In some situations, touch can result in injury. Penal Code 243(d) makes it a crime to touch or strike another individual in an offensive or harmful manner and cause the victim to sustain a serious injury. Physical contact that results in a serious injury is a form of aggravated battery whose punishment is significant time behind bars and hefty fines. The facts in your case determine the severity of the penalties.
Convictions for battery with serious bodily injury additionally affect other aspects of your life beyond time behind bars and paying fines. Convictions adversely impact your ability to secure employment, a house, or credit. Further, the community will likely not embrace you as it did before the conviction. Thus, you need legal assistance to fight the charges. The Los Angeles Criminal Attorney team is ready to help.
Battery With Serious Bodily Injury Under California Law
California law categorizes battery with serious bodily injury as aggravated battery. It is best to first understand the law’s definition of battery before proceeding to battery with serious bodily injury.
Battery under Penal Code 242 is an illegal use of violence or force against another individual. The victim does not have to sustain physical harm or pain for you to be found guilty of a PC 242 violation. The physical touch made offensively is sufficient to result in a conviction.
Penal Code 243(d) defines battery with serious bodily injury as offensive, non-consensual contact serious enough to cause physical harm to the victim.
Prosecutors must establish the following for the jury to find you guilty of the crime.
- You willfully touched another individual in an offensive manner
- The victim sustained serious physical injury
- You did not act in self-defense or defense of others.
Let us look at the elements in more detail.
Elements the Prosecution Must Prove
Two aspects stand out in a PC 243(d) violation case.
- Unlawful but wilful touching
- Serious bodily injury
Touching under this statute is when a defendant physically contacts the victim. The touch can be direct, through clothing, or indirect, by using an object or through contact by a third party.
For example, Josh and Melissa, a couple, are in a heated argument. Overcome by anger, Josh slightly shoves Melissa. Melissa then bumps into their son Brandon, causing Brandon to fall over and break his arm.
The touch was not forceful but willful. Further, the contact that caused Brandon's injury was not direct. It is the shove by Josh that caused Brandon’s fall that subsequently resulted in Brandon’s injury. In this case, Josh is guilty of battery with a serious injury.
Prosecutors could introduce the object a defendant used to substantiate the allegations if the object was used to inflict the victim’s injury. It is more likely for a jury to return with a guilty verdict if the defendant used a gun or a knife.
In the absence of physical evidence, prosecutors call witnesses to offer their testimony. A witness will testify that the defendant shouted or angrily shoved the victim. In these scenarios, a jury will rely on the testimony to reach a verdict.
Serious Bodily Injury
The alleged victim’s injury must be serious for you to be found guilty of a PC 243(d) violation. Serious injuries severely impair the victim’s physical health but do not necessarily require medical treatment.
Whether an injury is a serious bodily injury is a fact-intensive question a jury or judge determines by examining the facts presented in the case.
Several injuries have met the serious injury threshold, including:
- Loss of consciousness
- Broken teeth, lips requiring sutures, wounds on eyebrows
- A lost tooth up to the root
- Broken bones, bone fractures, or severe disfigurement
- A cut under the eye requires stitches
- Protracted impairment or loss of bodily function
This list is not exhaustive.
Note: There are cases where a jury finds a defendant guilty of battery with a serious injury, yet, the victim did not sustain any broken bones. However, the jury found that the victim suffered grave bodily harm. Other aggravated battery cases have ended in a not guilty verdict, yet the injuries seemed severe, for example, cuts that required stitches. However, the jury believed the evidence was insufficient to meet the serious threshold.
Defenses You Can Assert
You can assert several defenses to challenge the aggravated battery charges. Your attorney formulates a defense strategy based on the facts in your case and a defense likely to result in the best legal outcome.
Self-defense is the primary defense strategy. It is an affirmative defense, meaning that defendants must demonstrate a reasonable belief that their life was in danger. Further, the defendant needed to use force to protect him/herself from the perceived harm.
Self-defense requires you to prove the following issues as true.
- You had a reasonable belief that your life or that of another individual was in danger and that the risk of sustaining physical injury was actual. Alternatively, you could prove that you or a third party were in danger of being offensively touched.
- You believed immediate force was necessary to defend you or the third party from imminent danger.
- You used force that was no more than reasonable and necessary, given the circumstances.
Further, self-defense allows defendants to pursue the attacker if necessary to prevent the actualization of the risk posed to the defendant’s or a third party’s life. You do not have to retreat.
Therefore, your attorney will argue that you responded to the alleged victim’s aggression to prevent you or another from sustaining physical injury or death.
Penal Code 243(d) requires the touching to be intentional. Accidental contacts lack deliberateness. For example, accidentally bumping into another individual in a crowded street causes him/her to fall and bruise their hands.
You can indeed be convicted of aggravated battery even if it was not your intention to injure the victim. However, the jury will not find you guilty if you did not touch the victim willfully. You will have to demonstrate to the court that your actions were accidental.
Two issues arise as to whether they meet the accidental contact threshold.
- Aiming to hit one person but end up hitting someone else, and
- Physical contact is made when you are under the influence of alcohol.
If you intend to hit one person and end up hitting another, you cannot claim self-defense. In this case, missing your intended target does not absolve you of the responsibility for hitting the victim. Your intention to strike your target is transferred to the victim, even if you did not aim at hitting him/her.
If you were drunk, stumbled, and bumped into the victim, causing him/her to fall and sustain an injury like fracturing his/her ankle, your action was not deliberate. Therefore, you are not guilty of aggravated battery. However, your innocence of aggravated battery does not give you complete freedom from responsibility. The D.A. could charge you with public intoxication, a PC 647(f) violation.
No Serious Injury
The severity of an injury and whether it falls into the serious injury category is wildly subjective. As pointed out, it is a question of fact determined by a judge or jury. Even a broken bone is not necessarily a serious injury if it does not impair a physical condition.
Judges and juries rely on the answers generated by these three factors to determine the seriousness of an injury.
- Did the injury affect the victim’s mobility?
- Did the injury impair an individual’s drive and capability to handle ordinary tasks?
- Is the injury significant enough to affect the victim’s ability to work?
Your attorney can also use the above questions to demonstrate to the jury that the injuries the victim sustained did not meet the serious injury threshold.
Courts do not require victims to seek medical attention for the injury to be considered serious. However, should the victim seek medical treatment, the treatment does not automatically mean the injury was serious. Victims can exaggerate their symptoms enough for a medical practitioner to give a medical report corroborating the victim’s allegations.
Defense attorneys could introduce medical experts to demonstrate the inconsistencies between the symptoms alleged by the victim and the injury sustained.
Without a serious injury, the D.A. could reduce your charges to assault or simple battery.
Penalties For a Penal Code 243(d) Violation
Aggravated battery is a wobbler offense. Prosecutors can choose to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the facts of the case and your criminal history.
Convictions of misdemeanor charges lead to up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both. A judge could impose misdemeanor or summary probation terms as an alternative to the jail sentence.
Felony convictions, on the other hand, result in prison sentences of up to four years, a maximum fine of up to $10,000, or both. As with misdemeanor convictions, a judge could issue probation terms for you to serve as an alternative to time in prison. Probation for felony offenses is referred to as formal or felony probation.
Defendants who commit felony battery and cause victims to suffer great bodily injury will receive enhanced penalties per Penal Code 12022.7.
Great bodily injuries (GBI) are substantial or significant physical injuries that are not necessarily permanent. They are more severe than minor or moderate bodily harm. They include the following:
- Gunshot wounds
- Brain damage
- Dog bites
- Broken bones, and
- Second-degree burns
It is worth noting that significant bodily injuries do not include financial losses, less severe physical harm, or emotional scarring.
PC 12022.7 requires that the defendant have personally inflicted the injuries for the sentence enhancements to apply. Like PC 243(d), where the jury or judge determines whether the victim’s injuries are serious, the jury or judge also determines whether the injuries meet the threshold of great bodily harm. They consider the following factors in their decision.
- The severity of the bodily harm
- The physical pain from the injuries
- If the injury requires immediate medical attention
The exact length of the additional penalties depends on the facts of the case. The general rule is that a defendant will receive additional and consecutive prison sentences of three years for causing a GBI.
Provisions (a) to (e) of PC 12022.7 detail the following additional and consecutive terms:
- Up to five years if the defendant caused the victim to suffer paralysis or become comatose because of a brain injury
- If the great bodily injury victim is 70 years or older, up to five years
- Up to six years if the victim is a minor under five.
- Up to five years if the injury resulted from domestic violence.
Further, aggravated battery cases involving GBI injuries earn a strike under California’s Three-Strike Law.
Offenses Related to Battery With Serious Bodily Injury
Prosecutors pursue the following offenses as alternatives or additional charges to aggravated battery. Here is a look at the crimes detailed in the various laws and the penalties if convicted.
Prosecutors could opt for a simple battery charge if there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate to the jury that the victim sustained a serious injury, a key element in a PC 243(d) violation. Additionally, a simple battery is a viable option if the injuries the victim sustains do not meet the serious injury threshold.
Alternatively, simple battery is a possible offense to which you could be required to plead guilty in a plea bargain.
When you use unlawful force or violence on another individual, but the victim does not sustain an injury, you will face criminal charges for violating PC 242. Prosecutors will have to prove the following to secure your conviction.
- You willfully touched the victim.
- Your touch was harmful or offensive.
Though you deliberately touched the victim, deliberateness does not necessarily mean you intended to hurt the victim, break the law, or gain an undue advantage. That means you do not have to aim to commit battery for the court to find you guilty of battery. Neither do you need to have intended to execute the action you took that caused the battery for you to be guilty of battery.
Deliberateness implies actions that were not accidental.
Simple battery is a misdemeanor violation. The penalties for conviction are less severe than those for aggravated battery. Convictions for simple battery are punished by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. Alternatively, a judge could put you on probation instead of serving jail time.
Assault With a Deadly Weapon (ADW)
Attacking or attempting to attack another individual using a deadly weapon is a crime under Penal Code 245(a)(1). The offense is referred to as assault with a deadly weapon. The offense is also referred to as aggravated assault.
The courts will find you guilty of aggravated assault if the prosecution proves the following.
- You acted in a manner likely to result in applying direct force to another
- You performed the act with a deadly weapon or a force likely to cause great bodily injury
- You acted willfully
- When you acted, you were aware of the facts a reasonable person would believe would likely result in applying force to another.
- When you acted, you had the present ability to apply force likely to cause great bodily injury or likely to result in applying force using a lethal weapon.
PC 245(a) does not require the victim to have suffered bodily harm for a defendant to be found guilty. The focus of the case is not whether force is applied but whether the defendant’s actions could potentially result in the application of force.
A deadly weapon for purposes of PC 245(a) is known as a lethal weapon, like a firearm, a knife, or a broken bottle, and objects, if used in a particular way, could turn deadly, like a pencil, a BB gun, or a dog that attacks on command.
Aggravated assault is a wobbler offense if the weapon used was not a firearm. The D.A. could pursue misdemeanor or felony penalties.
If convicted of misdemeanor violations, you will be sent to jail to serve a sentence of up to one year and pay a fine of $1,000. Summary probation is an option instead of jail time.
For felony violations, a conviction results in up to four years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both. A judge could impose formal probation terms instead of prison time.
If you committed an aggravated assault using a firearm or your victim was a protected individual, your charge is a felony.
The offense is a wobbler for ADWs committed using an ordinary firearm like a pistol or revolver, with the penalties outlined above. If the ADW involved using a machine gun, a semiautomatic handgun, a.50 BMG rifle, or an assault weapon, the crime is a felony. Convictions result in prison sentences of up to 12 years.
If the victim was a protected individual like a police officer or a firefighter, the offense is punishable by up to 12 years in prison.
Mayhem is a violation of Penal Code 203. This statute criminalizes the following acts:
- Slitting another person’s lip or ear
- Depriving the victim of a part of their body, like a limb
- Putting a victim's eye out
- Disabling or cutting another individual’s tongue
- Disfiguring, disabling, or rendering useless part of the victim’s body
On the other hand, aggravated mayhem is an offense under Penal Code 205. This statute makes it a crime to intentionally cause another individual to suffer disfigurement or disability or deprive said individual of his/her member, limb, or organ.
PC 203 requires the defendant to perform any of the above violations unlawfully and maliciously for a conviction. Any intentional wrongdoing or an act with an illegal intent to injure or annoy the victim is considered malicious.
You are not guilty of mayhem if you accidentally did any of the above actions.
Mayhem is a crime of general intent. This means that even though you do not intend to commit an illegal act, you do not have to specifically intend to inflict any of the above offenses.
Permanent or temporary disability is enough to result in a conviction for disability and disfigurement. Disfigurement is considered permanent. However, this does not mean a medical procedure cannot repair the injury.
PC 203 is a felony. Convictions are punishable by formal probation or 2, 3, 4, or 8 years in prison. Additionally, the judge could impose a fine totaling $10,000. Your sentence is likely to be enhanced if the victim is:
- Blind or deaf
- 65 years of age or older
- Developmentally disabled
- Under 14 years of age
- A quadriplegic or paraplegic
If any of the above is present in your case, you will receive an additional one or two years in prison to your sentence. Furthermore, you will receive a strike according to California’s Three Strikes Law.
Aggravated mayhem is a felony. Convictions result in life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.
Simple assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with the present ability to commit violent bodily harm to another individual. The offense is a violation of PC 240.
In a PC 240 violation case, prosecutors must prove that:
- You willfully acted
- The very nature of your actions is likely to result in a direct application of force on the victim.
- You were aware of the facts that a reasonable individual would conclude as likely to result in the direct application of force to another.
- You had the present ability to apply force onto the victim when you acted.
Violations of PC 240 are misdemeanors, and convictions result in the following penalties:
- Misdemeanor probation
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Battery with serious bodily injury is a serious charge and should not be taken lightly. A conviction could have far-reaching consequences. Thus, you need every advantage in fighting the charges. An attorney can persuade the prosecutors not to file formal charges or reduce the charges in a plea bargain negotiation. Should the case proceed to trial, your attorney will use an appropriate defense strategy to fight the charges.
At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we work to secure our clients the best legal outcome. Contact our team today at 424-333-0943 for a free case assessment, and let us assist you in fighting the PC 243(d) violation charges.