Battery charges in California can result in significant time in jail and additional consequences such as problems securing employment. If you or a loved one is facing charges for simple battery, the first step should be to contact a defense attorney familiar with California’s battery laws. Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm in Pasadena offers criminal defense when you are facing battery charges. You also have access to legal counsel to help you understand the charges against you and prepare for the court process.
Legal Definition and Elements of Simple Battery
California PC 242 defines simple battery as the crime of willfully applying force or violence on another person. Battery differs from assault and is often considered a completed assault. In assault cases, you are guilty if you attempted to touch another person harmfully or offensively. Battery means you successfully touched that person rudely or offensively.
Simple battery can be described further based on the elements that the prosecution must prove to secure a conviction. These include:
- You willfully touched another person.
- In an offensive or harmful way.
Touching another person is making physical contact with another person directly or indirectly. The touch does not have to be enough to cause injury to the victim as long as it was unwanted, done willfully, and harmfully or offensively. You can also be guilty of simple battery if you willfully touch the victim through their clothing or an object intimately connected with the person.
For example, Bill and Nancy are at a bar after work. They get into an argument when Nancy notices Bill eyeing other women. In a rage, she knocks the drink off Bill's hands and leaves the bar.
While she did not hit Bill directly, she can still be charged with battery for forcefully knocking the drink from his hands.
Another element of battery is that the action must be willful. For example, if you are in a concert and bump into someone accidentally, that is not considered battery. However, if you intentionally reach out to another person and hit them, you can be charged with battery.
Willful actions are those done on purpose with or without the intention to break the law or hurt another person. This could include throwing an object toward someone, even if you don't intend to hit them.
In addition to willfully touching a person, you must do it in a harmful or offensive manner. An offensive or harmful touching may include a rude action or violent or disrespectful action. Some of the actions that would be considered harmful or offensive include:
- Shoving someone out of the way when they try to approach you.
- Roughly bumping into another person to get them out of the way.
- Brushing against another person forcefully in an argument.
Harmful or offensive touching does not necessarily need to be done directly. It can be done using an instrument or another object that, when used on another person, is likely to cause alarm or offense to the other person. This includes:
- Spitting at a person in an argument.
- Intentionally getting another person into contact with your bodily fluids or excrement to offend them.
Criminal Court Process for Battery Charges
Knowing what to expect during the criminal process can make this often overwhelming process feel less intimidating. In battery charges, the first step is usually an investigation and arrest of the offender.
The investigations are triggered by a report from the victim about the alleged offense. The police then contact the alleged victim to begin the investigation process.
This investigation involves questioning regarding the incident. During questioning, you have the right to consult an attorney and not respond to questions from the officers without an attorney. If the officers believe there are sufficient grounds to file charges, you will be arrested and charged with battery.
Note: if the police witness you committing the offense, you will immediately be arrested and taken to custody. You may be released on bond after the booking process.
Once charges are filed, you will be arraigned in court. The arraignment is your first formal court appearance, during which you enter a plea after the D.A. reads the charges against you. You can enter a guilty, not guilty, or no contest plea.
Entering a guilty plea results in sentencing hearings. If you enter a not guilty or no contest plea, your case proceeds to the pretrial phase. This phase includes court appearances, evidence discovery, plea bargains, and other negotiations.
Some offenses may be resolved during the pretrial phase, while others proceed to trial. Trials in California are either jury trials or bench trials. You have the right to a jury trial when facing a misdemeanor charge for simple battery.
During the trial, the prosecution must prove every element of battery beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. The trial process typically involves several steps, especially for a jury trial. This process involves:
- Jury selection.
- Opening statements.
- Closing statements.
- Jury deliberation.
- Verdict and sentencing (if you are found guilty).
If found guilty, you may request a new trial or file an appeal. Filing a motion for a new trial is allowed where your case involves jury or prosecutorial misconduct, error of law, or insufficient evidence. You might also file for an appeal with an appellate court if your case involved:
- Jury, prosecutorial or judicial misconduct.
- Ineffective assistance by legal counsel.
- Insufficient evidence.
Legal Defenses to Simple Battery
Working with a battery defense attorney is the best way to fight battery charges. A skilled defense attorney will use their experience and legal knowledge to prepare a strategy that includes one or more of these defenses (based on the circumstances of the offense):
1. You did not touch the victim
One of the elements of battery is that you touch the victim unlawfully or offensively. However, if none of these are true, you are not guilty of battery. Due to the nature of battery charges, it can be easy for another person to falsely accuse you of committing the offense when you are not guilty. If you are the victim of a false accusation, work with a skilled battery defense attorney to help you fight the charges against you.
Battery involves the willful and offensive touching of another person. Usually, the victim's consent is not a consideration when you are taken to court. However, depending on the circumstances, you can cite consent as a defense to battery. This defense applies to those who engage in sporting or other legal activities that could result in battery.
Contact sports such as football involve a lot of physical contacts. In these cases, by engaging in the sport, the players have implied consent to football's physical aspects. Therefore, if you were charged with battery for an incident arising during a contact sport, you can use consent as a defense.
3. Accidental Touching
Battery occurs when you willfully touch another person rudely, offensively, or harmfully. However, if your actions were unintentional or accidental, you can argue that you did not commit battery.
For example, if you are in a bar and accidentally knock over someone's drink as you walk around a crowded bar, you cannot be guilty of battery.
When using accidental touching as a defense, you must prove that:
- You had no criminal intent.
- You were engaged in a lawful activity.
The accident defense cannot be used when you are engaged in criminal activity. For example, if you rob a store and unlawfully or offensively touch another person, you cannot use accidental touching as a defense.
The self-defense defense strategy works when responding to an imminent threat from another person. You can defend yourself from a perceived threat without facing criminal charges.
For example, Mike is in a bar when Ricky approaches him. Ricky aggressively starts questioning Mike about his potential relationship with another woman. When Mike denies allegations of being in a relationship with the said woman, Ricky shoves Mike, and he responds with a punch to Ricky's face. In this case, Mike can argue that he was defending himself from Ricky's aggression. Therefore, he is not guilty of battery.
5. You had the Right to Discipline a Child
Parents in California have the right to discipline their children. Therefore, if you are charged with battery for disciplining your child, you can use your parental right to discipline the child as a defense. While you have the right to discipline a child, the discipline must be reasonable and not harmful to the child. This means that:
- A reasonable person should find the punishment necessary.
- You used a reasonable spanking method to discipline the child.
If you were within your legal rights to discipline your child, you could use this as a defense against battery charges. Your attorney will help you prove that the discipline was justifiable under the circumstances and was not excessive. Excessive punishment on a child crosses the line to child abuse charges as well as the involvement of child protective services.
Sentencing and Penalties
Simple battery is a misdemeanor in California. It carries a jail sentence not exceeding six months and a fine of $2000 or less. Instead of jail, the court may place you on summary (informal) probation.
When placed on probation, the court might impose additional requirements to adhere to during the probation (which usually lasts one to five years). Some of these conditions include:
- Paying any fines associated with your criminal conviction.
- Restituting any victims of the offense.
- Completing a specific number of community service hours.
- Going to counseling (group or individual therapy).
- Attending anger management classes.
- Attend the required court appearances.
- Obeying the law (committing another offense while on probation could result in the court revoking your probation sentence).
While simple battery does not have as severe a punishment as more serious forms of battery, a conviction could affect your employment prospects. The law allows employers to ask about your criminal history – and while this does not necessarily disqualify you from employment, it can pose challenges in finding employment.
In addition to criminal consequences, a victim may choose to sue you for damages in civil court.
Expunging Your Criminal Record
Once you complete your sentence or fulfill the probation requirements, you can file for an expungement to remove a conviction for simple battery from your criminal record. While law enforcement can still access your conviction history, employers and the general public cannot access information about your expunged criminal record.
To expunge your criminal record, you must meet the following eligibility conditions:
- You have completed probation.
- You were not incarcerated in a state prison.
- You are not currently facing charges or on probation, or incarcerated for another offense.
While an expungement is not the same as a criminal defense process, it is still wise to consult an attorney during the process.
By consulting, you are clear on the paperwork and processes you need to apply for expungement and present your case before the court. When you present your duly filled paperwork, the court will schedule an expungement hearing in which the judge decides whether to issue the expungement. If the court grants your expungement petition, confirm that your record is sealed. If not granted, repeat the petitioning process.
Simple battery is one of the assault and battery-related offenses that you could be charged with in California. Some of the offenses related to simple battery include:
- Battery resulting in serious bodily injury.
- Battery on a peace officer.
- Domestic battery.
- Sexual battery.
- Elder abuse.
1. Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Causing injury to another person is considered a form of aggravated battery. When battery causes the victim to suffer serious bodily injury, you could be charged with battery causing serious bodily injury under PC 243 d.
An additional element to this offense is that you cause serious bodily injury. The law defines serious bodily injury as any serious impairment to the victim’s physical condition. Note that an injury does not have to result in medical treatment for it to be considered serious. Some of the types of serious injuries include:
- Loss of consciousness.
- Broken bones.
- Serious disfigurement.
- Tooth loss.
- Cuts and lacerations.
- Wounds requiring sutures.
Battery causing serious injury can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail, while a felony charge carries a maximum jail term of four years. The court might also impose sentence enhancements for felony battery which causes great bodily injury.
2. Battery on a Peace Officer
Peace officers are protected professionals in California. Committing battery on these protected persons could result in battery charges on a peace officer. The law defines a peace officer as a professional who helps enforce California laws. They include sheriffs, police officers, California highway patrol officers, the Attorney General, and prosecutors.
In addition to law enforcement personnel, the law also protects professionals such as:
- Custodial officers.
- Security officers.
- Traffic officers.
- Animal control personnel.
- Members of the search and rescue teams.
- Medical professionals providing emergency care.
- Employees of the probation department.
The elements of battery on a peace officer include:
- You touched a peace officer willfully and unlawfully in a rude or offensive way.
- You knew or should have known that the victim was a peace officer.
- The victim was performing their duties at the time of the offense.
Battery on a peace officer is a wobbler. Misdemeanor battery on a peace officer carries a sentence of up to one year in jail and up to $10,000 in fines. Felony battery on a peace officer carries a maximum of three years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines. You also face up to 6 more years in addition to your sentence if the peace officer suffered serious or great bodily injury.
3. Domestic Battery
PC 243 (e) (1) makes it a crime to use force or violence on a child, parent, or a former or current partner, spouse, or fiancé. Domestic battery is a type of domestic violence committed against an intimate partner, parent, or child. The offense consists of the following elements:
- You willfully touched another person in a rude, offensive, or harmful manner.
- The victim was your intimate partner.
- You were not acting in self-defense at the time of the offense.
Domestic battery charges are common, especially after arguments or confrontations with intimate partners. For example, Richard and Julie get into an argument about Richard's financial spending. During the argument, Julie is frustrated and angrily pushes Richard. She could be charged with domestic battery for pushing Richard. Domestic battery in California is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in county jail and up to $2000 in fines.
4. Sexual Battery
When charged with simple battery, you are guilty of touching another person offensively. In sexual battery, the offense arises for specifically touching the victim's intimate parts without their consent for sexual gratification. Sexual battery has three specific elements that the prosecution must prove to secure a conviction. They include:
- You touched the intimate parts of another person.
- Against the victim’s will.
- For sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse.
Sexual battery differs from rape, as the prosecution does not have to prove that you engaged in intercourse or penetration against the victim’s will. One can be charged with sexual battery even if they have an ongoing sexual relationship with the victim. This could occur when the partner indicates that they do not wish to engage in a sexual act, including being touched for sexual arousal or gratification.
Sexual battery that does not include other aggravating factors is a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2000 or $3000 if the victim was your employee.
If a sexual battery offense includes one or more aggravating factors, it becomes a wobbler. These aggravating factors influence the severity of the sentence and penalties upon conviction. They include:
- Unlawfully restraining the victim or helping a person restrain a victim for sexual battery.
- Committing the offense against a victim who is institutionalized for medical treatment when the person is either seriously disabled or incapacitated.
- Committing sexual battery on a victim who does not understand the nature of the act due to misrepresentation by the perpetrator, due to a mental or intellectual disability.
- Making another person masturbate or touch the perpetrator or an accomplice without that person’s consent (or when the consent is obtained through fraudulent misrepresentation of the act).
When charged as a misdemeanor, felony sexual battery carries a maximum jail sentence of one year. The penalties for a felony conviction include two to four years in prison and registration for life as a sex offender.
Assault and battery are two often confused offenses – but they have key differences: assault refers to an attempt to touch another person in a rude or harmful way. In contrast, battery refers to willingly touching another person in an offensive or harmful way without their consent. PC 240 defines assault as:
- Willfully committing an act that would result in the application of force on another person.
- Awareness that a reasonable person would believe that you would apply force on them.
- The present ability to apply force at the time of the act.
When the prosecution cannot prove that you touched the victim, you could be charged with simple assault, which carries a jail term of up to six months and up to $1000 as fines.
6. Elder Abuse
Elder abuse is the crime of willfully subjecting a person aged 65 or older to unjustifiable emotional or physical suffering that could endanger the victim's life. Elder abuse can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the harm the elder suffers.
Where the elder suffers unjustifiable physical or emotional distress, the offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $6,000 in fines.
The offense is a felony if the elder suffers or is at risk of suffering great bodily injury.
Felony elder abuse carries a sentence of up to four years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If the elder suffers great bodily injury, the court could impose an additional seven years on your sentence.
Find a Battery Pasadena Defense Attorney Near Me
Simple battery defines the act of unlawfully touching another person, usually without any aggravated circumstances such as injuries or using a deadly weapon. However, battery charges could result in jail terms, affecting your relationships and future employment. If you are facing charges for battery, contact Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm in Pasadena for legal counsel. Book your free consultation at 626-628-0564.