Simple battery involves touching someone in a harmful or offensive way. This includes what we think of traditionally as hitting, punching or kicking another person. However, it also includes minor touching, even if no harm is done, such as unwanted rubbing of someone's back. Battery can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges. A conviction can result in a criminal record, fines, and time in jail.
California Battery Charges
Under California Penal Code PC §243, battery is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
In order for the prosecutor to convict you of simple battery, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Willfully and unlawfully;
- Touched another;
- In a harmful or offensive manner.
Touching does not need to result in an injury. The slightest touching can be battery if it is done in an angry or offensive manner. Spitting on another person may also be considered battery.
Accidentally touching another is not intentional battery. For example, Jeremy may be walking along the sidewalk and come across Mark walking in the other direction. Jeremy trips on a crack in the sidewalk and stumbles, falling towards Mark. If Jeremy accidentally hits Mark while falling, this would not be considered battery because Jeremy did not willfully touch Mark.
Criminal Penalties for Battery
Under California Penal Code PC §243, battery is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 6 months. However, depending on the victim in a battery incident, the penalties can be much higher.
Battery Against a Police Officer
Battery against a peace officer has more severe penalties than simple battery. Battery against a peace officer in the course of performing their regular duties includes:
- Traffic Officers
- Animal Control
- Search and Rescue
If no injury occurs, battery against a peace officer is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and imprisonment of up to one year. However, if injury is inflicted, battery against a peace officer may be punishable by up to 3 years in prison.
Battery With Serious Bodily Injury
Battery does not require the victim to suffer an injury. However, when the victim does suffer a serious bodily injury, the penalties are increased. Battery committed against a person where serious bodily injury is inflicted is punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in prison.
Battery against a spouse, partner, or someone the defendant has a child with, or a current or former dating relationship is domestic battery. Domestic battery may also be known as domestic violence. Domestic battery is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine.
If probation is granted in domestic battery, the defendant has to complete a batterer's treatment program or other appropriate counseling program. In addition, the defendant may be required to make a payment to a battered women's shelter, reimburse the costs of counseling for the victim, and be subject to a restraining order.
Battery Against the Elderly
Under California Penal Code PC §243.25, when battery is committed against an elderly person or dependent adult, the offense is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and up to one year in jail.
Sexual battery is a serious offense. Under California Penal Code PC §243.4, any person who touches an intimate part of another person against their will, for sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse, is guilty of misdemeanor sexual battery. However, if sexual battery was accomplished while the other person was restrained, seriously disabled, or medically incapacitated, the offense may result in prison for up to 4 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
In addition to prison and fines, a conviction for sexual battery may result in required registration as a sex offender. Sex offender registration requires you to register with local authorities for life. Sex offenders must register with local police every year and every time they move, work with children, or attend college.
Defenses to Battery Charges
It is an affirmative defense to battery charges if the defendant was acting in self-defense or in defense of another. Acting in self-defense requires the defendant to reasonably believe that they or another person was in imminent danger of injury or harm.
By claiming self-defense, the defendant must respond with reasonable force. Escalating the violence may void the defendant's claim of self-defense or defense of another. For example, if Alan is about to slap Sophie for laughing at him, her friend Jeff may knock Alan's hand away. However, it would not generally be considered defense of another if Jeff hit Alan in the head with a brick.
However, offensive or provocative words cannot justify battery. No matter how offensive or provocative, words alone will not act as a defense to battery charges. Self-defense or defense of another generally requires the individual to be acting in a threatening manner or attempting to inflict injury.
For convictions against the elderly, dependent adults, or peace officers, the defendant reasonably should know the status of their victim.
For example, Hans and Andy are two strangers who get into a fight in a bar. Hans punches Andy for insulting him. Andy reveals says Hans should not have punched him because Andy is a lifeguard. Hans may be charged with battery, but not battery against a peace officer. Hans did not know Andy was a lifeguard and Andy was not acting in the course of his lifeguard duties.
Experienced Criminal Attorney Representation:
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience in the East Bay. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping their record clean. You don't have to plead guilty just because you were arrested. Contact Gorelick Law Offices today.