While most simple battery charges stem from misunderstandings, being charged can adversely affect your life and future. It is also confusing to understand what the charges constitute, the penalties you might face if convicted, and the available legal defenses. There isn't a better time than now to hire an attorney and ensure your rights are efficiently protected and defended. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we can investigate your case's circumstances to assist in dismissing or reducing the charges and aggressively pursue justice on your behalf.
Defining California Simple Battery
PC 242 defines simple battery as an unlawful and willful application of violence or force upon the person of somebody else.
Some of the perfect examples of battery include:
- Shoving a person
- Striking somebody else with your fist during an argument
- Hitting or pushing an individual with a tiny substance
The alleged victim's identity is a crucial factor in determining the seriousness of the battery and the potential penalties. Battery against a public officer when performing their official responsibilities carries more severe penalties than simple battery against another victim, provided you were aware of or should have known that the alleged victim was a public official.
To be convicted of this violent crime, the prosecution should establish that:
- The accused person touched another,
- In an offensive or harmful way
Touched Somebody Else
You violate this statute when you contact the accuser physically. It is not necessarily that your conduct resulted in an injury; even the least touch counts.
Please note that you can also be charged with PC 242 even you touch someone else:
- using an object, or
- through their clothing.
Additionally, the California laws hold that you could break Penal Code 242 by offensively touching something intimately associated with the victim's body that isn't their body organ. It could be forcefully hitting something they have.
Offensive and Harmful Way
A touch only constitutes battery, provided it is executed offensively or harmfully. In other words, the conduct is violent, disrespectful, angry, and rude.
Another element of this violent crime is that you should have touched the victim willfully.
The legal term "willfully" can be defined as the accused person acted purposely or deliberately. It does mean the defendant planned to violate the law, gain an advantage, or injure another.
In other words, the accused person is not required to have planned to break this law to be convicted. Instead, they should have premeditated to engage in the conduct that led to the battery.
Is Assault Worse than Simple Battery?
While simple battery and California assault are different, it's common for these crimes to be used interchangeably or confused.
The main variation between assault and California battery is the actual presence of the threat of harm and harm. You could be prosecuted with battery if your conduct resulted in physical injuries to another. On the contrary, an individual faces assault charges if threats of harm exist.
Regardless of being different crimes, persons charged with battery or assault could face incarceration and fines if convicted and prosecuted to the fullest degree of law. Fortunately, hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer can provide the required resources and develop a legal strategy to avoid a conviction.
Consequences for Breaking PC 242
A battery crime that isn't committed against a protected person or that does not lead to severe injuries is filed as a misdemeanor.
It's punishable by:
- Up to fine of $2,000
- Summary probation
- A six-month county jail sentence
Defending Simple Battery Charges
It's worth noting that the consequences of a conviction are far-reaching and can affect you in ways you have not yet considered. For instance, companies are increasingly searching for background checks of potential employees. That means a conviction might result in difficulties finding employment.
Once you have a conviction on your criminal record, expunging it can be time-consuming and challenging. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid the conviction than fix it later. You should also not enter into a guilty plea because you don't want to pay trial expenses.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a simple battery crime, contact a skilled lawyer to discuss your case immediately. Your lawyer will listen to you, analyze the case facts and evidence, and advise you on your available options.
You can also use self-defense to negate the criminal charge. The legal defense asserts that you applied force against somebody else to protect yourself or someone else.
In using the defense, you admit to violating the law, but it was justifiable under the case circumstances.
You can use the legal strategy, provided every statement below is true:
- You reasonably thought that you were at risk of sustaining bodily injuries
- You reasonably thought that immediate application of force was critical as far as protecting against the danger is concerned.
- You did not use more force than was essential to guard against that risk.
Defense of Asset
An individual has a right to act to prevent the destruction of their assets and that of others.
Again, it would be best if you had exercised reasonable force. However, the standard for reasonable force is more stringent for property damage than for the defense of self.
Consent to the Offensive Contact
If the alleged victim consented to the touch, you could not be held responsible for the battery. Consent is a common legal defense for simple battery, especially in sports injuries, since players give implied or explicit consent to the natural consequences of participating in the activity.
Parental Right to Discipline Your Child
As a parent in California, you are entitled to use physical force against your children without being prosecuted with battery provided you used force that is:
- Reasonable, and
- Not excessive under the case circumstances.
If you were within the parental rights' bound, you could use it as your legal defense.
Accident as a Legal Defense
Even if you do not need to have purposely harmed another, you should have acted willfully to be sentenced for PC 242. In that case, you can use an accident as your legal defense.
Accident applies in cases where the defendant didn't intentionally apply force on someone else. Examples could be accidentally shoving a person in a street or crowded bus, an accidental bicycle accident, or accidentally dropping something that hits somebody else from your balcony.
What isn't Considered as Viable Legal Defense
Here are some of the things that aren't considered a legal defense to simple battery:
- Provocation — You can claim that you were responding to provocative conduct that wasn't a risk or attempt to cause physical injuries. In other words, words alone, irrespective of how exasperating or offensive, aren't an excuse for simple battery.
- Voluntary intoxication — You cannot claim voluntary intoxication as your legal defense because you should know or ought to have known that drugs or alcohol impair mental capabilities. The law will hold you accountable if you commit a crime due to voluntary use. Nevertheless, if you could prove that you were involuntarily intoxicated, you can't be sentenced for the crime because you didn't choose to drink/consume the alcohol or intoxicating substance.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Simple Battery?
Since the offense is a misdemeanor, the statute of limitations is a year.
SOL means the prosecution team should file the charges before the statutory period elapses. Otherwise, the case will be dropped. The California laws use the discovery rule to determine when the timeframe for filing your criminal charges starts. The clock begins ticking when the offense is discovered.
The purpose of SOL is to offer fairness to the defendant. Case evidence might get lost or distorted with time. Also, a witness might forget case details or relocate to another place.
Here are crimes that charged in place of or alongside PC 242:
Battery Resulting in Serious Bodily Injuries (PC 243d)
If you commit battery and cause serious injuries to the alleged victim, you will be charged with aggravated battery. Aggravated battery is prosecuted as a wobbler and can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is punishable by a one-year jail sentence, while a felony carries four years in California state prison.
Serious bodily injuries are severe impairment of a physical condition.
Under PC 368, it's illegal to negligently or intentionally inflict unjustifiable pain, either mental or physical, on an individual older than 65 years.
It is a wobbler. If convicted of a felony, you will pay a maximum fine of six thousand dollars and spend up to four years in state prison.
Sexual Battery (PC 243.4)
Sexual battery involves touching another person's intimate part against their will for sexual abuse, arousal, or gratification. An intimate can be an anus, sexual organ, buttocks, groin, or a woman's breast.
Depending on the case facts, the sexual battery could be a felony or a misdemeanor. For instance, you will face a felony if the alleged victim is an institutionalized individual. A misdemeanor carries a year in jail, while a felony is punishable by a maximum of four years in prison.
Finally, you must register as a sex offender if convicted of either the felony or misdemeanor.
PC 243(e)(1) is the statute that makes it illegal to commit battery against an intimate partner like:
- Fiancé or fiancée
- A parent of your child
- Boyfriend or girlfriend
- An individual with whom you cohabit with
If convicted, you face the following potential penalties:
- Fines of two thousand dollars
- A year in jail
- A three-year informal probation
Battery on a Police Officer
It is a crime to commit battery against a protected person while engaging in official duties. These persons include firefighters, lifeguards, process servers, peace officers, and paramedics. If the prosecutor can establish that you knew or ought to have known that the alleged victim was a protected person, the sentence for the battery not resulting in injuries is enhanced to a year.
If your conduct leads to injuries, the crime becomes a wobbler. A felony carries up to three years in jail.
The Relationship Between Simple Battery and Civil Cases
While most people understand battery as a crime, the alleged victim might also have a valid personal injury claim. If successful, the victim will be awarded compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress.
The plaintiff can still sue you for damages and win even if you haven't been found guilty during the trial. It's because a civil trial doesn't require proof beyond a reasonable doubt but a preponderance of evidence.
A preponderance of evidence is proof that shows that it is more likely than not that a fact is true. It's a lower standard of proof than clear and convincing evidence.
To be awarded damages, the plaintiff should verify that:
- The accused person touched the victim, intending to upset or injure them
- The victim didn't consent to the touching
- The defendant's conduct upset or hurt the plaintiff
- The touch would have offended a reasonable person in the accuser's situation
In this case, you can claim that you acted in defense of self or others.
How Your Criminal Defense Lawyer Prepare for Trial
You have probably seen in movies where the defense lawyer fights for their client in the court, giving an opening and closing statement, persuading the judge, and cross-examining witnesses. While the vibrant and confident courtroom presentation is undoubtedly crucial, lawyers who prevail at trial also thoroughly prepare before walking into the court. Here are the elements of your lawyer's trial preparation.
An effective defense is built upon understanding you and the alleged simple battery charge. Your lawyer could collect evidence through numerous methods, such as:
Collaborative and open communications with you to understand your criminal record and to ascertain your mental capacity, when and how the crime occurred, and your relationship with the alleged victim (With the attorney-client privilege, you can be assured that whatever you share with your attorney remains confidential)
The legal counsel can also conduct an independent investigation to collect new proof and verify the circumstances surrounding your case. It can include interviewing all witnesses to determine the credibility, identifying inconsistencies in the prosecutor's case, and visiting the crime scene.
Discovery process where your attorney obtains the prosecutor's evidence, including witness statements, police report, and charging document (The legal counsel will analyze the documents to assess the prosecutor's evidence and identify gaps that might help your lawyer prove police misconduct when gathering evidence)
Interpreting and Analyzing the Evidence Gathered
Your lawyer will also review the collected case facts. Then they will create a theory of defense that includes your side of the story and answer doubts and questions the prosecutor is likely to raise at the trial.
Your defense counsel should use a team approach when developing your theory of defense. It involves brainstorming and working with you, expert witnesses, and other lawyers.
What to Do If You're Falsely Accused of Simple Battery
If you have been accused of violating PC 242, you need to realize that this is a criminal offense, and you should not take it lightly. It would help if you did not think you could not be found guilty because you are innocent. Most innocent people get sentenced for offenses they did not commit. Therefore, you need to take essential steps to defend yourself, including:
Remain Calm and Don't Retaliate Against Your Accuser
Being accused of a crime can be emotional. Understandably, you might be angry and shocked that you are facing allegations for a crime you didn't commit. The best step to take is to remain calm and avoid confronting the alleged victim. Any contact you make with the victim might result in additional charges.
Don't Allow the Police Interrogate You Without a Defense Lawyer
When you are emotional, avoid speaking with the police. The officers might try asking you questions about the altercation and your relationship with the victim. Don't answer the questions without talking to a lawyer first. The police can use anything you say against you in court. Under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, you have a right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination.
It is essential to have your lawyer with you because your case might involve:
- Hostile witnesses and accusers
- Pleas of guilty to a lesser crime which might not be in your best interests
- Misleading or false evidence
- Interaction with the prosecutor to discuss any error in your charges
Conduct Pre-file Investigations
Pre-file investigations are when your lawyer investigates crime allegations before the prosecutor files the charges. The investigations aim at gathering evidence that is favorable to the suspect.
During the investigations, your lawyer will:
- Interview witnesses
- Find new witnesses and interview them
Gather information on the alleged victim to cast doubts on their credibility
After the investigations are done, your lawyer can go to the District Attorney and persuade them to either:
- Fill less severe charges
- Decide not to file any criminal charge
California Battery is a Misdemeanor, Will the Case Go to Trial?
The case can proceed to trial if you plead not guilty to the crime. U.S. citizens are entitled to a jury trial if they face an offense that attracts at least six months in jail.
Should your case go to trial, your case will go through the following stages:
- Jury selection
- Opening statement
- Presentation of proof
- Closing arguments
- Jury deliberations
Additionally, if the battery case proceeds to trial, you have specific constitutional rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, including:
- The right to legal representation (If you cannot afford to hire a private defense attorney, the court should appoint a public defender)
- The right against self-incrimination where you refuse to give testimony against yourself or answer questions
- The right to confront witnesses
- The right to a speedy trial
While the case might go to trial, it doesn't have to. You can avoid trial by:
- prevailing in a motion that dismisses your charges,
- entering into a plea deal, or
- pleading guilty to the crime.
Can You Help Your Lawyer with Your Defense?
You should understand that you and the lawyer are a team. There are numerous ways that you could assist the advocate in defending you. They include:
- Discuss your legal goals — After the lawyer has analyzed the case circumstances, they will identify the case's weaknesses and strengths and tell the possible outcome. It would help if you alerted the lawyer of your willingness to take the plea bargain offered by the prosecutor. They should also know whether you want to fight the charges and proceed to trial or not.
- Be honest — When your lawyer asks you questions, provide them with an honest answer. The answer could result in developing defenses even when you're guilty.
- Maintain constant communication with the lawyer— While you shouldn't contact the lawyer daily, you need to have a schedule for communicating with them about the case. Ensure you get in touch with them on these days. Also, provide the legal counsel with your correct address, email address, and phone number.
- Avoid posting anything about the criminal charges on social media.
- Comply with the lawyer's advice — You engaged the legal counsel because you believed that they could assist you to realize the best possible outcome. You can aid them in achieving the goal by adhering to their instructions. Failing to comply weakens the defense and affects their ability to represent you.
- Always be on time — You should arrive at the court on time. It avoids creating the wrong impression with the judge and prosecutor and inconveniencing the lawyer. Additionally, you should dress decently for the court proceedings.
Contact a Proficient Battery Defense Lawyer Near Me
When things get heated in a misunderstanding, a battery charge might not be far behind. Even when you did not begin the confrontation, the criminal charge can severely destroy your life. Consequences go beyond fines and incarceration to the inability to secure employment due to the violent crime on your criminal record. Consequently, you need a voice who can fight for your rights and freedom and work to realize the best possible case outcome. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we believe in your rights and can guide you throughout the judicial process. Let us speak for you.
Get a free case review by contacting us today at 619-877-6894.