What Does the Prosecution Have to Prove in an Assault Case?
Under California Penal Code Section 240, assault is a crime involving “an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.”
For the defendant to be convicted, the prosecution must demonstrate with evidence that they:
- Committed an act that by its nature would probably result in the application of force to someone else
- Committed the act willfully
- Were aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the act would directly and probably result in the application of force to the victim
- Had the present ability to apply force to that person
When people think of assault, they often imagine one person striking or hitting another, but assault does not actually require physical contact. For example, if two men are having an argument at a party and one of them attempts to punch the other, the attempt by itself, even if it didn’t land, would be enough to constitute an assault charge.
The act does not have to be violent, either. It could simply be an offensive touching.
Furthermore, the act can be indirectly aimed at the victim. An example would be a teenager throwing rocks at passing cars.
One of the trickiest elements of assault is intent. The crime does not actually require the defendant to intentionally attempt to injure the victim. Rather, in this context, the defendant must only be aware that their actions could result in the application of force to another person.
What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?
It’s a popular misconception that assault and battery are the same crime. The confusion likely stems from the fact that they are often charged together. In California, though, assault and battery are two different crimes. But they do share certain characteristics.
Battery is charged under California Penal Code 242, which defines the crime as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
The difference between assault and battery centers on the defendant’s use of force. For an assault charge, it does not matter whether the defendant’s attempt to hurt the victim was successful. A battery charge, on other hand, requires the application of physical force. The defendant must actually make contact with the victim.
If a man throws a punch and misses, he may only be charged with assault. If his punch lands, he may be charged with both assault and battery.
Assault and battery have similar penalties. A conviction for simple assault may result in a maximum 6-month jail sentence and a fine of up to $1,000. Simple battery carries the same jail sentence and a $2,000 fine. However, both crimes are wobbler offenses and may be charged as felonies if certain aggravating factors are present.
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Charges Related to Assault
Our Encino criminal defense law firm has successfully handled a wide range of assault cases involving charges of:
- Assault with a deadly weapon – California Penal Code 245
- Battery – California Penal Code 242
- Aggravated battery – California Penal Code 243(d)
- Domestic battery – California Penal Code 243(e)(1)
- Sexual battery – California Penal Code 243
- Battery on a police officer – California Penal Code 243(b) and 243(c)
Common Defenses to Assault and Battery Charges
Although prosecutors and law enforcement officers may act like they have a clear-cut case against you, there are many defenses to assault charges. For example:
- Self-defense: Your actions may have been justified if you had a reasonable fear of bodily harm.
- Protection of property: You may have been using force to protect your property.
- Accident: The entire incident may have been an accident, with no intent to apply force.
- Consent: If the accuser consented to the touching, this may be used as a defense.
An experienced Encino assault attorney can review all the evidence in your case and identify every avenue for fighting the charges against you.
Penalties for an Assault Conviction
The penalties for a conviction vary depending on the type of assault. For example:
- Simple assault: A jail sentence of up to 6 months and a maximum fine of $1,000
- Assault with a deadly weapon: A prison sentence of up to 4 years and a maximum fine of $10,000
- Assault on a public officer: A prison sentence of up to 3 years and a maximum fine of $10,000
- Assault with caustic chemicals: A prison sentence of up to 4 years and a maximum fine of $10,000