Under California Penal Code section 242, battery is the willful and unwanted touching of another human being.   To prove you guilty of this offense, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt the following: 1) you touched the person of another 2) in a willful manner and 3) in a harmful or offensive way.  If the prosecution cannot prove every single one of these elements, you cannot be found guilty of battery.  Note that battery prosecuted under section 242 need not involve a severe beating.  You can be guilty of battery even if you did not cause any injuries or pain of any kind upon the victim.  All that the prosecution has to show is that you touched the victim in an offensive manner.

“Touched someone else”

Any physical contact with the person of another satisfies this element of the offense.  It is not required that you cause injury to the person. The slightest toughing will suffice.   For example, spitting is considered a common battery.  Although spitting causes no injury to the person of another, it is considered a form of touching or contact that is offensive.

Note that the touching need not be direct.  A battery can occur by means of an object that you use to touch the person of another.  For example, if you throw a marker at the person of another and the marker strikes that person, sufficient “contact” or “touching” for purposes of 242 has occurred.  Under California law, battery can occur also by touching an object that is intimately connected with the person of another.  For example, tearing off a person’s shirt can quality as battery.


Willfully means that you intended to commit the act that caused the battery.  Willfully does not mean that you intended to injure the person or break the law.   For example, in the heat of an argument with your spouse, you pick up a vase and throw it at the wall.  The vase hits your partner in the head.  Although you did not intend for the vase to hit your spouse, you did intend to throw the vase in her direction, and you knew and reasonably should have known that she would be struck by the vase.  You might be guilty of battery in this instance.

“Harmful or offensive manner”

For a touching to constitute battery, it must be done in a harmful or offensive manner.  Any touching that objectively is violent, rude, or disrespectful is considered offensive.  Spitting at somebody is a common example of battery.  Although it causes no injury, spitting at somebody is objectively considered an offensive gesture.


Simply battery is prosecuted as a misdemeanor.  However, if the alleged battery results in a serious injury, then you can be prosecuted for aggravated battery under Penal Code section 243(d), described below.  Aggravated battery under code section 243 is prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the seriousness of the injuries and the specific facts of your case.

Penalties for simple misdemeanor battery include informal probation, a maximum of 6 months of county jail, and a maximum $2000 fine.


  • You acted in self-defense or defense of someone else

If you reasonably believed that you or someone else was in imminent danger of death or severe bodily injury and you used force reasonably necessary to defend against that danger, then you cannot be convicted of battery.   Imagine that you and your neighbor get into an argument, and your neighbor punches you.  Afraid that he might punch you back, you push him.  As a result of your push, the neighbor trips on the stairs and hits his head.  You can claim self-defense in this instance because your pushing of the neighbor was force reasonably necessary and proportional to the force that he used on you, and you were in reasonable fear that if you did not resort to that force, he might strike you again.

Note that words, no matter how offensive, do not justify your use of force in response.  You can claim self-defense only if you were in reasonable fear that you were in danger of imminent harmful or offensive touching by another.

  • You did not act willfully

You needed to have the intent to harm—i.e., you needed to have acted willfully—in order to be guilty of battery.  If the battery was the result of an accident or the outcome of events that you did not intentionally sent into motion, then you cannot be found guilty of the offense.


A Parent’s right to discipline his or her child

Battery charges are sometimes brought against parents who genuinely attempt to discipline their children.  As a parent, you can use physical force to discipline your child as long as the force used is reasonable and not excessive under the circumstances.  For example, grabbing your child’s arm as he or she is about to run into the middle of the street is reasonable force used to discipline and protect your child.  Slapping your child across the face because he or she refuses to finish his or her food is considered unreasonable and excessive force.


Battery causing serious bodily injury under Penal Code Section 243(d)

If in the course of committing battery upon the person of another you inflict serious bodily injury upon them, you can be charged under Penal Code section 243(d).  Battery under this code section is also known as “aggravated battery.”

“Serious bodily” injury is any serious impairment of a physical bodily condition, such as a broken bone or a concussion.  Note that “serious bodily injury” differs from “great bodily injury” in that the former necessarily involves a physical impairment while the latter does not.

Aggravated felony under Penal Code section 243(d) is a wobbler, which means that it can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the specific circumstances of your offense and your criminal history.   As a misdemeanor, a 243(d) subjects you to a maximum one year of county jail.  As a felony, a 243(d) subjects you to two (2), three (3), or (4) years state prison.  Whether you get the low term (2 years), mid term (3 years), or high term (4 years), probation, suspended, or a combination of incarceration time and suspended time (what we refer to as a joint suspension) for aggravated battery depends on the severity of the injuries, the weapon used to commit the injury, and your criminal history.

Battery on a Peace Officer under Penal Code section 243(b) and 243(c)(2)

If the battery you  allegedly committed was against a peace officer, then you face harsher penalties.  Individuals that are afforded protected status under the category of “peace officer” include any police or law enforcement, custodian officer, firefighter, EMT or emergency technician, process server, parking enforcement officer, animal control officer, probation officer or any employee of the probation department, and a doctor or a nurse that is providing emergency care.   For the prosecution to prove you guilty of battery on a peace officer, he or she must prove that you knew or reasonably should have known that your target is any of the above-enumerated individuals and that at the time of the alleged battery he or she was engaged in the ordinary performance of his professional duties.

If your alleged battery against a peace officer did not result in injury, then you can be charged with a misdemeanor and will be subject to a maximum one year in county jail.   If your alleged battery against a peace officer resulted in injury to that person, then your alleged battery can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the specific facts of the offense and the severity of the injury.   If you are charged with a felony, you face an imprisonment term of sixteen months (16), two (2) years, or (3) years.

Domestic Battery under Penal Code Section 243(e)(1)

Like battery on a peace officer, domestic battery is another subcategory of battery that is defined by the class or type of victim.   You are guilty of domestic battery under Penal Code section 243(e)(1) if the alleged battery you committed was against a spouse or former spouse, a current or former boyfriend, a cohabitant or former cohabitant, the parent of your child, or any person you once dated or still are dating.  Simple domestic battery under code section 243(e)(1)—that is, battery that does not involve injuries—is a misdemeanor that will subject you to a maximum fine of $2000, a county jail sentence of up to one (1) year, as well as informal probation concomitant with a year-long batter’s treatment program.

Sexual Battery under Penal Code section 243.4

Sexual battery under Penal Code section 243.4 is battery committed upon the “intimate part” of another person.  For the prosecution to prove you guilty of this offense, he or she must prove that you not only touched the intimate part of another willfully and in an offensive manner, but that you did so for purposes of your own sexual gratification or arousal or to abuse or harass that person.  

Sexual battery is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the offense.  For example, if the battery was redundant or if the victim was unlawfully restrained while the crime was committed, then the alleged battery will be charged as a felony.

Misdemeanor sexual battery subjects you to a county jail sentence of six (6) months or one (1) year, depending on the circumstances.  Felony sexual battery subjects you to a prison sentence of two (2), three (3) or four (years).  Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, sexual batter under code section 243.4 requires you to register as a sex offender.


Success Story:  In People v. Adriel F.,  a restaurant owner (Mr. F.) confronted a young patron who was causing disturbance in the restaurant.   The young patrom called the police and lied that Mr. F. slapped him in the course of the confrontation.  This false testimony caused the Long Beach City Prosecutor to charge Mr. F.  with simple battery .  Fortunately for Mr. F., the confrontation between him and the young patron was captured on video which Negin timely procured and submitted to the Long Beach City Prosecutor. The resulting video recording, along with the sworn testimonies of two independent and neutral witnesses proved that Mr. F. at no point touched the young patron.   As a result of Negin’s thorough work and diligent efforts, the Long Beach City Prosecutor dismissed the charge against Mr. F. 

Negin’s strategy:  Negin conducts her own independent investigation of the facts of your case.  She does not rely on the prosecution’s rendition of what witnesses said or whether any and all witnesses were interviewed.  This thorough planning and research resulted in the dismissal of charges against Mr. F. above, and is conscientious and methodical preparation that Negin applies to every single of her cases.