Battery Criminal Defense Attorney
California Penal Code Section 242 PC: Battery
A battery, as defined by California Penal Code §242, is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
More simply put, Criminal Battery is any unlawful, unwanted use of physical force against another person; when contact is made, the Battery is done. Actual physical injury is not required.
A Battery conviction, no matter how minor, can lead to harsh penalties, not the least of which is jail time. Hiring an attorney that knows the law is essential. A qualified attorney will question the underlying facts and charges that have been filed and prepare a suitable defense for court. Hiring the right attorney early is the key to safeguarding your future.
1. Definition and Elements of the Crime
Battery, one of the most frequently filed criminal charges in the state of California, is defined in the state penal code (Section 242) as any unlawful and willful physical touching of another person. While battery is routinely associated with the charge of assault (PC Section 240), it actually constitutes a separate offense and is composed of its own distinct elements.
To prove that an act of battery has occurred, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:
- The defendant did, in fact, willfully and unlawfully touch another person in a manner that might reasonably be expected to inflict injury or cause offense.
- The defendant’s action was not done in self defense nor in defense of another person.
- The defendant’s act was not a part of reasonable, non-abusive child-discipline.
It is important to distinguish the California legal definition of battery from the popular idea of battery. The two are, at times, glaringly different. Some of the most crucial points to be aware of in this regard include:
- Even the slightest touch can count as battery so long as it is performed in an angry or rude manner.
- Any contact counts as a touch, even if only made through the other person’s clothing.
- The touch need not produce any injury or pain to count as battery.
- Touching an object a person is holding, a bike he is riding, or other items “closely connected with” the person can constitute battery.
- Another person’s words alone cannot count as a valid excuse for battery. For a provocation to legitimate the use of physical force, there must have been a direct and imminent threat of bodily injury.
2. Examples That Illustrate Battery
We can look at two examples to help us clearly understand what is and is not battery. Both examples will be extreme, one constituting battery and the other not, in order to highlight the exact boundary at which battery begins.
- A man in a barroom notices a woman he finds attractive. He tries to start up a conversation with her, but she is uninterested and turns to walk away. Just then, he lightly grabs her wrist to keep her from leaving the conversation. Although no physical harm was done, because the man touched the woman in an undesired and offensive manner, he could be prosecuted for battery.
- Two men wearing boxing gloves begin to punch at each other forcefully. They dodge each other’s punches as much as they can, but within minutes, both of them are badly bruised and bleeding. Since the participants agreed to engage in this boxing match, it is not battery despite the force and effect of the punches.
3. Related Offenses
Other infractions of the California Penal Code that are similar to or associated with battery include:
- Simple assault, as outlined in PC Section 240
- Assault with a deadly weapon, covered under PC 245(a)(1)
- Domestic battery, which is battery against a spouse or romantic partner, as outlined in PC 243(e)(1)
- Sexual battery, covered under PC 243.4
- Battery causing serious bodily injury, found in PC 243(d)
4. Defenses Against Battery
A skilled defense attorney will be able to find the best possible strategy to defeat a charge of battery. Three possible defenses that are relatively common are as follows:
- The defendant was using force to protect himself or another person against an imminent threat of bodily injury or from becoming the victim of a crime.
- The physical contact involved was not intentional. Without the element of willfulness, it is not battery but is merely an accident.
- The defendant was the parent of a child and was using reasonable disciplinary methods. This is parenting, not battery. However, if an unreasonable amount of force was applied, it could constitute child abuse under PC 273(d).
5. Possible Penalties
A conviction for simple battery under PC Section 242 is a misdemeanor count that is punishable by any of the following:
- A jail term of up to six months
- Heavy court fines
- A probationary period
- Community service or labor
- Anger management and other counseling
If a serious bodily injury is inflicted on the victim, a felony charge will likely be filed. This will add a prison term of up to four years to the misdemeanor sentencing. It will also result in a “strike" on the defendant’s criminal record under California’s Three Strikes Law, which will lead to penalty enhancements on any future convictions.
Even simple battery is classed as a violent crime in California, and it can have serious consequences beyond the court sentencing. For example, landlords and potential employers who conduct background checks will often turn away applicants with any kind of battery incident on their record.
6. Criminal Defense for Battery Cases
If you or a loved one have been arrested on charges of battery, it is critical that you contact an experienced Long Beach criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A defense attorney with deep knowledge of the California criminal code and court system will be able to aggressively and skillfully pursue your best interests.
At the Law Office of David Givot, we know how to identify extenuating circumstances that may lead police and prosecutors to decide against filing a battery charge against you. If we cannot prevent your case from going to court, we can provide you with comprehensive representation from beginning to end. We understand the severe, life-changing consequences that a battery conviction can entail, and we fight vigorously to defend you.
The Law Office of David J. Givot work with clients in a number of southern California counties, including Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside. David Givot’s law office is located at 3780 Kilroy Airport Way, #200, Long Beach, California. You can call him 24/7, toll-free at 888-293-0396 or locally at 310-699-0070 to schedule a free consultation or to get further information on California battery law.