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Understanding battery and assault in California

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2023 | blog, Criminal Defense

Battery and assault, two separate criminal offenses in California, often cause confusion because of their similarities.

Both crimes involve unwanted physical contact or the threat of such contact. However, they have distinct legal definitions and consequences.

Defining assault in California

Assault, as defined by California law, is an intentional act that puts another person in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. Importantly, an assault charge does not require actual physical contact or injury. The offender’s intent and ability to cause harm are enough.

For example, if a person raises their fist in a threatening manner towards another individual, creating a reasonable fear of getting punched, and no actual contact occurs, the courts might still consider that action assault.

Defining battery in California

In contrast, battery involves the willful and unlawful touching of another person in a harmful or offensive manner. Unlike assault, battery requires physical contact between the offender and the victim.

For instance, if a person intentionally pushes another person in an aggressive manner, causing them to fall and sustain injuries, the courts would view that as battery.

Penalties for assault and battery

California law imposes different penalties for assault and battery, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Assault, generally considered a misdemeanor, carries potential penalties such as fines, probation, and up to six months in jail.

However, battery can have charges of either misdemeanor or felony, depending on the severity of the injuries inflicted and other factors. Misdemeanor battery penalties are the same as assault, while felony battery may result in more severe consequences, such as imprisonment in state prison.

Although battery and assault share some similarities, they are distinct criminal offenses in California. Understanding these differences is essential for a clear grasp of California’s criminal laws regarding violent offenses.