Assault vs. Battery – What are the Differences in California?

Two young women arguing

Although most people use assault and battery as terms together, they are two different crimes in California. Assault falls under California Penal Code 240PC, and battery falls under Penal Code 242PC. 

The differences between assault and battery are what the end result of the action looks like: did the alleged assailant go through with their attempt or did it fail?

What is Simple Assault?

The California Penal Code defines assault as “an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” The main difference between assault and battery is that with assault, you do not complete the violent action. 

For example, if you and your friends are playing around and you throw a punch at someone that misses, you can be charged with assault. Although you did not hit the person, you could have injured them if your hit had connected.

The California assault laws are very strict; you can be charged with assault for something that you didn’t think was violent. The only thing that matters is that the other person did not like it, and you had the capacity to injure them.

Assaults are usually charged as misdemeanors, which means up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

There are notable exceptions to this. If you commit an assault against a peace officer, such as a police officer, emergency worker, traffic officer, or even lifeguard, you could find yourself facing a much stiffer penalty. 

What is Aggravated Assault?

California also allows for felony assault. Assault with a deadly weapon such as a knife or gun can count as a felony. Felony assault usually results when you have the potential to cause great bodily injury as a result of your actions.

Spitting at someone, for instance, would not be a felony because the damage you could cause would be negligible. Throwing rocks at someone might be a felony because you have the potential to cause greater damage and harm.

Many assault cases are known as “wobblers.” This means the prosecution decides whether to file misdemeanor or felony charges. 

If you are charged with assault, you need an experienced attorney who can get your charges reduced or dismissed. Assaults show up on your record as a violent offense, which can affect your life and your job prospects for the future. Contact our offices at (858) 922-7098 or use our online form for a free consultation. 

What Are the Differences Between Assault and Battery?

In assault vs. battery in California, the difference between assault and battery is that with battery you complete the violent action. Like assault, battery can be a misdemeanor or a felony. The definition of battery is vague and you can be charged even if the person is not technically injured. 

What is Simple Battery?

California defines battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”

You can be charged with battery if you touch a person in a way they find violent, rude, angry, or disrespectful, even if they are not physically injured. All that is required is that you meant to touch them and they found it harmful. 

For example, if you grab someone’s arm, you can be charged with battery because you touched them. If you even spit on someone intentionally while expressing your anger or frustration, you can be charged with battery if your spit lands on them. 

If this sounds like almost anything can be battery, you are correct. The charge depends upon how the other person feels about your action. Again, any battery convictions go on your record, so if you are charged with even simple battery, you need the experience of a California attorney like Michael MacNeil who specializes in criminal cases and will put up the strongest defense possible for you. 

Similar to assault, battery in California upon peace officers carries higher penalties. These penalties also apply to spousal and elder battery, as well as battery committed on hospital, park, or school grounds. 

What is Felony Battery?

Felony battery, also known as aggravated battery, is anything that results in serious bodily injury. Take our example of grabbing someone’s arm. If you grab their arm and in getting away, their arm is broken, you can be charged with felony battery in California. 

Assault with a deadly weapon, such as a knife or gun, can also be charged as felony battery. 

Battery is also a “wobbler,” so the prosecutor chooses whether to file charges as a misdemeanor or a felony. Your criminal defense attorney will work for you to help the “wobbler” go your way and possibly get the charges dismissed. There are several very good defenses for assault and battery charges, even given the difference between these crimes, and our experience in these types of cases ensures you the best chance of a positive outcome. 

One important thing to note is that felony battery is a 3-strike crime in California. So if you have 2 strikes, you want to avoid a felony battery charge at all costs. 

The Most Important Thing to Know About Assault vs. Battery in California

The difference between assault and battery is intention and completion of the action. Both crimes may be felonies or misdemeanors, depending on the prosecution’s decision. You need a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of California law and can provide you with the best defense if you are charged with assault or battery. 

If you have been accused of assault or battery, contact my office online now or call (858) 922-7098 so that we can begin preparing your defense. If your child has been charged, I can also help in their defense and protect their best interests, as well as their future. Save yourself worry and hassle!