Assault, even in its simplest forms, is a serious offense. California Penal Code 240 defines the crime of simple assault as an unlawful attempt coupled with a present ability to cause injuries to another person. The topic of assault under California law is very complex. Even though a physical injury is not needed to prove your guilt under this statute, your charges can escalate from simple assault to other severe forms of assault, depending on the circumstances. 

A conviction for simple assault attracts penalties, including jail time, fines, and probation. Additionally, related charges could accompany assault and complicate your situation further. If you or your loved one faces criminal assault charges, seeking legal guidance would be wise for your case. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we have the knowledge and legal expertise you need to fight the charges and secure a favorable outcome in your case. We serve clients seeking guidance and representation to fight assault criminal charges in Pasadena, CA.

Overview of California PC 240

California law defines assault as an attempt to use violence or force upon another individual. For you to be charged under California PC 240, you must have had the ability to carry out the assault. Simple assault does not result in physical contact or actual application of force. However, a conviction under this statute may have serious consequences.

When you face assault charges in California, the prosecutor must prove these factors of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:

     1. You committed an Act that would Result in the Direct Application of Force to Another Person.

As stated earlier, physical force is not necessary to secure a conviction for assault in California. Inflicting injury on someone else falls under the battery. The prosecutor only needs to prove that when you acted, you knew that your actions would lead to applying force. Under this statute, application of force is any slight touching done offensively. A California assault can occur even when you touch someone using another object.

     2. You Acted Willfully

You act willfully when your actions are deliberate and not accidental or a result of coercion. However, willful actions do not mean that you intended to:

  • Hurt the alleged victim.
  • Break the law.
  • Gain an Advantage.

You Knew that your Actions Would Have Resulted in the Application of Force on Another Person.

A prosecutor does not need to show that you intended to apply force or violence on the alleged victim. However, your knowledge of the consequences of your actions must be explicit.

     3. You Had the Present Ability to Apply Force

Assault charges often stem from close-quarter interactions. Therefore, the victim would know if you can inflict actual injury on them. If you willfully engage in an act that cannot result in harm or be viewed as offensive touching, you cannot face a conviction under this statute.

Are Battery and Assault Charges the Same Offense?

Many people do not understand the difference between assault and battery. Although assault and battery may be used together, they refer to two different situations under California law. Assault refers to the attempt to use violence or force on another person and is charged under California PC 240. On the other hand, the battery is the unlawful or offensive touching of another person and is strictly reserved for violent situations. In simple terms, an assault is an attempted battery.

You could face an arrest and charges for assault without battery. However, it is only in rare cases where the prosecutor will file charges for battery without assault. The main reason assault and battery go together is that the crime may begin with a simple assault and accelerate to the battery within a short period.

A battery charge is more severe than assault and attracts far worse consequences. If you face criminal charges for assault or battery, you must seek the services of a criminal defense lawyer.

Sentencing and Punishment for Simple Assault in California

Even though assault does not involve causing actual injury to another person, a conviction for the offense could have serious consequences. Simple assault violates California PC 240, and the prosecution charges it as a misdemeanor. A conviction under this statute attracts:

  • A six months jail sentence.
  • Fines not exceeding $1,000.
  • Misdemeanor probation.

Your penalties after a conviction for this offense could increase to three years in jail and a $2,000 fine if the victim of your actions is a public officer. Additionally, you must be distracting the public officer from performing their official duties. For this statute, a public officer may be any of the following individuals:

  • A traffic officer.
  • Lifeguard.
  • A nurse or physician providing emergency medical care outside their workplace.
  • Parking control officer.
  • Mobile paramedic.
  • Code enforcement officer.
  • Highway worker.

The court further increases the maximum penalty for simple assault if you committed the crime in a public transport vehicle, on park property, or school grounds.

Probation for Simple Assault in California

After a conviction for simple assault, you will not always serve the jail sentence. The court may sentence you to informal probation instead of jail. Almost all individuals who face charges for simple assault may be eligible for probation. The main aim of the probation programs is to protect the public, rehabilitate the offender and restore the victim.

However, it is crucial to understand that a probation sentence is not automatic. If you feel probation is a good option, your attorney can negotiate with the prosecution. In most cases, the prosecutor will accept your probation request if you are a first-time offender or do not have a history of violence.

Probation is not mandatory. Therefore, you can reject it if it does not serve your interests. Summary probation lasts one to three years, a long time tied down to the court system. In this case, you can opt to serve your six-month jail sentence and move on with your life.

When the court sentences you to informal probation, you will not be required to attend meetings with a probation officer or report to them. However, you may still need to:

  • Pay court fines and victim restitution.
  • Complete community service.
  • Seek meaningful employment.
  • Complete a treatment program for anger management.
  • Attend all your court dates.
  • Avoid violating any laws while on probation.

Legal Defense Against PC 240 Charges

Before you are found guilty of simple assault in California, the prosecution team must establish all the elements of the crime. Not all the aspects of crime are easy to prove, especially since no physical injury is needed to prove assault. Therefore, there are murderous opportunities to build a defense and avoid the consequences of a conviction. With the guidance of a skilled attorney, you can assert the following defenses against your PC 240 charges:

Self Defense

No law criminalizes the act of defending yourself from a person or situation that could cause you harm. For this reason, arguing that you acted in self-defense could help you avoid an assault conviction in California. However, it is essential to understand d that you can only assert this defense if the following factors are true about your case:

  • You reasonably believed that you were in danger.
  • You had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim would touch you offensively.
  • You believed that using physical force was necessary to protect yourself from potential injuries.
  • The amount of force you used against the alleged victim was only sufficient to protect yourself and not intended to harm them.

Defense of Another Person

In addition to self-defense, California law allows you to act in defense of another person. This individual could be a friend, a loved one, or even a stranger at risk of harm. The circumstances under which you can use this defense include:

  • You believed that another person was at risk of injury or being touched unlawfully.
  • You believed that immediate use of force was necessary to protect the person from harm.
  • You used an amount of energy only essential to defend the other person.


There are circumstances where you and another person could be involved in consensual behavior which other people could interpret as assault. For example, one party involved in a private sexual encounter could later regret it and accuse you of assault. If you believe that the alleged victim consented to your actions, the court cannot find you guilty of assault.

You Did Not Act Willfully

One of the critical elements of assault that a prosecutor must prove in your case is that your actions were deliberate, and you intended to apply force on the alleged victim. There are many reasons why unlawful touching could occur, including innocent actions. When your actions are misinterpreted, you could find yourself battling assault charges. If this is the case, your attorney can ensure that the court receives the whole story.

You can avoid a conviction under this statute if the prosecution fails to prove your willful intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

False Accusations

No one wants to go to jail or pay fines for assault. In addition to these penalties, assault can taint your record and change how others view you. Because there is no requirement that a person suffered a physical injury for assault charges to stick, it is not uncommon to fall victim to false accusations under this statute. Some factors that could motivate someone to bring false allegations of assault include jealousy, anger, or a desire for revenge.

If you have been falsely accused, your attorney can help you investigate the factors surrounding the case and uncover the false accusation plot before the prosecutor and the judge.

Lack of Present Ability to Inflict Violence or Force on the Victim

You cannot be guilty of assault unless you can inflict force on the alleged victim. Under this statute, the inability to use force doesn’t mean you are physically unable to engage in the act. It means that you must have been able to use force as an immediate threat against the other person.

Expunging an Assault Conviction in California

A conviction for violating California PC 240 can significantly impact your personal and professional relationships. Fortunately, expunging your conviction can help you avoid the disabilities of an assault conviction. When the court accepts your petition to expunge a conviction, you withdraw the guilty or no-contest plea for a not guilty verdict and a case dismissal.

Not all individuals with an assault conviction on their criminal record benefit from an expungement. You are eligible for an expungement under California PC 1203.4 if:

  • You have successfully served probation. Your probation is successful if you completed the entire time, made all your court appearances, and did not engage in criminal activity while on probation.
  • You are not serving a jail sentence or probation for another offense. You cannot petition the court for an expungement if you face other criminal charges or another conviction.
  • You served time in county jail instead of state prison.

You can request early termination if you want to apply for early expungement and have not completed your probation. When considering early probation termination, the court considers your rehabilitation and conduct during the time you have served on probation.

The process of expunging your PC 240 conviction is complicated. You must fill out a variety of paperwork and meet the deadlines. Additionally, you must appear before the court and convince them why it would be best to expunge your record. Therefore, you must have an attorney by your side throughout this process.

When you successfully expunge your assault conviction, you can truthfully answer no when a person asks you about prior convictions. Although expungement does not wipe away the conviction from your record, employers cannot use this conviction to discriminate against you.

Offenses Related to Simple Assault in California

The following offenses are related to simple assault and could be charged together with or instead of PC 240:


The battery is one of the closest offenses to assault since assault is an attempted battery. You commit the crime of battery when you unlawfully and intentionally touch another person offensively. This could include kicking, punching, or kissing someone against their will. You can face an ares5 and conviction for battery under PC 242 even when your offensive touching did not cause injury to the alleged victim.

The elements that are specific to battery charge include:

  • You touched someone else. Any slight body conduct done offensively could suffice as a battery in California.
  • You acted willfully. The prosecutor must prove that your actions were deliberate when proving your guilt under PC 242. A willful act, in this case, does not mean that you intended to cause injuries to break the law.
  • Your actions were harmful or offensive. Contact or touch is an act of battery when you do it offensively.

A battery that does not result in injuries to the victim is a misdemeanor whose conviction attracts the following penalties:

  • Up to six months in county jail.
  • A maximum of $2,000 in fines.
  • Misdemeanor probation.
  • Loss of gun rights for up to ten years.
  • The requirement to enroll in anger management classes.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

California PC 245(a)(1) defines assault with a deadly weapon as an assault committed using force that is likely to inflict severe injury or use a dangerous weapon. The prosecution must prove the following elements for PC 245(a)(1) charges to stick:

  • You engaged in an act that would probably result in the application of force on another person.
  • You performed the act with a dangerous weapon or using force that could cause significant bodily injury to someone else.
  • You acted willfully.
  • You knew that your actions could be viewed as the application of excessive force.
  • You had the present ability to apply force with a lethal weapon.

Assault with a dangerous weapon is a wobbler. Depending on your criminal history and other circumstances of your case, you could face felony or misdemeanor charges. As a misdemeanor, a violation of PC 245(a)(1) is punishable by:

  • Misdemeanor probation.
  • Jail time for s period not exceeding one year.
  • A $1,000 fine.

When charged as a felony, assault with a lethal weapon attracts:

  • A prison sentence of up to four years.
  • Formal probation.
  • A maximum of $10,000 in fines.

If the weapon you used to commission this crime is a gun or you committed the crime against a peace officer, you will face a stiffer sentence.

Assault with Caustic Chemicals

Under California PC 244, assault with a caustic chemical involves placing or throwing a flammable substance onto another person to harm them. The elements that a prosecutor must prove to establish your liability under this statute include:

  • You placed or threw a caustic chemical on another person. Under CPC 244, an explosive chemical is any distance capable of damaging living tissue. This applies to flammable substances which can ignite at the lowest temperature.
  • You acted willfully and maliciously. Your actions are willful when you do something deliberately. Malicious, on the other hand, means that you intended to injure or annoy the alleged victim.

Unlike simple assault, assault with an explosive chemical is a felony. A conviction for this offense could land you in state prison for up to four years. Additionally, the court may order that you pay a $10,000 fine. Sometimes, the prosecution could spare you a portion of the prison time by sentencing you to formal probation. While probation can keep you out of probation, the court imposes strict rules you must follow throughout the probation period.

Assault on a Public Official 

California PC 217.1 criminalizes the act of assaulting public officials. The prosecutor proves your guilt under this statute through the following elements:

  • You committed an assault. Assault is the attempt to use physical violence or force on someone else. Additionally, your present ability to proceed with the assault must be apparent.
  • You committed the crime against a public official or their immediate family. Under this statute, a public official may be a federal or state judge, city council member, current or former prosecutor, governor of any state, or judicial officer.
  • You acted in retaliation to prevent the public official from performing their duties. You are only guilty of assaulting a public official if your actions were geared toward retaliation. Additionally, the court will find you guilty under PC 217.1 if you intended to interfere with the officer’s performance of their duties.

The assault of a public official attracts a one-year jail sentence when charged as a misdemeanor and up to four years in prison as a felony.

Disturbing Peace

You can face an arrest and charges for disturbing the peace if you engage in the following activities.

  • Use of offensive words or fighting in a public place.
  • Playing loud music.

Compared to assault, disturbing peace is a lesser offense. Therefore, when you face charges for simple assault, you can enter a plea deal with the prosecution for disturbing the peace. The prosecution can charge a violation of PC 415 as an infraction or a misdemeanor. In most cases, an infraction does not result in jail time. The maximum sentence for disturbing the peace in California is a ninety-day jail sentence and a fine not exceeding $400. If you have a prior conviction under this statute, a conviction attracts a harsher punishment.

Find a Knowledgeable Pasadena Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Facing an arrest and charges for assault or learning that your loved one has been arrested could be a challenging experience. An arrest for assault arises when you attempt to inflict physical violence or injuries on another person. Assault is charged under California PC 240, and you could face a conviction even when you did not make physical contact with the alleged victim. In addition to jail time and fines, an assault conviction could affect your immigration status, personal relationships, and career prospects.

Fortunately, not all arrests under this statute will result in a conviction. Sometimes, your attempt to defend yourself from foreseeable harm could be mistaken for violating PC 240. Additionally, the lack of physical injury to prove this crime makes it easy to fall victim to false accusations. Therefore, if you are charged with assault, you must consult with a knowledgeable defense attorney. At Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we will help you understand your charges and guide you through the process of building a solid defense against the charges in Pasadena, CA. Call us today at 626-628-0564 to discuss more details of your case.