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California Assault and Battery Laws

Overview of California Assault and Battery Law

While "assault and battery" is a commonly-heard phrase, assault and battery are separate crimes. As in other states, California assault and battery laws are found in criminal as well as civil law (where it is considered an "intentional tort"). The elements of both civil assault and civil battery are very similar to the elements of criminal assault and battery discussed in more detail below.

California's assault and battery laws can be found in Chapter 9 of the California Penal Code.

The California Penal Code defines assault as an "unlawful attempt" to cause a "violent injury on the person of another" -- assault is often described as an attempt to commit a battery. A prosecutor must show that the defendant intended to commit a battery and had the "present ability" to do so, but does not need to show that physical contact actually happened.

Battery describes force or violence used against another person. A prosecutor must show that the defendant willfully made contact with another person. The Penal Code establishes varying degrees of severity for a battery. While Section 242 of the Penal Code sets the basic elements of a battery, a prosecutor can also use Section 243(d) when the victim suffered a "serious bodily injury." In addition, the Penal Code includes specific code sections regarding battery against specified persons such as peace officers, police officers, firefighters, emergency response technicians, school employees, and others. The Penal Code also establishes separate laws regarding battery in the context of domestic violence.

Aggravated Assault and Battery

California state laws allow a prosecutor to pursue charges of aggravated assault or aggravated battery in the most serious cases. The prosecutor must show an "aggravating circumstance" to elevate the charges against the defendant. For example, use of a deadly weapon is often considered an aggravating circumstance that can elevate a charge to aggravated assault or aggravated battery. Another example of aggravated assault is assault with the intent to commit a felony such as murder or rape.

California Assault and Battery Laws Overview

Below you will find key provisions of California’s assault and battery laws.

Statutes

California Penal Code Section 240 (Simple Assault)

California Penal Code Section 242 (Battery)

Penalties

  • Simple Assault: Misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a maximum 1,000 fine, probation, restitution to the victim(s)
  • Battery: Either a misdemeanor up to six months in county jail, and/or maximum fine $2,000, probation or felony (depending on the nature of the alleged offense) punishable by up to three years in county jail or state prison, a fine of $2,000 up to $10,000, or both, probation. Also called a “wobbler.” Restitution to the victim(s)

***The penalties and sentencing for a defendant convicted of assault or battery depend on the severity of the crime, any aggravating circumstances, and the defendant's past criminal history.***

Possible Defenses (Not an exhaustive list)

  • Consent to the act or activity
  • Self-defense
  • Defense of another person
  • Defense of a home or personal property

Related Charge

California Penal Code Section 243: (Battery on a Peace Officer): Up to three years county jail or state prison, fine up to $10,000, probation


Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

California Codes and Legal Research Options

Additional Resources

If you have additional questions about California’s assault and battery laws, click on the following links:

Free Case Review

Crimes involving violence are rarely straightforward. There are two sides to every story and many times key witnesses who can help exonerate the accused. If you are looking to reduce the charges against you or simply want to learn what defenses are available, now is the time to speak with a skilled California criminal defense attorney today. Start by getting a free case review at no obligation.

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