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What are the penalties for assault and battery crimes in California? How is assault defined? What constitutes battery? If you are charged with battery or assault in Los Angeles or elsewhere in southern California, will a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney be able to help you?

If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to those questions, and you will learn what steps to take if you are charged with assault, battery, or with any violent crime in southern California.

State law establishes these four assault and battery charges: assault with a deadly weapon (also called “aggravated” assault), simple assault, aggravated battery, and simple battery.

When a battery or an assault happens in this state, the exact criminal charge depends on the extent of the injuries, if any, the weapon that was used, if any, and whether the victim belonged to a protected category or class.

WHAT CONSTITUTES SIMPLE ASSAULT? WHAT CONSTITUTES AGGRAVATED ASSAULT?

Simple assault in California is the threat or attempt to injure someone physically combined with the genuine capacity to make the threat or attempt succeed. Simple assault is charged as a misdemeanor. Convictions may be penalized with a six-month jail term and a fine of $1000.

Assault with a deadly weapon – aggravated assault – is the attempt, successful or not, to inflict great bodily injury while having the ability to use a lethal weapon – which could be a knife, firearm, hammer, screwdriver, or even a big rock or an aggressive dog commanded to attack.

How common is aggravated assault? In both 2017 and 2018, more than 100,000 aggravated assaults were reported throughout California. And in a single month – mid-March through mid-April 2020 – more than a thousand aggravated assaults were reported in Los Angeles alone.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR AGGRAVATED ASSAULT CONVICTIONS?

Assault with a deadly weapon can be prosecuted in this state as a felony or as a misdemeanor – at the discretion of the prosecutor – depending on the details of the incident. Convictions for assault with a deadly weapon are penalized with these sentences:

1. If convicted of a misdemeanor aggravated assault charge, and if the weapon used was not a firearm, the offender may serve up to a year in jail and/or pay a fine of up to $1,000.

2. If convicted of a misdemeanor aggravated assault charge, and if the weapon used was a firearm, the offender must serve a mandatory minimum six months in jail – and possibly as long as a year – and pay a fine of up to $1,000.

3. If convicted of a felony aggravated assault charge, the offender must serve up to four years in prison and/or pay a fine of up to $10,000.

4. If a semiautomatic weapon is used, the prison term may be extended to nine years. If an assault weapon or a machine gun is used, the term may be extended to twelve years.

5. In the conviction is a third strike under California’s Three-Strike Law, the convicted offender will serve at least twenty-five years in prison.

6. Anyone in California who is convicted of an assault or battery committed against a police officer, firefighter, or healthcare worker in the performance of his or her duties will face enhanced, more severe penalties than the penalties that are listed here.

WHAT CONSTITUTES SIMPLE BATTERY?

How are assault and battery different in California? Assault is any attempt to use violence or force against someone, while battery is the actual use of force or violence. Forcefully or violently touching someone in an offensive or unwanted manner constitutes simple battery.

However, no actual injury or harm has to happen. If someone who doesn’t want to be touched is touched, it’s simple battery. A conviction for simple battery – a misdemeanor in California – may be penalized with up to six months in jail and/or a fine of $2,000.

WHAT CONSTITUTES AGGRAVATED BATTERY?

The difference between aggravated battery and simple battery depends on whether the victim suffered a “serious” bodily injury, which is defined by California law as a “significant or substantial physical injury.”

Of course, that is a judgment call. Jurors have to determine if a bodily injury is “serious” based on the testimony and facts in the case. Like assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery may be charged in California as a felony or as a misdemeanor at the discretion of the prosecutor.

A conviction for felony aggravated battery, like a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon, is punishable with up to four years in prison. A conviction for misdemeanor aggravated battery may be penalized with up to a year in jail.

Should you bump someone accidentally, and even if you accidentally strike someone with an object that you are carrying, if it was unintentional and you meant no harm, there is no crime – although it might be considered negligence and you might be targeted with a civil lawsuit.

WHAT DEFENSES MAY BE OFFERED TO ASSAULT AND BATTERY CHARGES?

Listed here are some of the common defenses that attorneys offer against battery and assault charges:

1. The defendant was acting in self-defense.
2. Someone else did the crime, and the defendant has been misidentified.
3. The incident never occurred, and the charge is fabricated.

If you are charged with battery, assault, or any other crime of violence in southern California, don’t presume that you will be convicted. The state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that is not always easy. Your defense attorney will cast doubt on the evidence against you.

In fact, the right Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can examine the charges against you, explain your rights, and fight aggressively for justice on your behalf. Your attorney’s first step will be seeking to have the charge dropped or dismissed.

HOW TO BRING YOUR CASE TO ITS BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME

But if that’s not possible, in most cases, and especially if you are innocent, you should insist on a trial by jury. In some cases, however, if the evidence against you is persuasive and a conviction is certain, your defense attorney may be able to negotiate an acceptable plea deal.

In every assault or battery case, the right California defense lawyer will bring the case to its best possible conclusion. If you are charged with assault, battery, or any crime of violence in the Los Angeles area, you must have good legal help. That is your right.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.

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