If you have been arrested for battery, you need to know your rights as soon as possible. At Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin, we will explain the criminal charges to you in a way you understand. We will also review various defense options and their long-term and short-term consequences. For many years, our lawyers have developed a solid legal defense across Beverly Hills and Los Angeles County for misdemeanor and felony battery cases. This is because we are dedicated and care about our client’s case, life, career, family, and future.
What is the Legal Definition of Battery?
Under California Penal Code section 242 PC, battery is an offense that involves any form of illegal and intentionally physical contact on somebody else. It is often discussed in relation to assault (Penal Code 240 PC). However, they are two different offenses based on specific elements.
Below are three elements of the crime that the prosecution team must prove to convict you of violating California battery laws:
You touched another person,
In an offensive or harmful manner.
To have a better understanding of the meaning of battery, here is a brief overview of key terms:
Touched another person
Under the law, battery only requires the defendant to make contact with someone else. Moreover, you don't have to cause an injury to them. Even the slightest touch is considered battery. Furthermore, battery happens even when the touching was through the alleged victim's clothing or indirectly using an object.
Moreover, the law holds that you could be charged with unpleasant touching of anything intimately associated with the victim's body that isn't their body part. A perfect example could be forcefully hitting an object on the victim's hand.
Willfully means the defendant acted on purpose or willingly. It doesn't necessarily mean the defendant intended to violate the law, gain an advantage, or hurt the victim. In short, the defendant doesn't require to have purposed to commit the offense to be convicted of battery. All they need to do is intend to make a motion that could lead to the battery.
For Example, Rita and Ann are sisters. They begin to argue while cooking together at home, and they both get angry. Rita picks up a knife, throws it and it accidentally injures Ann on the face. Rita didn't plan to hurt her sister with the knife. She, however, intended to throw it; an action that resulted in an injury.
In an offensive or harmful way
Touching can only be considered a violation of battery law if it's done in an offensive or harmful manner. That means a touching that can be considered to be rude, angry, violent, or disrespectful.
Under Penal Code 242 PC, a simple battery that doesn't result in a severe injury and does not involve a protected person or a police officer is a California misdemeanor. It is punishable by:
A maximum of six months in jail, and
A maximum fine of $2,000.
How Battery is Different from Assault
Under the Penal Code section 240 PC, assault is the causing of bodily injury by applying force or violence against another person or the intention to commit what California defines as battery. For instance, if you are arguing with another person and you try to hit the person but miss that is considered an assault because there is no actual contact.
Battery, on the other hand, is the application of violence or force. While many may imagine it involves severe beatings, it does not always need actual injuries. For instance, if someone is standing in a queue at a grocery store, then you cut in front of them and push them away.
Like a battery, an assault has varying degrees. Charges are severe if they lead to severe body injuries.
How to Fight Penal Code 242 PC Charges
The most effective way to beat battery charges is to hire a competent lawyer experienced in battery law. This is because the lawyer will assert legal defenses such as:
You responded in defense of self or another person
This legal defense applies to battery charges when all the following elements are correct:
The defendant believed that they or another person was in danger of being touched illegally or sustaining bodily hurt,
The defendant thought that the application of violence or force was essential to protect against the threat, and
The defendant used less force/ violence than was needed to protect against the danger
However, it is worth noting that words alone, regardless of how offensive cannot justify battery. Your criminal defense lawyer can only use this defense if you thought that you were at risk of physical injury or illegal touching.
You didn't act willfully
Like mentioned earlier, even if you didn't plan to injure another person, you require to have acted willfully to be charged with battery. Therefore, if the offense was an accident, you could use the accident as a defense.
Generally, the law will excuse your conduct if:
You had no criminal intent to cause harm
You weren't acting negligently
You were engaged in a legitimate act when the accident occurred
Parental Responsibility to Discipline/Correct a Child
Sometimes a battery charge is filed against a parent in relation to child abuse (California Penal Code section 273 (d)). More often than not, in a battery case involving a parent's action against their child, the battery is a legal effort to discipline their child. Just like a child abuse charge, your lawyer could argue that your actions were within your legal responsibility to discipline the child. A parent is permitted to apply physical force when disciplining their child provided the force used is not excessive and is reasonable.
Charges Related to Battery
Battery Causing Severe Bodily Injury (California Penal Code Section 243 (d) PC)
If a defendant commits the offense in question and inflicts a severe injury/harm on the alleged victim, then they risk facing more severe penalties under California Penal Code section 243 (d) PC.
Severe bodily harm or injury can be defined as any severe impairment of the victim’s physical condition. It is not a must that the alleged victim seeks medical attention for their injury. The degree of harm varies because it is fact specific. Common types of severe bodily hurt include broken bones, shootings, stabbings, shootings, disfigurement, unconsciousness, concussion, impaired organ function, and wounds that require extensive suturing.
Also referred to as aggravated battery, battery causing serious bodily harm is a California wobbler. If charged as a California misdemeanor, you could face a one-year sentence in county jail. If charged with a felony, you could serve a two, three or four-year sentence in prison.
Battery on a Protected Individual
Under California Penal Code 243(c) and 243(b), battery committed against a protected class of person carry harsher penalties. These individuals include:
Law enforcement officials,
Animal control official,
Traffic officer, and
A medical practitioner offering emergency medical attention.
If the prosecutor proves that the defendant knew that they were committing the offense in question against a protected person, then their sentence for not inflicting an injury is a maximum of one year in jail.
Also, in case you cause an injury to the protected individual, then the offense is considered a wobbler. It is punishable by a felony jail term of sixteen, two or three years.
Under domestic battery law (California Penal Section Code 243(e) (1), the domestic battery can be defined as an illegal and willful touching that is offensive or harmful. It's committed against:
The accused's spouse or ex,
The accused's former cohabitant or current cohabitant,
An individual with whom the accused is or was in a romantic relationship,
The accused's former fiancé (e) or current fiancé (e), or
The mother or father of the accused's child.
You could be convicted with domestic battery (also referred to as spousal battery), even though the alleged victim did not suffer any injury. All that is needed is that you applied violence or force against the victim.
Domestic battery is considered a misdemeanor. It carries potential penalties such as:
A maximum of one year sentence in county jail,
A maximum of $ 2,000 in fines, and
It's common for persons convicted of this offense to receive a suspended sentence or probation. If this takes place, you should attend a batterer's treatment program for a year. Besides that, the judge may order that instead of paying the two thousand dollars, you pay:
A maximum of $5000 to a battered woman's shelter, and
Any costs that the alleged victim incurred due to the offense, such as counseling expenses.
Finally, a non-citizen defendant could face deportation.
Sexual Battery (Penal Code 243.4 PC)
Unlike other forms of battery, sexual battery entails touching of an intimate body part of somebody else for abuse, arousal or sexual gratification.
Depending on the circumstances of the case, this offense can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. For instance, you could be charged with a California felony if the alleged victim was a renowned person or was illegally restrained.
A misdemeanor charge attracts a sentence in a county jail for six months to one year. Felony, on the other hand, is punishable by a two, three, or four-year sentence in California prison.
Moreover, a conviction (both felony and misdemeanor) subjects a defendant to a sex offender registration requirement.
Elder Abuse (California Penal Code section 368 PC)
Under the law, it is illegal to negligently or willfully cause unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain to a person above 65 years of age. Elder abuse is a California wobbler. If charged as a felony, it carries a potential two, three or four-year sentence in state prison and a maximum fine of $6,000.
Civil Cases for Battery
Battery victims have a right to file a lawsuit against the defendant for compensation of lost income and medical expenses. It's worth noting that even a person who has not been found guilty in a criminal trial can be prosecuted for loss and damage. Civil lawsuits don't need proof beyond any reasonable doubt. All the plaintiff needs in order to prove the offense is by a preponderance of evidence. That means it’s most likely the perpetrator battered the victim. To present proof for battery responsibility, the plaintiff should prove that:
The accused touched the alleged victim intending to offend or injure the plaintiff,
The victim didn't consent to the illegal touching,
The victim was offended or hurt by the accused's behavior, and
The unlawful touching would have hurt a reasonable individual in the alleged victim's status quo.
Frequently Asked Questions
How are Minors Charged With Battery?
Any person below 18 years of age is considered a minor in California. However, that does not exempt them from legal punishment after committing a battery.
Instead of facing an adult court, you will attend a juvenile court. Nonetheless, there are cases when you could be tried as an adult. This happens when the defendant is 14 years and above and commits a battery with a firearm.
Penalties can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending mainly on the seriousness of the injuries. The battery becomes a felony conviction if the victim was a protected individual or involved a weapon. If the battery was committed at a park or school, you could be sentenced, fined, and ordered to attend mandatory counseling sessions.
Why Should You Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
Being charged with battery puts you at the risk of having a criminal record, jail time, and loss of future job opportunities. While you can handle a battery charge alone, an arrest warrants legal advice of a competent attorney who will ensure you get the best outcome as possible for your case. Your lawyer will also assist you in understanding the nature of the charges pressed against you, available legal defenses, plea bargains likely to be offered, and what happens after a conviction.
Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Being charged with battery can be scary. At Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin, we can assure you that your case will be handled with the urgency it deserves. Our criminal defense lawyers are ready to evaluate your case and develop a defense that gives the best outcome possible.
No lawyer can promise a given outcome. Nevertheless, with many years in the practice of criminal law in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles County, we have realized many successful results. Call our Los Angeles criminal lawyer today at 310-273-9600. Our lawyers will be glad to protect your rights and advise you accordingly.