Several criminal offenses fall under the umbrella of “assault” in California. While battery is a different crime, it is often regarded as a completed assault, one that causes physical harm to the victim. Assaults committed with weapons usually result in the harshest punishment, but every assault is classified as a violent crime.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, more than 300,000 assaults occur every year in California. Aggravated assaults involving the use of a weapon were reported almost 3,600 times in Orange County during 2014.
Significant numbers of armed aggravated assaults were also reported in other Southern California counties in 2014, including Los Angeles (23,784), San Diego (7,043), and Riverside (3,764). Those statistics do not include thousands of additional crimes charged as simple assault, battery, or aggravated assaults that were committed without weapons.
Many California assault charges are based on false accusations or a misunderstanding of the facts. Protect yourself from an unjust conviction by speaking to an experienced assault attorney that you feel comfortable with. The Law Offices of Randy Collins defends felony and misdemeanor assault charges in all Southern California courts.
Assault Crimes in California
An assault can be described as an intentional threat to touch someone in a harmful or offensive way. No actual touching needs to occur. The severity of the crime depends upon a number of factors.
Section 240 of the California Penal Code requires the prosecution to prove all of the following beyond a reasonable doubt in order to obtain a conviction for simple assault:
- The accused willfully committed an act that would naturally and probably result in the application of force to a person.
- The accused knew of facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the accused’s actions would naturally and probably result in the application of force to a person.
- The accused had the ability to apply force to that person.
Deliberately swinging a fist at someone with the knowledge that the person would reasonably believe that he or she was likely to be struck with the fist is a classic example of an assault. Throwing an object at a person is another way of committing an assault, even if the person ducks and avoids being struck by the object. Spitting at someone is also a simple assault.
The penalty for a simple assault is more severe if the victim is a
- firefighter, police officer, or custodial officer,
- school employee, or
- member of the military.
The penalty is also more severe if the assault is committed:
- on school property,
- in a park, or
- in a vehicle or facility used for public transportation.
Aggravated assault is a generic term given to crimes of assault that are committed
- with a deadly weapon, stun gun, Taser, or caustic chemicals,
- with force likely to produce a great bodily injury,
- with intent to commit a sex offense, or
- with intent to commit mayhem.
The penalties are more severe if one of the weapons described above is used against a firefighter, police officer, or custodial officer, or a passenger or driver of public transportation.
Willfully touching another person (except in self-defense) in a harmful or offensive manner is a simple battery. The touch does not need to cause pain. Rude or angry touching is enough to violate the law, even if only the slightest contact was made with the other person.
The penalties for battery are more severe if the person touched
- suffered a serious bodily injury,
- was a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, nurse, doctor, custodial officer, lifeguard, traffic officer, or animal control officer who was performing his or her duties when the battery was committed, or
- belonged to any of the categories of people listed in the discussion of “Aggravated Assault” on this page.
In addition, a sexual battery, involving the unwelcome touching of another person’s intimate body part, can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the identity of the victim and the circumstances under which the touching occurred.
Domestic Offenses and Protected Persons
Assaults and batteries are more serious crimes when they are committed against spouses, cohabitants, and the other parent of the accused’s child. Child abuse and elder abuse are also subject to harsher punishments than comparable acts committed against adults who are not elderly.
Defenses to Assault and Related Crimes
Provocation is not a defense. People who are provoked by someone else’s conduct are expected to walk away or, at least, to avoid committing an assault or a battery. On the other hand, self-defense is a defense to the charge.
Since the line between justified self-defense and responding to provocation is not always clear, juries will often consider a response to provocation to be “self-defense.” In other words, while “he had it coming” is not a defense, juries tend to think that people who invite confrontation do not deserve to be regarded as crime victims.
Other defenses include:
- False accusation
- Mistaken identity
- The accused’s actions were accidental, not willful
When a defendant is accused of assault, whether his or her actions would naturally and probably result in the application of force is often unclear. Throwing an object at a person is an assault but throwing an object at a target near a person is not. The difference often provides a defense to an assault charge.
When a defendant is accused of a battery that does not result in injury, whether the defendant’s conduct was harmful or offensive is often debatable. Some people might feel offended if they are poked in the shoulder, but jurors might think that the conduct is too insignificant to be offensive.
Defending Assault Charges in Southern California
If you have been arrested or prosecuted for assault, call (888) 250-2865 to discuss the defenses that can be used to protect you from an unjust conviction.
The Law Offices of Randy Collins represents individuals accused of assault charges in California including Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, and all across Southern California.