Battery charges can be hard to handle if you are the offender or the victim. It is hard to understand the legal requirements of any battery charges and can lead to severe sentences if one does not consider hiring a professional attorney. We at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm are committed to offering the best legal services that suit your case. However, you should understand various aspects of battery first to get the best out of our services.
The Legal Definition of Simple Battery According to California laws
The California Penal Code Section 242 defines battery as willfully and unlawfully use of force or violence on another person. Therefore, for a prosecutor to charge an offender with this offense, he or she must prove the following elements of the crime:
You Touched Someone Else
The legal definition of a simple battery requires one to make physical contact with another person. Note that you do not necessarily have to injure the other person, making the slightest touch can amount to a battery offense. Therefore, the battery can occur if the offender touched the victim through his or her clothes or an object.
The California laws also provide that the offense counts if the offender touched something connected to the victim’s body, which is not part of the body. For instance, if the offender forcefully knocked something out of the victim’s hand, the action counts as a battery offense.
You Willfully Committed the Offense
For an offender to be guilty of a battery charge, he or she must have touched the other person willfully. Therefore, it means that you must have acted on purpose without necessarily suggesting that you wanted to gain any advantage, break the law, or hurt someone.
In simple terms, it means that an offender did not intend to commit the battery but prompted a motion that caused the action. For instance, if one hits another person with an object out of temper, the act does not necessarily mean that one intended to hit the other person. However, it makes the other person guilty of a battery offense.
You Battered Another in a Harmful or Offensive Way
A simple touch becomes a battery if one does it harmfully or offensively. Battery includes a touching that is angry, violent, disrespectful, and rude counts as a battery offense.
The Difference Between Battery and Assault
In most legal contexts, the phrase assault and battery are used interchangeably, meaning that they are the same thing. In reality, these terms are quite different according to the California Laws.
Penal Code 240 provides details related to assault, which consider it an action that causes physical harm or unwanted touch on another person. The offense applies in complicated cases that involve an action such as using a chemical to cause harm to the other person. In this case, the prosecutor must prove that an offender attempted to commit a battery, although there is no proof showing that the contact happened.
On the other hand, Penal code 243 provides that battery as an action that causes actual infliction of violence or force on another person. In this case, the prosecutor must prove that the offender willfully contacted the other person, and probably caused harm to him or her.
Penalties for a Simple Battery Offense
California laws consider a simple battery as a misdemeanor as long as it did not cause any harm to the victim. Therefore, the offender risks punishments such as:
- A fine that does not exceed $2,000 or imprisonment in a county jail for a period that does not exceed six months
- Both imprisonment and fines depending on the circumstances surrounding the charges
- Misdemeanor (summary) probation that might include serving under the supervision of the court if one is a low-risk offender. It might also include summary probation, lasting between one to three years, where one must comply with specific conditions provided by the court. The offender might require to attend counseling, compensate the victim, or perform community labor.
Legal Defenses for Simple Battery Charges
Anyone facing simple battery charges should hire a professional attorney to handle the case. The intervention of an attorney does not necessarily mean that you will win against the plaintiff, but can as well help in reducing your sentence. It also helps in providing the necessary advisement needed to handle the case accordingly.
All the same, a professional attorney should use the right legal defenses to handle your case. Some of the defenses that one can use include:
A Claim that You Acted in Self-defense
If you claim that your actions were in self-defense, you must prove a few aspects to make the defense reasonable. Note that the elements of your case can apply in other charges apart from battery according to the California laws. An offender who intends to use this defense should prove that:
- He or she reasonably knew that the other person was in imminent danger of getting injured or touched unlawfully
- He or she honestly believe that using force immediately, was necessary to defend himself or herself against the threat
- He or she used enough force that was reasonably necessary to protect himself or herself against the imminent danger
In a practical example, when the plaintiff provokes the defendant and accidentally falls or slips as a result of self-defense from the defendant, one can use the circumstances as a reasonable defense. However, the defendant must indicate that the provocation from the plaintiff was unlawfully and willfully.
Claim that Your Actions were not Willful
Penal Code 234 considers an unlawful touch or injury to be a battery offense if the offender did it willfully. Therefore, if you did the action accidentally, you can use the circumstance as your defense. For instance, if you hit someone accidentally while carrying a heavy object, this does not make you guilty of the offense since it was not intentional. Some of the examples that show that one accidentally touched or injured someone includes:
- An accident caused by bicycle collision
- Car accident
- Hitting someone accidentally when you drop an object from your balcony
- Tripping then accidentally ending up shoving someone in public or on a crowded bus
A Claim that You were Exercising Your Parental Right to Discipline Your Child
Sometimes you might find battery charges brought against parents who have disciplined their children in connection to the Penal Code 273 (d), California child abuse.
In an allegation claiming that the parent intended to harm the child through disciplining, one can argue that he or she was acting according to the parental right to discipline his or her child. However, one should ensure that the act was within the law by doing it reasonably and is not excessive based on the circumstances.
If you punished your child within the requirements of the law, you might use the situation as your legal defense.
Proof the Action was Out of the Victim’s Consent
Consent is approval from someone allowing the other person to engage in an activity that might end up harming him or her. For instance, if you end up hurting someone from a sports game that you mutually agree to engage in, this might be a reasonable basis for your defense.
For this legal defense to be valid, the offender must approve that he or she knew that the activity would lead to significant risk, and the other party willfully agreed to participate. Otherwise, the prosecutor might consider the action to be willfully intended to harm the other party if there is no proof of consent.
Besides the legal defenses provided above, your lawyer can use other defenses according to the details related to the crime. You can use defenses such as claiming that the accusations provided against you were fabricated, and there was no crime committed. You can also argue that you were falsely identified as the offender, especially if the action took place in a public venue.
Defenses not Counted as Viable
Not all defenses that an offender brings forth in a case are ideal. Some cannot help you out in your case. Some of the arguments that do not prove to be viable include:
According to California laws, anyone who commits battery while intoxicated cannot claim that the action was involuntary. It is believed the defendant should know that using alcohol and drugs affects mental functioning, holding the person legally responsible for committing any offense.
However, if the defendant shows that the intoxication was involuntary, the defendant is innocent of the battery because one did not choose to consume the intoxicating substance.
The California laws disregard words alone as a form of provocation no matter how offensive or exasperating they might seem. One can only claim self-defense as a legal defense when there is a sensible reason to believe that he or she was in danger of physical injury or unlawful touching.
Statute of Limitation in Simple Battery Charges
The California laws provide a statute of limitations for battery charges, similar to other crimes. For a misdemeanor battery charge, the plaintiff has a one year window to file the charges and an extension of one year for a felony charge. However, the victim has a right of time extension if the injuries sustained from the attack took time to be discovered.
According to the statute, the plaintiff can get a toll based on the circumstances surrounding the offense. For instance, if the felon goes into hiding, the plaintiff has a right of extension according to the time that the offender went missing. Another exception includes an offense that involves a minor. The court has to wait until the minor attains the required legal age to start the case.
It is recommendable to discuss your situation with an attorney to determine the time that you have based on the circumstances surrounding your case.
Simple Battery Related Offenses
Based on the circumstances of your offense, there are chances of getting a simple battery related offense. Note that these types of crimes have different punishments, which might be severe compared with penalties associated with simple battery. Some of the crimes related to simple battery include:
Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injuries
An offender who commits battery and end up injuring another person risks a harsh penalty. Penal code 243(d) considers this form of offense as an aggravated battery.
The legal definition of serious bodily injury is a severe offense that causes severe impairment of the physical condition of the victim. It includes physical harm, such as a concussion or broken bone.
California law considers this sort of crime as a wobbler, meaning that it can be regarded as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the offense. If the offense becomes a misdemeanor, it attracts a prison sentence up to 1 year in county jail. If it becomes a felony (if it causes serious bodily injury on the victim), the offender risks a state prison imprisonment lasting between 1 to 4 years.
In rare cases, the offense can extend to a three-strike if one commits the felony in three consecutive times. In such a case, the offender risks life imprisonment according to the approved Proposition 36 of 6th November 2012. However, the law provides two primary provisions that include:
- For a third strike offense, the defendant must have two previous offenses that meet the requirement of being a serious felony ( in this case a battery that caused severe bodily injuries)
- The designated defendant currently suffering a third-strike offense can petition to the court to reduce their term to a second strike sentence according to the new law
Battery on a Peace Officer
According to the Penal Code section 243(b) and 243(c)(2), battery against certain classes of people carry a harsher charge compared with other offenses related to the battery.
The specific classes protected by the battery on a peace officer include people in occupations such as:
- A police officer
- Custody assistant
- Custodial officer
- Traffic Officer
- Animal control officer
- A doctor offering emergency services
The prosecutor must prove that you reasonably knew that your victim is one of the peace officers provided above to allege that you committed a battery on a peace officer crime. The prosecutor should also prove that the battery occurred when the peace officer was in a regular performance of his or her professional duties.
An alleged assault on a peace officer would attract misdemeanor charges if the peace officer did not attain any injuries. This can subject you to a maximum of one year in county jail. If the allegation considers that you caused harm to the peace officer, you might get charged with a misdemeanor or a felony based on the circumstances surrounding the offense and severity of the sustained injuries. If you get a felony charge, you can face imprisonment ranging between 16 months to 3 years in state prison.
Under the Penal code 243.4, sexual battery is a crime classified according to the specific person that is the victim, similar to battery on a peace officer. For the prosecutor to determine whether one committed a domestic battery or not, the offense must be against people such as:
- Your current or former spouse
- Your current or former fiancee
- Your current or former cohabitant
- The mother or father to your child
- A person whom you have been dating
California laws consider domestic battery as a misdemeanor, with the possibility of one-year imprisonment in county jail and a fine amounting to $ 2,000. If you get probation, you must enroll in a batterer’s treatment program for at least a year.
Based on Penal Code 368, California’s Elder Abuse law, it is an offense of willfully and negligently causing pain or any other form of suffering on anyone above the age of 65. PC 368 classifies various elements in this kind of offense. Some of the factors include:
- Financially abusing an elderly person
- Inflicting pain or injury on the senior person
- Financially abusing the elderly person
- Endangerment or willfully putting the elderly in a situation that can lead to safety issues or health problems.
Some of the people that risk conviction under this penal code include nursing home staff, relatives any other adult or child causing harm on the senior. Anyone charged with such offenses risks conviction under Penal Code 368 and 242.
However, the offense is a wobbler, meaning one can get charged as a misdemeanor or felony. For a misdemeanor elder abuse, the offender risks penalties such as a fine amounting to $6,000 and one-year imprisonment in county jail.
Felony elder abuse is a severe crime, attracting harsher punishment compared to a misdemeanor. One could face state prison imprisonment that can last up to 4 years. If the elderly suffered substantial bodily injuries, the prison term could increase to three years if the victim was below 70 years and an increase of five years if the senior was above 70 years. Also, if the abuse resulted in death, you risk an additional sentence of five years for a victim below 70 years and the addition of seven years for a victim above 70 years.
Penal Code 243.4 defines sexual battery as an illegal touching of an intimate part of a person with the intention of sexual gratification, abuse, or arousal. For a prosecutor to convict you with this crime, he or she must prove that:
- You unlawfully restrained the victim
- You faked your identity
- The victim was institutionalized in an unofficial or official marriage
- You must have touched the bare skin of the intimate part or caused the bare skin of the victim to touch your private parts
Sexual battery is a wobbler, providing the possibility of a misdemeanor or a felony charge. If one gets convicted with a misdemeanor, he or she faces imprisonment in a county jail for up to 6 months and a maximum of $2,000. A felony is punishable by 2 to 4 years in county jail with a maximum fine amounting up to $10,000.
The law requires a convicted sexual battery offender to register with the Department of Justice as provided by the California Penal Code section 290. The duty requires one to update the registration annually as long as you are living, working, or schooling in California. It might also require you to maintain a substantial distance from schools and parks. Failing to register as a sexual offender might lead to additional criminal charges for violating PC 290.
Note that this requirement is part of the options that the court might decide besides imprisonment. Other options that the court can impose are:
- Place you on probation and require you to serve a one-year prison term
- Place you on probation without jail time, but require you to attend therapy, serve community service, or a work-release program.
- Place you in formal probation and assign you to a probation officer.
The court usually imposes specific terms on anyone placed on probation. The terms of probation include:
- Visit the probation officer according to the conditions provided
- Violate no other law, with the exception of a traffic infraction
- Attend a sexual addiction or rehabilitation program
- Random drug testing
- Random searches of your home or frisking
These terms represent the few options that the court can impose. If you violate any of these terms, you risk serving the maximum time allowed by the law.
Find an Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
There are a lot of legal requirements related to simple battery crimes. Therefore, it is recommended to seek legal representation to have your battery case handled professionally. Failing to make this consideration may lead to harsher sentences that you could have avoided if you engaged an attorney. We at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm will offer the right legal advice and representation that matches your needs. Reach out to as at 310-935-1675, and we will be there to help you.