, you would be guilty of battery. For example, Tim is a goalkeeper. While standing at his position between the goal posts, Angelo comes and hits him with a ball on the head since he was furious when their opponents scored and he believed it is Tim that let them score so easily. Here, Angelo can be charged with battery because Tim did not consent to his (Angelo’s) actions. In addition, Angelo’s act does not apply to battery resulting from behaviors that are game-related.

The following are not valid defenses for battery

Provocation: You cannot claim that you unlawfully touched another person because she/he provoked you, especially if the provocative act wasn’t an attempt to cause physical injury or it was not a threat.

Voluntary intoxication: In case you commit battery while drunk or under the influence of drugs, you cannot use the voluntary intoxication claim as a defense. As the law provides, you should have known that drugs and alcohol impact negatively on mental functioning. Thus, you are legally responsible if you commit any crime due to being voluntarily intoxicated. However, if your attorney can prove that you were involuntarily intoxicated, you are innocent of the charges since you did not use the intoxicating substances out of your own free will.

Various Forms of Battery and Related Offenses

These are crimes charged under California law that closely relate to a simple battery offense. They include;

This is also referred to as an aggravated battery. It happens if you inflict serious bodily harm on the victim. For example, causing a concussion or breaking their bones. This is a more serious offense than a simple battery and carries tougher penalties. California law classifies this crime as a wobbler offense. A misdemeanor offense carries a punishment of a one-year county jail term while felony cases are punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years of prison time and probation. The sentencing depends on how severe the injuries are, your criminal record and the weapon the defendant used in the commission of the battery.

Battery under the law of California has even severe penalties if committed against any peace officer. Persons that are classified as peace officers under the law include police officers, firefighters, lifeguards, security officers, custodial officers, traffic officers, process servers, paramedics, custody assistants, animal control officers, doctors and nurses providing emergency care, probation officers and members of the search and rescue team.

The prosecution has to show that you had or you should have had the knowledge that the person you committed battery against was a peace officer for you to be convicted of this crime. If it is a simple battery, you will face a county jail term for a maximum of one year. If the battery caused an injury, then it is a wobbler offense. Contingent on the severity of the harm you caused and the facts surrounding the case, it can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Felony cases carry a penalty of 16 months, 2 or 3 years of prison sentence.

  • Domestic Battery {PC 243(e) (1)}

This, like PC 243(b) & 243(c) (2), is differentiated by the kind of victim the battery was committed against. Domestic battery is battery against one’s spouse or ex-spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, a cohabitant or ex-cohabitant, your child’s parent or any other person you had or still have intimate relations with. Domestic battery penalties include a fine not exceeding $2,000, a maximum of a one-year jail sentence or both. If granted informal probation, it is mandatory that you join a one-year batter’s treatment program.

  • Sexual Battery (PC 243.4)

This is a separate offense from domestic, aggravated, simple or peace officer battery. Sexual battery is touching the intimate parts of someone else so as to achieve sexual arousal, gratification or if you were abusing or harassing the person. The prosecutor has to show that you offensively and willfully touched the victim’s intimate parts for the above-mentioned reasons for you to be guilty of the charges. Sexual battery is charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor contingent on circumstances. Felony charges apply where, for instance, the subject was detained.

Misdemeanor battery is punishable by six months or a one-year county jail sentence while a felony carries a 2, 3 or 4 years state prison sentence penalty. If convicted for any sexual battery crime, you will be subjected to sex offender registration.

California law provides that any person who assaults another using a deadly weapon or any other object aside from a firearm will be committing a felony and will face a state prison sentence of 2, 3 or 4 years, a maximum fine of $10,000 or both. This crime can also be a misdemeanor and in this case, it is punishable by a one-year county jail time. The penalties depend on the type of weapon used, whether or not the victim was injured and whether the victim was a peace officer.

  • Battery against an elderly or a dependable adult (PC 368)

In Los Angeles, it is unlawful to offensively and willfully touch or impose physical injury or any mental suffering against an elderly person. Elderly people, as the law defines, are people who are 65 years of age and above. The prosecutor has to prove you knew the victim was an elderly or a dependent person for you to be convicted. This crime can be charged alongside PC 242 simple battery. It’s a wobbler offense which carries two, three, or four years state prison sentence and a maximum fine of $6,000 for felony charges.

Additional Consequences for a Battery Conviction

It is within the law for battery victims to sue their aggressors for damages whether they were found guilty, innocent or they weren’t charged at all. If you are an alleged battery perpetrator, your victim can sue you for medical bills, lost wages and other losses incurred in the commission of the crime.

Civil lawsuits do not need one to prove battery allegations beyond doubt. The complainant only needs to provide evidence that the attacker most likely battered him/her. This kind of proof is of a lower standard than what is required to convict the defendant.

In civil lawsuits, the victim needs to prove that;

  • The defendant willfully touched him/her in an offensive manner and with an intention to harm him/her
  • She/he was hurt or offended due to the defendant’s touching
  • She/he did not give consent to be touched
  • A sensible individual in his/her situation would feel insulted by the defendant’s actions.

Contact a Battery Criminal Attorney Near Me

If you or your loved one around Los Angeles has been arrested on battery allegations, don’t hesitate to contact the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney law firm at 424-333-0943. Our criminal attorneys in Los Angeles strive to obtain all the smallest but important facts about your case through their own independent investigation in order to prepare a winning defense. Call us now so we can start processing your case.