Assault and battery offenses are criminal violations in California, based on the Penal Code provisions. Subsequently, facing charges for either or both crimes may result in several legal consequences, including a jail or prison sentence. You could also face additional repercussions depending on the circumstances of each case. As a recently arrested suspect, navigating the criminal procedure by yourself can prove to be quite hectic and challenging. Sometimes, court requirements may be quite technical, making it difficult to satisfy your case presentation.
Therefore, consulting a criminal defense attorney can improve your chances of a successful outcome. Through your lawyer's help, you will prepare for trial by gathering evidence, preparing defenses, and negotiating with the prosecutor. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we focus on providing the best criminal defense services to our clients. Over the years, we have developed a thorough approach when handling each case, enabling our team to deliver high-quality results. We are ready to assist anyone facing assault or battery charges in Chula Vista, California.
The Nature of Assault
Committing assault is a punishable offense that contravenes section 240 of the California Penal Code, leading to various penalties. To understand the nature of the offense, your lawyer will take you through the various elements of crime leading to a charge. Moreover, you will learn of the various sources of proof that a prosecutor may rely on to persuade the judge that you are guilty.
It is important to remember that an assigned prosecutor will preside over your case, as he/she holds the burden of proof. Consequently, the prosecution team works tirelessly to ensure that each element of the crime is well-proven, as any doubts or disparities in the law may lead to your acquittal.
Some methods applied by the prosecutor when obtaining evidence can be slightly disadvantageous to you because he/she has the upper arm in partnering with investigation officers. Nonetheless, your defense lawyer will assist in various ways, including sourcing crucial details from your narrative. These sources of information can play a pivotal role in fighting off the discussed elements of crime in assault charges. They include:
You Committed an Act that Would Result in Force Application Against the Victim
The first element for the prosecutor to prove is that you engaged in an act that would normally result in the infliction of harm against the person on the receiving end. The action often includes violent activities that would elicit a reaction from the targeted person. For example, swinging your arm towards the other person is an act reasonably expected to cause physical force against the victim.
As a result, the prosecutor will rely on the information surrounding the case facts before presenting the matter in court. These details may come from the aggrieved person, witnesses, or surveillance footage around the premises where the assault occurred.
Since the prosecutor must prove that this element was present beyond a reasonable doubt, the sources of evidence play a crucial role throughout the trial. On top of this, the element of crime may apply to a broad set of circumstances.
For example, the action that could reasonably result in force exertion does not need to be direct. In most cases, the perpetrator does not need to use a part of his/her body when touching or applying force to the victim. An illustrative instance is when the offender throws an object at the alleged victim, regardless of whether the victim suffered harm.
Additionally, you do not have to complete the action against the targeted person, provided he/she became reasonably aware of impending harm. For example, if the thrown object missed the victim, you may still face assault charges.
Another important factor included in presenting this element is that the potential application of force should be offensive or dangerous towards the victim. The principle applies despite no real harm against the victim, even if the actual force could not cause danger.
You Were Capable of Applying Force Against the Victim
Since assault is often known as the ‘incomplete’ form of battery, the main offensive element is invoking fear or potential harm to the victim. Therefore, while you will not cause physical injuries from your actions, the circumstances must be that you were capable of inflicting the actual harm. On top of this, you should know that the victim will reasonably expect the force applied to harm him/her.
For example, pretending to hold a weapon against the targeted person may not be assault, primarily because you are incapable of causing any harm to the victim. Nevertheless, the prosecutor may insist on the reasonable apprehension you caused to the victim. Your attorney can rightfully disprove this argument, as you did not pose any real threats.
You Acted Deliberately
The prosecutor showing that you willfully committed the offense or dangerous acts is also important, as it demonstrates the criminal intention. Thus, the prosecutor focuses on any actions you undertook before or after committing assault to derive evidence on your deliberate mental state. For example, if you were hiding while waiting for the targeted person, it could indicate that you willfully wanted to complete an offensive act.
The Nature of Battery
Battery is also a criminal offense contrary to section 242 of the California Penal Code. While the elements of the crime are similar to those in assault, it is important to learn about them for a proper distinction. Under section 242 PC, the factors attributing to battery include:
Physically Touching Another Person
For a battery charge to suffice, physical contact must occur between the victim and perpetrator. This is different from an assault where the actions may be indirect, provided you used an object to potentially exert force on the victim.
Therefore, the evidence produced by the prosecutor should show how you approached the alleged victim and imposed force on him/her. You should note that battery does not necessarily apply to violent actions only, but also to offensive advances like kissing or touching another person offensively.
For example, regular acts like hugging someone may change their nature, depending on who receives the action. If you force a hug on a stranger, he/she may institute battery allegations if he/she found it offensive.
The Actions Should be Conducted Offensively
Like in assault charges, your actions must be fueled by negative motives like causing harm, offending the victim, or letting out anger. This should be distinguished from touching a person out of the necessity to avert them from danger. For example, jerking a person away from the road to protect them from an oncoming vehicle does not amount to battery, as the act was protective.
The offensive actions must also be willful or deliberate to prove an underlying criminal intention necessary in all criminal cases.
Penalties for Committing Assault and Battery
Assault and battery lead to the same consequences, except in the amount payable as fines. When the judge finds you guilty of assault or battery, you should be ready to face these penalties imposed accordingly. The California Penal Code classifies the offenses as misdemeanors offense in the absence of aggravating factors. Thus, the penalties may not be too harsh compared to other violent crimes, especially if no serious harm was caused to the victim.
Nevertheless, the punishment will create several disadvantages that include the loss of your liberty. Due to this, knowing what to expect can help you prepare for the outcome in case of a guilty finding. The possible penalties to face include paying a maximum fine of $1000 for an assault crime and $2000 for battery. Alternatively, you may receive a jail sentence that may last for up to six months.
Thirdly, the judge may sentence you to a summary probation program that is specially designed for misdemeanor penalties. Typically, summary probation is an alternative to incarceration in county jail, meaning that you will have your freedom but under supervision. As a result, your actions are strictly monitored to reduce the possibility of violating the probation terms.
Required terms to follow throughout the probation include paying court fines. However, the orders may be separate from the penalties issued in the first instance, primarily because the program imposes its requirements. Payments should be in full, either by a lump sum or through installments. Most courts allow the convicted person to access financially flexible options so that he/she can uphold compliance with the requirements.
Secondly, counseling may be compulsory for some offenders who exhibit cognitive behavioral disorders. For example, if you have anger management issues that make you resort to violent actions like battery, you will need to undergo a rehabilitative program for complete recovery. Most courts will partner with a local government-funded mental health institution to provide access to the services. Additionally, you will receive assistance from a specific professional who can track your progress and create a report by the end of the entire process.
On top of this, the judge may direct you to specific hours of community service under summary probation. The directives will have you engage in different activities around your community, including volunteer clean-up projects in state-owned facilities or along the streets.
Other times, the services require you to participate in charity activities to help you reintegrate into your society. By the end of the program, the judge will expect you to have completed all the assigned community service hours before your case is closed. Subsequently, we recommend attending to the activities on time to avoid the accumulation of working hours. By doing this, your probation program will run smoothly to the end.
You should note that in summary probation sentences, the judge who presided over your case will also oversee your program completion directly. Thus, no intermediary personnel like probation officers are present to collect reports and present them in court for you. Instead, you will have to attend court sessions throughout the program for the judge's assessment of your progress.
The judge expects you to present details on the ongoing payments projects and counseling sessions in detail during these court appearances. Additionally, he/she may liaise with the government institution providing you with therapy services to obtain feedback from a professional. Due to the recurring court appearances, following the probation guidelines is necessary to help you complete your sentence.
Moreover, exhibiting exceptional behavior and cooperation may enable the judge to reduce your sentence duration. However, this privilege is reserved for offenders who demonstrate consistent commitment and willingness to change through progressive projects and engagements.
Conversely, failure to follow the probation guidelines can cause adverse outcomes that may increase your sentence. This is because failing to observe the probation terms amounts to a codified misdemeanor violation that includes separate penalties. Consequently, you may receive the following penalties:
Probation Revocation and Re-sentencing
Firstly, the judge may decide to revoke the entire probation program, bringing all engagements to an end. Afterward, you will appear in court for new sentencing orders that require you to face detention in jail. The court order will often mandate you to serve the maximum jail penalty for your violations, meaning that you will spend six months behind bars.
Usually, this determination is reserved for offenders who constantly violate their probation sentences. Alternatively, the judge may order it to an offender who demonstrates a stubborn approach towards rehabilitation and is constantly bickering with his/her counselors or community service personnel.
All liberties and allowances that were initially accessible under the probation cease to apply through the new sentence orders. For example, if you were to see a counselor for free, you will bear the expenses after completing your sentence, primarily if you still require the counseling.
Receiving a Warning from the Presiding Judge
If your probation violation resulted in minor outcomes, the judge might be more lenient with you by issuing a warning. The documented warning may include a stern letter indicating the consequences of continued violation of probation. These details should help in deterring you from considering the violations in the future until the program is complete.
Warnings may also be issued for a second and subsequent violation, depending on the sentencing policies applicable. However, the third strike will rule out the possibility of receiving another letter, and the judge will resort to alternative punishments. Thus, we recommend taking the warnings seriously to avoid receiving a poor report by the end of your sentence.
Modification of Probation Terms
Some judges also prefer to enhance your probation sentence instead of changing the punishments altogether. If you face these changes, you can expect to pay higher fees as fines and spend more time in community service. You should remember that the judge has discretion in modifying these terms, so you want to avoid unjustifiable non-compliance.
If your summary probation runs smoothly, you should be done in one year and resume your normal life. Your case will also be officially closed, giving you a chance to pursue other court processes like record sealing after the required time lapses.
The Difference Between Assault and Battery
Having understood the nature of assault and battery as separate crimes, the difference becomes easier to identify. SUbsequently, the distinguishing factor between these two offenses is that assault may involve direct or indirect use of violence against the victim. This means that the alleged victim does not necessarily have to sustain any injuries, provided he/she reasonably apprehended danger from your actions.
On the other hand, battery charges are only applicable if the offender used direct force against the victim. Thus, there has to be some form of physical contact, regardless of how slight it may be. The prosecutor will focus on the effect it caused on the victim, and may therefore lead to trial even if the person was only offended by the contact. Due to this, you want to work with a competent criminal attorney who will provide substantial defenses to the accusations. Doing so may help you avoid penalties and incarceration for minor occurrences.
Defenses for Assault and Battery Charges
Since the offenses involve similar elements of crime, your defense lawyer can incorporate various defenses applicable in both instances. Nevertheless, you will have to consult your attorney beforehand to ensure that the chosen defenses are compatible with the circumstances of your case. The following are the available defenses to assault and battery:
You Acted in Self Defense
Acting in self-defense is a common and acceptable argument for anyone facing assault or battery charges. You will have to justify the need for self-defense and convince the judge that you would not have otherwise committed violent acts.
Normally, the law also imposes several requirements before a defendant can enter this defense. The first one requires that you must have used reasonable force when retaliating to the source of threat. Due to this, the judge will apply the test of reasonable proportionality to gauge whether your actions were warranted.
For example, the defense may be inapplicable if you punched someone severely for slightly pulling your hair. When deciding on the validity of your defense, the judge will assess the circumstantial evidence relevant to the case. Thus, any sources of proof to show that you were attacked first may be helpful.
Additionally, you should have lacked an alternative means to evade the danger for the defense to apply. This is because the law does not condone violence except in extreme cases, where you can prove that it was a last resort action. Your lawyer should find sufficient evidence to show that you were in a compromised position, leading to the assault or battery in retaliation.
You Face False Accusations
Cases involving exaggerated reports that led to false accusations are also common in the criminal law system. Mostly, the alleged victim will have an underlying motive when issuing a police statement, making you the main suspect of assault or battery.
Sometimes, the reported events may have occurred, but without serious effects that require police intervention. Nevertheless, the malicious party may lie about various facts to impose blame on you. The main motivating factors leading to false accusations include the need for vengeance, malice, or jealousy.
When arguing your case in trial, your attorney should bring out the links between the malicious party's actions and the motivating factors. For example, if you are a recently divorced couple that is co-parenting, one of the spouses may be seeking revenge and giving false information.
Verifying your facts and ensuring that your defense is credible is necessary before presenting it in court. This is because you will already be under scrutiny as the defendant, meaning that the judge expects you to raise any defenses to save yourself. Subsequently, providing accurate information will help disprove prejudices or assumptions built against you.
You Did not Act Wilfully
Thirdly, lack of wilful intention while committing any of the offenses is a valid defense. Since all criminal elements must include a deliberate act, proving that you did not premeditate on committing assault and battery may positively change the course of your case.
Your lawyer can argue that your actions resulted from a mistake of facts or misunderstandings between you and the alleged victim. For example, if the person unexpectedly approached you from behind as a 'surprise ', you may have been apprehensive and resorted to pushing him/her to the wall. While the victim will have sustained injuries, your actions will not have been wilful as they are primarily based on a protective reaction.
Sometimes, the defendant may also be living with a condition causing involuntary body movements that lead to assault or battery. Therefore, your attorney must notify the relevant persons of the condition as soon as possible to avoid an unfair trial and conviction for involuntary responses.
Find an Assault & Battery Attorney Near Me
When you or a loved one faces arrest for assault or battery, the subsequent events may be overwhelming to handle alone. For example, gathering relevant evidence for use and presenting your arguments during trial requires a lot of effort and expertise. Due to this, we recommend working with a criminal defense lawyer who understands the inner workings of the law and is well equipped to handle your matter.
Upon consulting us at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, you will have access to some of the best criminal attorneys in Chula Vista, California. Our years of practice in criminal law have enabled us to develop our skills and experience, leading to excellent results. We are committed to providing personalized criminal defense services to any client who is facing assault or battery charges for a better chance of securing a positive outcome. Call us today at 619-887-6894.