Facing any form of criminal charges can be perplexing, but if you're charged with simple battery after merely touching someone else, you may genuinely wonder why you’re in trouble with the law. The fact is you can face battery charges even if you barely made contact with a person, but then they took offense and filed a police report. California statute treats a simple battery very seriously. Seemingly, minor actions like bumping or poking another party with your elbow could subject you to harsh consequences.
If you’ve been accused of battery in Riverside County, CA, we at Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm can help you fight your charges. Our skilled battery defense lawyers understand how challenging this situation is for you or your family and are ready to help. We offer our undivided attention to your situation to ensure you receive the support and legal representation you need. Call us right away, and let us develop a winning defense strategy.
Simple Battery Overview
The state’s Penal Code 242 defines simple battery or battery as the willful and illegal application of violence/force upon someone else. This is only a simple definition, but circumstances under which you’ve been charged with this offense can be intricate. It isn’t always evident if you deliberately acted violently towards another or used force on someone else. Often, there’s a question of whether an act was violent/forceful or not.
The situation could become more complicated since the law doesn’t provide that the supposed battery victim suffers any harm. As a matter of fact, you do not have to come into physical contact with the involved victim to face simple battery charges. All the law requires is that you touch the victim offensively. Intentionally spitting or throwing something at a person could amount to a simple battery as per the law.
Simple battery examples include:
- Angie slaps a cup of coffee out of Pam’s hands
- Mary spits on Jerry after discovering he lied to her
- Isabel hurls a glass at Belinda while at a bar. The glass hits Belinda on her face but doesn’t cause a severe injury
- Dan places his hands on Tony’s shoulders then shoves him backward while they’re arguing.
Elements of the Crime
Elements of the crime are the facts the DA must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to be convicted of a criminal offense. For simple battery, the facts are:
- You touched the victim
- Offensively and harmfully
If the DA can’t prove all these elements, the judge cannot find you guilty of violating PC 242. Let’s expound on these facts to gain a better understanding of their legal meaning.
Touching the Victim
The lawful meaning of simple battery only requires you to have come into physical contact with the victim. It bears repeating that you need not have caused any harm to them to be convicted. The slightest form of touch could constitute a simple battery offense. Spitting at, slapping, punching, pushing someone, striking them with an object, or grabbing their arm are all a form of touching. Also, it counts as a simple battery offense even if you did touch the alleged victim through their clothing or indirectly using an object.
Consider this example: While at a drunken party, Mike uses a fountain pen to write derogatory terms on the chest of his friend Sarah— who is quite drunk and does not notice what he’s doing until he’s almost done. Mike’s act can be considered a simple battery because he touched Sarah offensively, although through her clothing and using a fountain pen.
Courts in California also hold that it constitutes a simple battery if you offensively touch something intimately associated with another individual’s body even though it isn’t a part of their body in the real sense. For example, if you forcefully knock an item off another individual’s hand, you could be convicted of simple battery.
Touching the Victim Willfully
For a conviction of simple battery to occur, you need to have touched the alleged victim willfully. By willfully, it means you acted on purpose or willingly. It doesn’t necessarily imply you aimed to hurt the victim, violate the penal code, or benefit anything.
Put otherwise, you need not have meant to commit simple battery to be penalized for this crime, but you must have intended to act in a manner that constituted the battery crime. Look at the following example:
Melisa and Yvonne work together. One day, they argue over a work-related matter at the workplace, and both lose it. Angrily, Melisa throws a paper punch, which accidentally hits Yvonne on the head. In this case, Melisa didn’t mean to hit Yvonne with a paper punch. However, she meant to hurl it, an act that brought about the possibility that it’d hit her. Therefore, she could be convicted under PC 242.
Offensively or Harmfully
Touching qualifies as a simple battery only if it’s done offensively and harmfully. This means a touching that’s disrespectful, angry, violent, or rude. For example, Christina and Cathy work together, but Cathy dislikes Christina. One day, Cathy learns she’s been fired and starts crying about it at the workplace. Her colleagues come to comfort and calm her down, and Christina hugs her. Although Christina’s hug is probably not welcome to Cathy, it’s not a simple battery since it wasn’t offensive and harmful touching.
There is a Difference between Battery and Assault
Even though they’re frequently said together, battery and assault are not the same crime, and the difference confuses many people. Assault, prosecuted under PC 240, is an unlawful attempt to use force or violence, to touch someone else offensively or hurtfully without their consent. For example, trying to kiss someone offensively, spit at, slap, kick, or punch them. Assault is also an act that could inflict physical injury upon another party (this definition applies to the more complicated forms of the crime, such as assault with a dangerous/deadly weapon or assault with caustic chemicals). On the other hand, a battery is the actual use of violence or force upon someone else, such as actually kicking, punching, or slapping a person.
An assault does not necessarily involve coming into physical contact, while a simple battery does. In other words, assault is attempted battery, while a simple battery is completed assault.
This example can demonstrate the difference between battery and assault: Philip has a serious case of road rage. One day while driving, he becomes enraged when a woman overtakes him on the highway. Furious to the extent that he’s determined to slam his vehicle into hers, he engages in risky driving conduct by swerving closer to the lady’s auto as though he’ll hit it. The lady becomes terrified of being hit by Philip; thus, she keeps swerving to avoid crashing into his vehicle.
Although Philip’s car doesn’t collide with the lady’s, he can face assault charges since he performed the violent and willful behavior of trying to crash the lady’s auto on the highway and had the present capability to go through with the threat.
And if Philip’s car had actually managed to collide with the lady’s, he can face both battery and assault charges. But since assault is a lesser included crime of battery, he can only be guilty of either crime.
Consequences for Battery
If you’ve been accused of battery, you’re subject to misdemeanor charges. A conviction of this crime is punishable by up to two thousand dollars in fines and a jail sentence of up to six months. Rather than a jail term, you may be required to adhere to misdemeanor probation conditions like doing community service.
The legal consequences for simple battery may increase if your case has other aggravating factors, like whether you committed the crime against a police/peace officer or the act qualified as domestic violence.
A battery is a misdemeanor crime. However, a conviction or guilty plea would create a permanent criminal record that would follow your entire life whenever you seek employment, rent apartments, or enroll in a school. A simple battery charge may worry prospective landlords, educators, or employers that you’re capable of using violence and lead to losing out on critical opportunities.
Fighting simple battery charges is crucial for several reasons. However, avoiding a criminal record is critical to sustaining your potential for a family, education, and career.
Legal Defenses Against a Battery Charge
There are several ways through which you can fight off simple battery charges. Your lawyer will work with you to fully understand the circumstances that resulted in your arrest. After they’re fully aware of them, they will then build a solid defense strategy per the law. Prevalent legal defenses to a simple battery charge are, among others:
Parental Legal Right to Discipline their Child
Sometimes, parents are accused of simple battery in relation to child abuse charges under PC 27(d). For battery cases that involve parents’ acts against their minors, the supposed battery is often a legal attempt to discipline the child. Just like a child abuse charge, you can defend yourself against a simple battery charge by proving you were only acting within your legal rights to discipline your minor. As a parent, the law allows you to apply physical force when disciplining your child, provided the force is reasonable and not excessive under the circumstances.
You Didn’t Act Willfully.
Although you need not have intended to harm the victim, your action needs to have been willful to be punished for a simple battery under PC 242. Therefore, if the act that led to your battery charges was entirely accidental, your attorney may argue the accident defense.
For instance, let us say you unintentionally shove a person in a gathering or an object you’re carrying hits them accidentally. Offended persons in these kinds of situations at times cry battery. However, you shouldn’t be convicted of this crime as you did not act intentionally.
Self-Defense/Defense of Someone Else
Your lawyer can prove that since you reasonably thought you were in some kind of danger of being harmed or touched illegally, you used only the reasonably necessary force to defend or protect yourself. And if you were defending someone else, the attorney can show you believed the individual was in danger of being injured and applied only the necessary force to defend or protect them.
But note that words alone, regardless of how offensive they may be, aren’t enough to warrant you committing a battery act. You could only argue that you were defending yourself or someone else if you had reason to believe you or the person was in imminent danger of physical injury or unlawful touching.
The Victim Consented
Your lawyer can demonstrate that the supposed victim agreed that you touch them or do the act that constituted battery. This defense is mainly applicable if the alleged victim consented to be part of an activity where there’s a high probability of the risk of a battery. This typically applies to sports and other inherently risky activities. For example, during soccer, the possibility that you’ll hit other players with the ball is very high. This isn’t battery since it’s what soccer somehow entails, and those players agreed to it.
But note that if your behavior or actions extend to instances outside the regulations of the sport, you can be sentenced for battery.
Consider this example: Erick plays as the goalkeeper. While at the goalposts, Jose comes up to him and hits him with a ball as he was angry because the opponent team scored several goals and believed it was Erick’s fault. In this case, Jose could face battery charges since Erick didn’t agree to his actions. Also, Jose’s act isn’t included in the rules and regulations of the game.
In a situation where you and the supposed victim were engaging in a physical fight, you aren’t guilty of simple battery. Your lawyer may assert that you did not attack the alleged victim, but both of you were fighting. This is particularly so if the supposed victim also threw punches. Look at this example: in an argument between Jack and Nelson, Jack loses his temper and kicks Nelson. On seeing that, Nelson fights back by throwing punches of his own and ends up injuring Jack. Jack files battery charges against Nelson. Chances are the judge won’t convict Nelson since both of them were engaged in a fight.
The Following Don’t Qualify as Valid Defenses to Simple Battery.
If you are defending yourself against simple battery charges, you can’t argue:
- You were voluntarily Intoxicated— in the state of California, an individual who commits simple battery while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can’t assert the voluntary intoxication defense. The logic behind this is that people know (or ought to know) drugs and alcohol impact mental functioning. Therefore, this knowledge holds them legally liable should they commit any criminal offense due to their voluntary consumption. But, if you can show you were involuntarily intoxicated, you won’t be guilty of simple battery as you didn’t opt to be under the influence.
- You were provoked— it isn’t a simple battery defense that you were reacting to an annoying or provocative act or behavior that wasn’t a threat or attempt to cause bodily harm. As we stated earlier, words alone, despite how annoying they are, don’t justify a battery.
Related Crimes to Simple Battery
Under California statute, there are offenses closely related to a simple battery because they share various elements. As a result, you can be charged with these crimes alongside or instead of a simple battery. Crimes that closely relate to a simple battery are:
Elder Abuse – Penal Code 368
PC 368 criminalizes negligently or willfully imposing unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain upon an individual who is sixty-five years and above. If you're accused of battering a victim sixty-five years or older, you could be prosecuted under PC 368 and PC 242. This crime is charged as a wobbler, punishable by a possible prison term of four, three, or two years and up to $6,000 in fines if it’s a felony.
Domestic Battery – Penal Code 243(e)(1)
Domestic battery is a subset of the battery offense defined by the category of victim. You commit domestic battery when you batter any of these persons:
- Your current or ex-spouse
- Your current or ex-cohabitant
- Your fiancé(e) or ex-fiancé(e)
- An individual you’re dating or dated in the past
- Your child’s mother or father
A violation PC 243(e)(1) is charged as a misdemeanor. Its punishments upon a conviction include up to $2,000 in fines and a possible jail term that does not exceed one year. Additionally, if you’re sentenced to probation after a domestic battery conviction, the judge will require you to join batterer’s treatment classes that last at least a year.
Battery Upon a Police/Peace Officer – Penal Code 243(b) and Penal Code 243(c)(2)
A battery has harsher consequences if it’s committed on given groups of people, under PC 243(c)(2) and PC 243(b). The specific categories of persons protected under these two penal codes are persons in these professions, engaged in performing their duties:
- Custodial officers
- Peace officers(including police officers or any other law enforcement officers)
- EMTs (emergency medical technicians) or paramedics
- Security officers
- Process servers
- Custody assistants
- Code enforcement officers
- Traffic officers
- Probation department employees
- Search and rescue team members
- Animal control officers
- Nurses and doctors giving emergency medical attention
If the DA proves that you were aware or reasonably should’ve been aware that you were battering any of the persons mentioned above, you will face up to a year in jail. And should you, in the commission of the battery offense, hurt an individual in any of the protected categories, the criminal offense turns to be a wobbler. The possible penalties for a felony conviction include three or two years or sixteen months in prison.
Battery with Serious Bodily Injury – PC 243(d)
Should you commit an act that constitutes a battery and inflict a severe injury upon the victim, you’ll be charged under PC 243(d) battery causing serious physical harm, which carries harsher penalties. Battery with serious bodily injury is also known as aggravated battery.
The legal meaning of serious bodily injury differs from the legal meaning of great bodily harm/injury. Serious bodily harm refers to any severe impairment of a person’s physical condition, for instance, a concussion or broken bone.
A PC 243(d) violation is charged as a wobbler, meaning the prosecutor can prosecute it either as a felony or misdemeanor. The punishments for a misdemeanor conviction include up to a year of a jail sentence. And if you’ve been convicted of a felony, you’ll be subject to four, three, or two years of a prison sentence.
Sexual Battery – Penal Code 243.4
Sexual battery under PC 243.3 is a separate offense from PC 242 simple battery, domestic battery, and aggravated battery. It involves touching someone else’s intimate parts for sexual abuse, arousal, or gratification purposes.
Based on the facts, a sexual battery could be a felony or misdemeanor. It’s a felony offense if, for instance, the supposed victim was institutionalized or unlawfully restrained. As a misdemeanor, this crime carries up to six months or a year in jail. A felony conviction carries a prison term of four, three, or two years.
Lastly, if you are convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, you will have to register as a sex offender in the state’s sex offender registry.
Find a Battery Defense Lawyer Near Me
Most innocent people are charged with a simple battery since the law is so broad. This could be you. Other people may misinterpret your entirely innocent actions, resulting in accusations, arrest, and facing charges. It is a tough situation to be in. However, you shouldn’t rush to admit guilt. By working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer from Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, you have someone determined to substantiate your side of the story and prove your innocence to the jury and judge. We boast several years of experience assisting people charged with simple battery in Riverside County be acquitted. And where that isn’t possible, we work to minimize the repercussions of a conviction. Call us today at 951-946-6366 for a free consultation.