Forceful, illegal, or unwarranted touching of another could land you in trouble. The consequences escalate when the touching results in physical injury to the victim. These actions are a violation of PC 243(d).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, police have recorded an increase in reported battery cases. Therefore, the department and prosecutors face increased pressure to prosecute individuals accused of battery. Certain defendants end up convicted or signing plea deals to reduce jail or prison sentences, yet proper investigations and adequate defense would exonerate them.
You, therefore, need an experienced defense team to fight these charges and offer the best advice based on your circumstances. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we are ready to help.
Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury as Defined by PC 243(d)
California law PC 243(d) defines battery causing grave physical harm as battery committed on an individual, resulting in serious bodily injury to the victim. Battery, under PC 242, is any deliberate and illegal use of violence or force on another, either directly or indirectly, by the use of an object.
Therefore, PC 243(d)’s definition considers striking or touching another individual in an offensive or harmful manner that results in the victim sustaining injuries as a crime.
Battery causing serious bodily injury is also referred to as an aggravated battery.
The following examples fit PC 243(d)’s definition of the crime.
Sucker-punching an individual in a pub and breaking his teeth.
A wife who pushed her husband from the porch. The husband falls and breaks his ankle.
A guy forcefully grabbed his girlfriend’s arm and broke her wrist during an argument.
You will only be convicted under PC 243(d) if the prosecution proves their case beyond a reasonable doubt. He/she should establish the following elements successfully:
You intentionally and unlawfully touched the victim in an offensive or harmful manner
The touching resulted in the victim suffering serious bodily harm.
A detailed look at the elements will help provide clarity.
Touching occurs when you make physical contact with another. No matter how slight, touching can be direct, for example, when you use your hand to hold another’s arm, or indirectly when you use objecs like a knife, a gun to make contact, or another object you wield angrily.
If you cause another to touch themselves or the victim, this too amounts to indirect contact.
Note that touching over the victim’s clothing amounts to contact and will be considered in your case. However, this contact should result in bodily harm.
Intentional or Willful Contact
Intentional contact describes you deliberately touching the victim in a harmful or offensive manner. However, you do not need to have intended to injure the victim. It, therefore, follows that if you unintentionally touched another, thus causing bodily harm, you are not guilty of aggravated battery.
Offensive or Harmful Manner
You are only guilty of aggravated battery if you made contact in a harmful or offensive manner. Harmful or offensive contact is both unwanted and done in a disrespectful, rude, violent, or angry way. Thus, shoving, punching, or pushing another hard enough to inflict injury will be considered in this case.
Should you hug or playfully push another, but this action results in injury, you are not guilty of aggravated battery. Your playful pushing or hugging was not rudely, angrily, violently, or disrespectfully done.
Prosecutors under this element rely on witness testimony to describe the contact. A witness could characterize you as angry or that you grabbed the victim while shouting or violently brushed against the victim. In certain instances, witnesses described defendants as laughing mockingly, which was enough to describe the offensive nature of the contact.
Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury refers to grave physical impairment. Medical treatment is not needed to prove the injury was significant. The judge or jury determines the gravity of the bodily harm. Therefore, the severity of the physical hurt is case-specific because the jury or judge relies on the case's facts in their determination.
However, past criminal cases show what most juries and judges determined to be a serious bodily injury. They include but are not limited to:
Loss of consciousness
A lost tooth, down to its root
Fractured or broken bones
Cuts under the eye that require stitches
Busted lips that require sutures
Protracted loss or impairment of the function of an organ or a bodily member
Prosecutors rely on medical reports as evidence of the victim’s serious bodily injury.
Defenses to Challenge a Battery With Serious Bodily Injury Charge
Several defenses are available to challenge the battery with serious bodily injury charges. The choice depends on the strategy best placed to offer the most suitable legal outcome.
Self-defense or in Defense of Another
Self-defense or defense of another is the initial and arguably the primary defense. Your attorney should demonstrate to the jury that you acted to defend yourself or another from a perceived threat and that your actions were appropriate.
You prove self-defense was warranted by demonstrating the following.
You reasonably believed you or another was in imminent danger of suffering serious physical harm
You reasonably thought that the use of immediate force was appropriate to defend yourself or another against the danger
The force used was no more than was reasonable and appropriate to defend yourself or another
The Incident Was an Accident
Accidental touching lacks willfulness, a pivotal aspect to prove your guilt. Accidental touching is unintended. For example, you were making your way through a crowd, and you shoved a person who fell and broke her wrist.
In some cases, you could strike another individual who was not the intended recipient of your strike. The question is, could you claim the strike was an accident?
For example, James aimed to punch Mark, who ducked, and he struck his friend, Paul, breaking his nose. While he meant to punch Mark and not Paul, James cannot claim he hit Paul by accident.
Drunk individuals can, in some instances, cause others to injure themselves. Their conduct is arguably unintentional because of their intoxication. Thus, in situations involving defendants who were drunk at the time of the incident, their inebriation results in different charges and not battery with serious bodily injury. This is because prosecutors will find it hard to prove willfulness. If this is your situation, the DA could pursue public intoxication charges.
The Injury Was Not Serious
The seriousness of an injury is subjective. Most serious injuries affect an individual’s mobility or ability to work or physically exert themselves. The perception is that the severity of an injury is proven through a medical report. However, a medical assessment is unnecessary because some victims exaggerate the severity of their injuries and use medical assessments to corroborate their testimonies. The Chula Vista Criminal Attorney team knows this tactic and will challenge this evidence in your defense.
Challenging the severity of a victim’s injuries convinces prosecutors to reduce your charges from aggravated battery to lesser charges of simple battery or assault before trial. However, if this defense is used in the trial, your charges will likely be dismissed, or you will receive fewer penalties.
You are a Victim of Misidentification
Misidentification is common in battery cases with a significant pool of people like in a club. Should a fight ensue, it is difficult to identify the actual culprit. Prosecutors bear the burden of proving you were the perpetrator beyond a reasonable doubt. Failure to which this defense becomes viable.
Penalties for a Battery With Serious Bodily Injury Conviction
An aggravated battery is a wobbler. Prosecutors could either charge you with misdemeanor or felony charges.
If this is your first offense and the injuries are not as severe, the DA could be inclined to pursue misdemeanor charges. A conviction results in a jail sentence not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $1,000. Probation is also available as an alternative to jail time.
However, if the injuries are extensive or you have a criminal past, the DA will likely charge you with a felony. You will serve up to four years in prison and part with a fine of no more than $10,000 if convicted. A judge could also issue formal probation terms as an alternative to prison time.
There is a distinction between serious bodily injury and great bodily injury. California law defines great bodily injury as one that is substantial. The definition is broad. Thus it is up to the jury to determine an injury that meets the significant bodily injury threshold.
Great bodily injuries vary from case to case, as does serious bodily injury. Juries give their verdict after considering the following issues:
The level of pain the injuries cause the victim
The magnitude of the injuries, and
Whether medical treatment was required.
Past cases have determined significant bodily injuries to include the following:
Loss of an eye, hearing, or a limb
Other brain injuries that result in brain damage or coma
Non-superficial stab wounds
Severe bruising and discoloration that is visible a day after the incident
Black eye bruising visible months after the encounter
Sentence enhancements are only issued when juries have determined the injuries met the great bodily harm threshold. A conviction will result in an additional 3 to 6 years to your prison sentence if so determined. The added time will be served consecutively and not concurrently.
Further, great bodily injury to another will result in a strike as per California’s Three Strikes Law. This means you are looking at double the sentence if you are a second striker and 25 years to life for third strikers.
What If the Victim of the Battery Causing Injury Incident Was a Peace Officer or a Protected Individual?
Your victim could be a peace officer like a police officer, firefighter, EMT, doctor, or individuals employed by the state or county. Of importance is whether the officer was on duty and whether you knew or should have reasonably known it.
An aggravated battery on a peace officer is a wobbler. You can either face misdemeanor or felony violation charges. Prosecutors decide on what charges to pursue depending on their assessment of the facts of the case.
If convicted for a misdemeanor violation, you will face penalties including a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine not exceeding $2,000.
If you have a criminal history and the facts inform the DA’s decision to pursue felony charges, a conviction is punishable by a jail sentence of up to three years and a fine of no more than $10,000.
Plea Deal Negotiations
Plea bargains are an option in aggravated battery cases. The DA or your attorney can initiate the negotiations. Prosecutors opt for plea bargains to secure a conviction, though for a lesser charge. Defense attorneys use the bargains to help defendants avoid the harsh penalties of the current charge if it is likely that a trial could end in a conviction.
Experienced defense attorneys aim to offer the best legal outcome. Therefore, if a dismissal of the charges is unattainable, your attorney could advise you to plead guilty to a lesser charge. It is crucial to engage your attorney on this matter.
In the case of aggravated battery, plea bargains require defendants to plead guilty to simple battery or assault charges in exchange for aggravated battery charges being dropped.
PC 242 defines battery as deliberate and unlawful use of force or violence upon another. The law does not require the victim to suffer harm for you to be found guilty of the offense. Prosecutors only need to establish that you offensively touched the victim.
The DA must prove the following elements.
You touched another
Your actions were intentional
The touch was offensive
You must have made contact with the victim directly through any part of your body or indirectly through an object. Any touch counts, no matter how slight. Further, contact made through a victim’s clothing is touching as per PC 242.
You are only guilty of battery if you intentionally touch another. It does not necessarily mean that you intended to hurt the victim, gain an advantage or break the law.
Touch is only offensive if made angrily, rudely, violently, or disrespectfully.
Penalties for Simple Battery
PC 242 violations are misdemeanor violations punishable by a 6-month jail sentence or summary probation. Further, a judge could impose a fine not exceeding $2,000.
Prosecutors would pursue PC 243(b) and PC 243(c) violations if the victim were a peace officer or a protected individual.
Battery on a Peace Officer
The DA would pursue battery on a peace officer charge if the victim, the peace officer, or another protected individual were not seriously injured.
According to PC 243(d), It is a crime to touch protected individuals offensively. The elements of battery under PC 242 still hold in a battery on a protected individual charge, with a few additional elements, namely:
The alleged victim was an on-duty peace officer discharging their duties
You intentionally and unlawfully touched the victim in an offensive manner
You knew or should have reasonably known that the victim was a peace officer or a protected individual discharging his/her duties.
The term peace officer includes the more common departments, namely police officers and firefighters. The list consists of doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners offering emergency medical care. PC 243(d) details the following as protected individuals:
EMTs and paramedics
Doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners offering emergency medical care
California highway patrolman
Animal control officers
Probation department employees
Private security guards
Penalties for Battery on a Peace Officer
PC 243 violations are misdemeanors punishable by a one-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $2,000.
Any unlawful attempt and the present ability to commit violent harm on another is assault and a crime under PC 240. It must be established that you:
acted in a manner that would reasonably result in a direct force on another
knew of the facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that acting in that manner would result in the direct application of force on another individual, and
had the present ability to apply force on the victim,
for you to be found guilty.
Here is an in-depth look at the elements prosecutors must prove.
Force describes touching another in a harmful or offensive manner. You can be found guilty of assault even if the victim did not sustain any injuries. Additionally, the court considers both direct and indirect applications of force.
It is equally important to note that PC 240 does not require you to have successfully applied force to be found guilty. You only need to have taken action that would have resulted in the application of force.
Willful action is as detailed before. It is an intentional action. However, your actions should not necessarily aim to gain an advantage, break the law, or hurt another.
Knowledge Your Actions Could Result in Applying Force
Prosecutors will have to prove that you were aware there was a high likelihood that your actions could result in the application of force. You, however, need not have intended to apply force against the victim for you to be food guilty of a PC 240 violation.
It can be challenging to differentiate between assault and battery since both are used interchangeably in conversations. However, the two offenses are different. Assault occurs when there is a potential to inflict bodily harm on another through touching. Battery, on the other hand, describes the actual infliction of violence or force on another.
Prosecutors will opt for assault charges in the plea agreement if, in their assessment, they will be unable to prove that you did inflict force or violence on another. Thus, the victim's injury could be explained away by another action other than you using force on the victim.
Penalties Following an Assault Conviction
Convictions for assault charges result in misdemeanor penalties. You can face jail time of up to six months or remain on probation instead of jail time. Additionally, the judge could impose a fine of no more than $1,000.
The penalties escalate if a peace officer or a protected individual was the victim of the assault. A conviction results in a jail sentence of up to one year and a fine of $2,000.
The following offenses are related to aggravated battery.
Mayhem violates PC 203 and is an offense that results in harsher penalties than aggravated battery.
You commit the crime if you deprive another of their body part or disfigure or render another’s body part unusable.
Mayhem is a felony offense punishable by up to 2, 4, or 8 years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000 if convicted. The penalties could increase by one or two years if the victim is above 65, under 14 years of age, blind/deaf, developmentally disabled, quadriplegic, or paraplegic.
Assault With A Deadly Weapon
You violate PC 245 when you attempt to attack or attack another with a deadly weapon or by means likely to inflict great bodily harm.
The crime is a wobbler. If convicted on misdemeanor charges, you could spend up to one year in jail and part with $1,000 in fines. On the other hand, a conviction for felony charges results in four years in prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
It bears pointing out that the penalties increase if you used a firearm or the victim was a police officer or a firefighter.
Find a Reputable Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
As seen, aggravated battery results in severe penalties. You need not risk bearing the penalties for a poorly investigated crime. It is in your best interest to hire an experienced attorney who will adequately fight the charges. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, our team is ready to assist. Call us today at 619-877-6894 for a free, confidential consultation.