Battery only requires touching someone in a harmful or offensive way. Even if the victim is not injured, they can still claim to be battered. However, if the victim does suffer a serious injury, the penalties can be much harsher. Battery with serious bodily injury can be charged as a felony. The police or prosecutor may try and allege aggravated battery as a way to get the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser offense. Before you plead guilty to any charges, make sure you have a chance to talk to your lawyer about your rights.
Aggravated Battery Charges in California
Under California Penal Code PC §243, battery is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
Battery with Serious Bodily Injury Under PC 243(d)
Under California Penal Code PC §243(d), when serious bodily injury is inflicted on the person, the battery is punishable by imprisonment for up to 4 years. The penalties depend on whether the battery is charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. As a misdemeanor, the maximum penalties include up to a year in prison. However, as a felony, battery can be punished by imprisonment for 2, 3, or 4 years.
Elements of Serious Injury Battery
In order for a judge or jury to find someone guilty of battery with serious bodily injury, the prosecutor has to prove all elements of the offense. If the defendant can challenge even one element, then the prosecutor has not met the burden of proof and the defendant should be found not guilty. California jury instructions for battery include the following elements:
- The defendant willfully and unlawfully touched the victim in a harmful or offensive manner;
- The victim suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the force used; and
- The defendant did not act in self-defense or in defense of someone else, or while reasonably disciplining a child.
When battery involves serious bodily injury, it may be considered aggravated battery, with increased penalties. Serious bodily injury means a serious impairment of physical condition, which may include:
- Loss of consciousness;
- Bone fracture;
- Protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ;
- A wound requiring extensive suturing; and
- Serious disfigurement.
Serious bodily injury does not require permanent damage. Even a broken finger, temporary loss of consciousness, or small cut may be enough to be considered serious bodily injury.
Defenses to Aggravated Battery Charges
There are a number of legal defenses available to someone charged with battery. Battery charges could have been made up and there was no injury or assault. This can happen in domestic disputes where one person makes up assault charges to get back at someone in a custody battle or after a break-up. Talk to your attorney about how to gather evidence to show the alleged victim made up allegations of battery.
Self-Defense to Battery Charges
Self-defense is a type of affirmative defense to criminal charges. An affirmative defense generally means that even if you assaulted someone, it was justified and is not a crime under the circumstances. Self-defense or defense of others can be a defense to aggravated battery charges.
A defendant acts in lawful self-defense if:
- The defendant reasonably believed that he or she was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched unlawfully;
- The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; and
- The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.
For example, Ryan and Ashley are in a domestic dispute. Ryan picks up a glass to throw at Ashley. Ashely pushes Ryan back and Ryan suffers a broken arm when falling to the ground. Even if Ashley may have battered Ryan, Ashley may have a legal defense if Ashley believed they were in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury, pushing Ryan was necessary for defense, and the push was not considered to be more than necessary for defense.
Accidental Injury Defense
Battery is known as an intentional crime. The defendant has to intentionally cause the injury for it to be a crime. An accidental injury is generally not considered battery. Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.
For example, if the defendant was drunk and stumbled into the victim, the defendant may have touched the victim and caused serious bodily harm, but the defendant was not acting willfully.
Battery Defense Lawyer in Alameda and Contra Costa
East Bay criminal defense attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of defense experience and understands how to approach each case for the greatest chance for success. Representing individuals in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.