Under California Penal Code section 243(d), aggravated battery is battery with “serious bodily injury.” To prove you guilty of this offense, the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following: 1) you touched the person of another; 2) you did so willfully; 3) you did so in a harmful or offensive manner; and 4) your target suffered serious bodily injury as a result.

Here are some examples that illustrate battery with serious bodily injury:

  • A man grabs a woman’s arm attempting to rob her of her purse. In doing so, he dislocates her elbow.  The man in this instance can be charged with battery with serious bodily injury even though he did not intend to dislocate the woman’s arm.  To fulfill the “willful” element of the crime, all that the prosecution has to establish is that he willfully grabbed her arm.
  • Two intoxicated men get into a fight in a bar. In the course of the confrontation, one throws a bottle of beer at the other.  The bottle strikes the target and lacerates his forehead, causing him to need multiple stitches.  The culprit in this instance can also be charged under PC 243(d) even though he did not intend to harm his target.
  • To harass your boyfriend, you dump a bucket of ice on him as he is showering. The ice causes him to slip and hit his head.  He suffers a concussion as a result.  In this instance, you can also be charged with battery with serious bodily injury even though you did not intend to harm your boyfriend.  To fulfill the “willful” element of the offense, all that the prosecution has to prove is that you intended to dump the ice and that you did so in an offensive manner—to harass your boyfriend.

What is “serious bodily injury?”

For the prosecution to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of a 243(d), he or she must prove—also beyond a reasonable doubt—that the alleged victim suffered serious bodily injury.   A “serious bodily injury” does not require that the victim seek medical attention or treatment for the injury.  All that is required is that the victim suffered an impairment of a physical condition.  Common injuries that are considered “serious bodily injuries” include broken bones or bone fractures, loss of consciousness, loss or impairment of a function of any bodily organ, wounds requiring stiches, and disfigurement.

Whether an injury is considered a serious bodily injury is a matter of interpretation for the trier of fact, such as the injury.  Even if an injury falls under any of the above-entitled categories, the trier of fact might not necessarily find that it is serious.  Assume that John throws a knife at Jane’s face.  The knife cuts Jane’s forehead in a minor manner that does not require stitches or sutures and causes no damage to the eye or any of the organs.  In this scenario, the jury might find that John is guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, spousal battery on a spouse with injury, but they may find that John is not guilty of battery with serious bodily injury.  Though Jane was injured, the injury did not amount to an impairment of a function of any of her facial features.

Aggravated Battery with “Great Bodily Injury”

If the injuries rise to the level of “great bodily injury,” the prosecution might charge you with aggravated battery and allege the “great bodily injury” enhancement.  Great bodily injury is a significant and substantial physical injury.  Unlike serious bodily injury, it need not involve the impairment of a physical function.  Generally speaking, serious bodily injury, for purposes of punishment and the three strikes law, is a lesser standard than great bodily injury.


Aggravated battery under Penal Code section 243(d) is a wobbler, which means that it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the injury, the specifics of the offense, and your criminal history.   As a misdemeanor, aggravated felony subjects you to informal probation, up to one year in county jail, and a maximum fine of $1000.  As a felony, aggravated battery subjects you to felony or formal probation, two (2), three (3), or (4) years in county jail, a maximum fine of $10,000.00, and /or your right to use, possess, or own a firearm in California.

If you are convicted of the “great bodily injury” sentencing enhancement for a felony aggravated battery, you will be subject to an additional three (3) to six (6) years in prison. This is consecutive to your regular sentence under PC 243(d).


  • You acted in self defense or defense of another

You can assert self defense if you reasonably believed that you or someone else was in danger of imminent bodily harm or injury or unlawful touching, you reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to deflect the harm, and the amount and type of force that you used was no more than reasonably necessary to deflect the harm or unlawful touching.

  • The touching was accidental

You can be convicted of aggravated battery even if you did not intend to harm or injure the victim. However, if you did not intend to actually touch the victim, you cannot be convicted of this charge.  If the touching was accidental and not at all intentional, then you have a valid defense to a 243(d).  A skilled criminal defense attorney will thoroughly examine the circumstances in which the alleged contact took place and use creative arguments and strategies to argue this defense.

  • The injury did not amount to “serious bodily injury”

As discussed before, whether an injury is “serious” for purposes of 243(d) is a matter of interpretation for the fact finder.   An injury that may seem serious may not be when placed in the context of the circumstances.  An alleged victim might attempt to exaggerate his or her injuries by seeking unnecessary medical attention or concocting complaints.  A skilled defense attorney will closely examine the alleged injury, seek any and all medical records if medical attention was sought, and determine as best as she could whether the injury resulted in an actual impairment of a bodily function.  If it did not, then it does not amount to “serious bodily injury.”


Success Story:  In People v. Roger Y (Case No. MA062994), the defendant, Mr. Y, was involved in a bar fight.  The prosecution alleged that Mr. Y punched one individual (victim 1) in the nose and grabbed and twisted the finger of another individual (victim 2).  Mr. Y was charged with aggravated battery upon both victims.  Four neutral witnesses identified Mr. Y as the attacker of both victims and described his actions.  The real litigable issue in the case was the type and extent of injuries suffered by each victim.

The prosecution claimed that Mr. Y had caused great bodily injury to both victims, and thus sought to apply the great bodily injury enhancement.  Both victims had sought medical attention. Negin subpoenaed the medical records of both individuals, and after thorough examination of these records and interviews with the supervising physicians, she discovered that the injuries for both victims amounted to neither great bodily injury nor serious bodily injury.  Both victims significantly exaggerated their injuries and sought unnecessary medical attention. After some relentless negotiations on Negin’s part, Mr. Y pled to a lesser charge of 245(1)(4) (assault by means of producing great bodily force). Negin thereby avoided the great bodily injury enhancement.  Mr. Y was placed on formal probation and did not do any jail time.  Had it not been for Negin’s thoroughness and relentless negotiations, Mr. Y would have faced a strike and significant prison time under the great bodily injury sentencing enhancement.

Negin’s strategy: Negin strength lies in her thorough preparation of every case, and her ability to examine at a case from any and all angles.  If you are charged with aggravated battery, Negin will examine everything—from the credibility of the alleged witnesses in your case to the exact circumstances of the alleged offense to the nature and type of the alleged injury.  She will then use any useful discoveries thus obtained to relentlessly fight on your behalf.