Assault and battery are serious criminal offenses. If you receive a conviction of an assault and battery charge, you might face life-changing penalties, even if the alleged incident did not involve physical touching or injury. One of the first things you should do after incurring a criminal charge is to speak with a knowledgeable criminal assault and battery lawyer as soon as possible.
You need experienced legal representation in your case from the beginning to the end. A lawyer can work to safeguard your constitutional and legal rights while your case is pending. Moreover, your lawyer can be present with you in court and advocate one or more strong legal defenses for you. If the defense succeeds, it can result in a complete dismissal of your criminal charge.
If you ultimately sustain a conviction for assault or battery, your lawyer can represent you at your sentencing hearing before a judge and work to obtain a fair penalty on your behalf.
- What Is a Criminal Battery?
- How Is Criminal Assault Different From Battery?
- The Prosecutor's Legal Burden in a Criminal Assault and Battery Case
- What Are the Potential Penalties for a Conviction of Assault and Battery?
- What Are the Collateral Consequences of an Assault and Battery Conviction?
- What Are the Potential Legal Defenses to a Charge of Criminal Assault and Battery?
- What Happens at a Criminal Trial?
- Speak With a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney Today
What Is a Criminal Battery?
The criminal battery has a very specific definition under the California criminal code. An individual can face criminal battery charges for any unlawful and willful use of violence or force upon someone else’s person.
For a person to sustain a battery conviction, physical contact must take place. However, the touching does not necessarily need to be to a person’s body. For example, if the accused individual touches an extension of the alleged victim’s body—such as an article of clothing—in a harmful or offensive way, they may have committed a criminal battery.
To harm or offend someone, the touch must cause a reasonable person some degree of disrespect or harm. The charge also requires willfulness on the accused individual’s part.
A simple battery offense is a misdemeanor charge. You can face this charge even if the alleged victim suffered no pain or physical injuries during the incident. However, if the alleged battery does produce a significant injury, you can face criminal charges for battery causing serious bodily injury. Upon conviction, you may incur higher penalties than a conviction for simple battery.
How Is Criminal Assault Different From Battery?
Although the phrase criminal assault and battery is relatively common, California law recognizes assault and battery as two separate offenses. For a battery to occur, physical touching to the alleged victim’s person—or an extension of their person—must occur. However, an assault does not require actual physical touching.
Assault is an attempt to use violence or force against another person. Battery, on the other hand, involves some amount of actual physical force.
The Prosecutor's Legal Burden in a Criminal Assault and Battery Case
In a criminal case that involves assault and battery charges, the state prosecutor has to satisfy their legal burden, beyond a reasonable doubt, to attain a conviction against the accused individual. If the state prosecutor fails to satisfy even one legal element of the criminal charge, they should not sustain a conviction. Consequently, the assault charge, battery charge, or both may be subject to a complete dismissal at trial.
The legal burden of proof in a criminal assault and battery case rests entirely with the state prosecutor. A criminal defendant, or the individual facing the assault or battery charge, does not need to prove anything in the case or even take the witness stand. Fifth Amendment protections safeguard an individual’s right against self-incrimination in a criminal matter.
If you currently face criminal charges for battery, assault, or both, you should have a criminal defense attorney representing you at every stage of the case. Your attorney can determine if you can raise a legal defense in response to the state prosecutor’s charge. If so, your lawyer can advocate that defense on your behalf at your courtroom trial and work to obtain a complete dismissal of your criminal assault and battery case.
What Are the Potential Penalties for a Conviction of Assault and Battery?
If you are ultimately convicted of a criminal assault and battery charge in California, you can face misdemeanor penalties. For example, if the state prosecutor satisfies their legal burden of proof, a judge can sentence you to a maximum monetary fine of $1000 for each offense, six months of incarceration in a county jail, or both. Even penalties for a misdemeanor conviction can affect many aspects of your life for years to come.
Moreover, if you face accusations of committing criminal battery on a firefighter, police officer, EMT, or another public servant, you can face criminal charges for battery on a peace/police officer. Because this particular charge is a wobbler offense in California, a prosecutor may charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If you ultimately sustain a conviction on the charge, a judge can sentence you to the appropriate felony penalties.
What Are the Collateral Consequences of an Assault and Battery Conviction?
In addition to incurring one or more of these legal penalties for assault and battery, an offender may also experience numerous collateral consequences upon conviction. Collateral consequences are life consequences that can affect every aspect of the accused individual’s life and well-being.
First, if the accused individual goes to apply for admission to an educational institution, such as a trade school, university, or college, they may not gain admission to the school of their choice. If the educational institution performs a criminal background check and finds an assault and battery conviction on the accused individual’s record, the institution may not admit them.
Similar consequences may result when an accused offender goes to apply for a job. Despite state laws limiting a company’s ability to conduct a criminal background check on job applicants, having an assault or battery conviction can render you ineligible for certain jobs or careers. For example, many employers in caretaking fields cannot - or will not - hire individuals with this type of criminal history. This might include childcare, teaching, healthcare, and similar work.
A conviction for the assault and battery may also result in a criminal court judge issuing a protective order against you. The purpose of a protective order is to prevent the accused individual from contacting the alleged victim by any means, in person or electronically.
Therefore, the protective order will prohibit the accused from going to the alleged victim’s home or place of business—or contacting them via email, cell phone, or any other electronic means. Moreover, under the terms of a temporary or final protective order, you might not have permission to contact or spend time with your minor children.
If the state issues charges of criminal assault and battery against you, always get skilled legal representation in your corner as early on in your case as possible. Choose a criminal defense attorney who can represent you at your sentencing hearing and work to minimize—or even eliminate—the legal penalties and collateral consequences you face. Your lawyer can argue on your behalf during your sentencing hearing and fight for a fair and reasonable penalty in court on your behalf.
What Are the Potential Legal Defenses to a Charge of Criminal Assault and Battery?
In response to a criminal charge of assault and battery, you might raise one or more legal defenses in court. The legal defenses you might argue will depend on the circumstances surrounding your charge and other factors.
First, to sustain a conviction for criminal assault and battery, you must have acted willfully and intentionally. Your lawyer might argue that those elements were not present in your case.
Next, your attorney may assert that you acted in self-defense. For self-defense to be a viable legal defense lawyer in your assault and battery case, you must not ordinarily have been the initial aggressor during the incident. Moreover, you must have used only a proportionate amount of force when you acted in self-defense. In other words, you must not have used more force than what the other individual used against you.
Likewise, you might assert that you were somewhere else at the time the alleged assault and battery incident occurred. This defense is sometimes called an “alibi.” In addition, you might argue that a witness mistakenly identified you as the assailant in the case.
Next, you may be in a position to argue that one or more constitutional violations took place. For example, if a police officer arrested you and took you into custody, they should have read you the necessary Miranda warnings.
If you exercised your legal right to the presence of counsel during questioning, the police officer should have stopped their questioning under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. If they continued to question you and you said something incriminating, that incriminating statement may be subject to suppression at a criminal court trial.
Finally, if you are facing a criminal charge for battery on your child, you might allege that you were exercising your legal parental rights and disciplining your child in an ordinary manner under the circumstances.
A criminal defense attorney can help you decide which of these defenses you may legally assert at your criminal court trial. If one or more of these defenses work to negate the elements of your charge, you may be found “not guilty,” allowing the court to dismiss your criminal charge in its entirety.
What Happens at a Criminal Trial?
During a criminal court trial for assault and battery, the state prosecutor handling your case will introduce evidence in an attempt to obtain a conviction against you. In response, your lawyer can argue one or more legal defenses in support of your version of events. Both parties can call witnesses to the witness stand and ask them questions on direct and cross-examination.
As an alternative to a bench or jury trial, the state prosecutor might be willing to put a plea deal on the table. As part of a plea deal arrangement, the accused individual must ordinarily plead guilty to a charge in exchange for a charge reduction or a term of probation. For example, the state prosecutor might be willing to reduce the pending charge from a felony down to a misdemeanor or offer the accused a term of supervised probation in exchange for a guilty plea.
Before pleading guilty to an assault and battery charge, it is important to be aware that you will be giving up certain legal and constitutional rights, including your right of appeal and your right to a trial by a jury of your peers. A criminal defense lawyer can counsel you on whether it is advisable to accept a plea deal or take your case to trial, given the facts and circumstances surrounding your case.
Prosecutors typically offer plea deals when they have flimsy evidence or do not believe they can sustain a conviction against you. However, if you have a strong legal defense to your charge, you may be better off taking your case to a criminal jury trial and pursuing a “not guilty” verdict.
Speak With a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you’re facing criminal assault and battery charges, you must retain a skilled criminal defense law firm's attorney in California to represent you as quickly as possible.
The longer you wait, the harder it may be for you to obtain a qualified lawyer to handle your case. Moreover, if the trial date arrives and you show up to court without legal representation, the presiding judge is not required to postpone your court date. Instead, the judge might make you defend yourself without having a lawyer present. This is almost certainly a recipe for disaster.
A skilled criminal defense lawyer can handle your case from beginning to end and represent you at all criminal court hearings, including your trial. Your lawyer can also negotiate with the state prosecutor in your case and work with them to secure a favorable plea deal on your behalf.
Always take an assault charge seriously and seek the defense representation you need immediately following an arrest.