Call Us 24/7 Text Us

Legal Defenses Against Charges of Assault in California

Legal Defenses Against Charges of Assault in California

Legal Defenses Against Charges of Assault in California

You've been accused of assault in California, which can have consequences if you're convicted. But don't lose hope. You have rights. There are defenses available to fight these charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

Therefore, the state bears the burden of proving guilt that offers no other explanation. If a viable defense raises doubt, it can lead to dropped charges or an acquittal. Discuss options for your case with a California criminal defense attorney immediately.

Understanding Assault Charges in California

In California, assault charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies. To fully comprehend your rights, it's essential to understand the details of the accusations against you.

So, what exactly constitutes assault?

Assault involves causing another person fear of immediate bodily harm. A court would likely consider actions such as threats, menacing gestures, and harassment forms of assault.

Battery refers to causing harm to another person. This includes inflicting injury and using force or violence. Therefore, battery complements assault if the threat is carried through.

Defining Simple Assault

This basic form of assault happens when a perpetrator does anything that involves applying some form of force toward another person. You were not defending yourself or another person.

The definition of simple assault is defined under California Penal Code (CPC) Section 240. This crime, which is a misdemeanor, may result in a fine of $1,000 and/or six months in a county jail.

A simple assault comes with no legal excuse. Instead, the offender willingly commits the action.

Let’s look at an example.

Two football players are playing the game, with one of the players ready to tackle the other player. However, during the game, the gameplay is stopped. However, player A still tackles player B and injures him.

In this scenario, player A is guilty of assault, as he did not have a legal reason to commit the act. Therefore, he was obligated not to use force and should have refrained from lunging at the other player or player B.

Assault Defenses: A Basic Overview

Lawyers may use several common defenses against assault.

You were defending yourself or another person

Defendant A is drinking at a bar when he notices that Victim B is harassing another customer. Defendant A asks that Victim B leave the customer alone. However, Victim B refuses to listen. Defendant A raises their fists, threatening to punch Victim B. Victim B looks for a police officer to arrest Defendant A for assault.

Because the defendant did not use any more force than necessary and was defending someone because of the other party’s unwanted behavior, they should be acquitted.

Proving Self-Defense in an Assault Case

Self-defense can be considered a defense against assault charges in California.

To claim self-defense, you need to establish the following elements;

  • You had a belief that you or someone else was in danger of physical harm or unlawful contact, and
  • The force you used was not excessive. Instead, it was reasonably necessary to protect against that danger.

For instance, if someone threatens you with a weapon and you respond by disarming them, a court would likely consider that self-defense. However, if you continue to attack them after disarming them, that would go beyond reasonable force. Your action no longer qualifies as self-defense.

If you want to prove your actions were in self-defense, it’s essential to gather witnesses and any evidence of the threat against you. Obtain statements from witnesses as soon as possible while their recollection is still fresh.

legal defenses in california Law

Take photos of any injuries or damage caused. Seek medical attention promptly. Obtain documentation of your injuries. All these pieces of evidence can help demonstrate that there was a threat and your response was necessary for self-protection.

You can also argue a defense of defending another party if you used force to protect someone from harm. The same principles apply. You must have reasonably believed that defending the person was immediately necessary to prevent unwanted force.

You did not have the present ability to use force

In this scenario, if you show your fist at someone standing across the street and they have you arrested for assault, you should legally be acquitted.

While you don’t have a legal excuse for the gesture, you’re too far away for anyone to reasonably assume that you have the present ability to use force.

You did not act willfully or with intent

Let’s say that you’re riding a bicycle in a bicycle race. Another cyclist runs you off the course, and you barely miss striking a spectator. However, because the spectator was afraid you’d hit her, she had you arrested for assault. You’d be acquitted in this case, as you were run off the road and did not act willfully.

So, when facing charges of assault as a defendant, one of the defenses you can employ is claiming lack of intent. In order for an assault charge to hold, the prosecution must convincingly prove that you intended to cause harm to the victim. However, if you can demonstrate that any damage inflicted was unintentional, it may lead to a dismissal of the assault charges.

Establishing a Lack of Intent or Showing You Did Not Act Willfully

To establish a lack of intent, it becomes essential to present evidence that indicates that your actions were either accidental or not willful. Therefore, a criminal defense attorney might show that you lacked awareness of your actions - that you did not realize they posed harm to someone else. In these cases, you may have acted recklessly or did not comprehend the consequences of your behavior.

To support the defense of lacking intent, it's important to gather any evidence that can help demonstrate your state of mind and motives during the alleged assault. This might include obtaining statements from eyewitnesses, collecting photos/videos of the incident, and arranging for expert witnesses to testify during your trial.

The accusation is false, or you were not the perpetrator

Sometimes, a breakup goes poorly. Therefore, one of the parties may try to get revenge by making a false allegation.

Proving a false allegation or mistaken identity

When facing assault charges, false accusations and mistaken identity may be used as defenses. If you believe that you have been wrongly accused or mistakenly identified as the perpetrator, it's essential to take the steps needed to challenge these charges.

For an identity defense, you’ll need to prove where you were at the time of the crime or have an alibi showing what you were doing during the alleged event. You can obtain video footage to show that you’re not the person depicted by the surveillance cam.

In some cases, your lawyer may show that the accuser has a motive to lie. They may have a grudge against you or a history of dishonesty. Gathering evidence that demonstrates their lack of credibility, including statements from individuals who can vouch for their character, can be beneficial.

Also, scrutinizing inconsistencies in their story, which casts doubt on their claims, may help strengthen your assault defense.

Mental incapacity led to the assault

Mental incapacity pertains to circumstances such as insanity, intoxication, epilepsy, or dementia that hinder one’s ability to comprehend their actions or control their behavior.

If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the assault or have received a diagnosis of a health condition that impairs your judgment, your lawyer can argue that you lacked the necessary mental state to commit an assault.

For defenses based on insanity or diminished capacity, establishing the defendant’s condition will necessitate collecting medical records, evaluations by doctors, and testimony from witnesses.

Employing an intoxication defense

To employ an intoxication defense, evidence will be required to show your BAC (blood alcohol content) level during the incident. In California, the legal threshold for intoxication is 0.08 percent.

Lower levels of impairment may support this defense as well. Your criminal defense attorney will assess factors like what and how much you consumed, the sequence of events, and witness testimonies to build a compelling defense.

Breaking Down the Various Forms of Assault: A More In-depth View

While CPC §240 covers simple assault, other offenses under California law also relate to the charge of assault. These offenses include the following:

  1. Battery (CPC § 242). While assault refers to causing someone to reasonably fear imminent harm, battery refers to physically hurting someone. A battery conviction may lead to six months in prison and up to a $1,000 fine. Even if you slightly touch someone, and do so with anger, you can be charged. You don’t have to cause any injury or pain.
  2. Assault with a deadly weapon (CPC § 245(a)(1). This form of assault happens when the perpetrator assaults another person with a weapon other than a firearm or does so with great bodily injury.
    While you may get convicted for wielding a baseball bat, you may get acquitted if you struck someone with a wiffle ball bat - a weapon that is not considered inherently deadly.
    This form of assault may be tried as a wobbler crime - a felony or misdemeanor. Therefore, your lawyer can plead down a felony charge to a misdemeanor.
    Punishment may include imprisonment of up to 4 years and/or a $10,000 fine.
  3. Disturbing the peace (CPC § 415). Disturbing the peace includes fighting in public or attempting to fight in a public place. Offenders may be charged if they intentionally disturb another person with unreasonable noise, or use profanity or offensive language to provoke violence. If you’re charged with the offense, you may have to spend 90 days in the country jail/and or pay a $400 fine.
  4. Assault on a public officer (CPC § 217.1(a). Assault of a public officer ranges from jurors and their families to the President of the U.S. You may be charged with a misdemeanor or felony, making the charge a wobbler.
    You can spend up to 3 years incarcerated and/or pay a fine of up to $10,000. Retaliation or preventing an officer from performing their duties may count toward the charge.
  5. Assault with caustic chemicals (CPC § 244). If you maliciously and willfully throw or place, or cause the throwing or placing, of a caustic substance, you’re guilty of this crime.
    Caustic chemicals include substances that are corrosive or flammable. When this type of substance is used to injure a person’s flesh or disfigure a person’s body, the perpetrator is subject to this form of assault.
    According to California law, a flammable substance is a petroleum product, gasoline, or other liquid with a flash point of 150 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Because this type of chemical can be used to attack someone, it is defined as a form of assault.
    The felony crime may carry four years of imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine.
  6. Throwing a dangerous object at a vehicle (California Vehicle Code [CVC § 23110(b)). This form of assault involves maliciously or willfully throwing or projecting a brick, bottle, rock, metal object, or other missile at a vehicle. This object can do great bodily harm.
    This felony conviction can lead to 3 years in a state prison and/or a $10,000 fine.

Expanding on the Charge of Assault: How It Can Escalate

Simple assault may expand to aggravated assault, violence, or sexual assault. Below are examples of how assault may escalate.

  1. Simple assault. Again, simple assault basically means to issue a threat with the intent to commit violence on someone willingly.
  2. Aggravated assault. Assault becomes a more serious offense if the perpetrator uses a weapon or additional force - meant to cause serious bodily harm.
  3. Domestic violence. Assaulting a cohabitant or spouse. Or someone with whom you share a child can turn into a domestic violence case.
  4. Sexual assault. Coercively engaging in sexual acts with another person is an example of sexual assault.

The specific charges filed against you will determine your defense options. Again, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed assault according to California’s penal code definitions.

To build your defense and fight the charges, you’ll need to consult with a criminal defense attorney who focuses on assault cases.

Talk to a California Criminal Defense Attorney to Learn More About Your Rights Today

If you’re facing an assault charge, speak to a Criminal, DUI, & License Defense attorney immediately. Learn more about your rights and how they can defend your case. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can resolve your case and move forward more confidently.

Contact Us Now

Call 844 325-1444 or complete this form. Most form responses within 5-10 minutes during the day and 15-30 minutes during evenings.

100% Secure & Confidential