People often lump assault and battery together as though they are the same offense. However, California has intertwined but separate statutes for assault and battery.
Their definitions are located in the same section of the penal code that addresses crimes against a person in a chapter entitled “Assault and Battery.” However, the state defines the terms differently and imposes different penalties on these two different offenses.
What is assault in California?
California defines assault as the attempt to cause violent injury to another person. The person accused of assault will also need to have the ability to harm the other party. Unlike in some states where online threats constitute assault, there needs to be the immediate potential of physical harm for the state to qualify the situation as assault. Both words and actions intended to put someone in fear for their safety might lead to allegations of assault.
What is battery in California?
Battery is the actual physical violence enacted against another person. Someone who attempts to strike a worker at a sports bar but is unable to do so because staff members restrain them would face assault charges, while someone who actually punched another person would face battery charges. Battery can also involve the use of physical contact to offend another person.
Often, simple assault and battery offenses will be misdemeanor crimes. Someone accused of a misdemeanor assault offense could spend up to six months in state facilities and pay up to $1,000 in fines. The penalties for misdemeanor battery include up to $2,000 in fines and six months in county jail. However, California law does increase the severity of the charges and the possible penalties if battery results in severe injury, targets certain protected parties or involves a potentially deadly weapon.
Those who have been accused of assault and battery may have multiple viable defense strategies available to them, ranging from making a claim that they acted in self-defense to proving that they are the victim in a case of mistaken identity. Understanding the different terms used by the state to describe violent criminal offenses can help a defendant focus on the most viable defense strategy given their circumstances. A legal professional can help to bring much-needed clarity to a situation in which someone has been charged with assault, battery or both.