Assault and battery are often mentioned together, but they are separate crimes. An individual commits assault when they attempt to injure another person or threaten to cause them physical harm. When an individual uses violence or force against another person, they are charged with battery. Assault is always charged as a misdemeanor in California, but battery can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony. This is why battery is sometimes called a “wobbler” offense.
The elements of an assault or battery charge in California
To convict an individual of battery, a prosecutor must prove that the defendant said or did something that caused another person to fear imminent physical harm. Making verbal threats, raising a fist or throwing a punch and missing would all be considered assaults under California law. However, an empty threat would not be enough to support an assault charge as the victim’s fear has to be genuine. To prove battery beyond reasonable doubt, a prosecutor must establish that the defendant intentionally made physical contact with the victim. They do not have to prove that the victim was injured or suffered pain.
The penalties for assault and battery in California
Simple assault is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in a county jail. The penalties for battery range from six months in a county jail to four years in a state prison. Harsher sentences are handed down in cases involving violent crimes when aggravating factors are present. An offender could be charged with aggravated assault and receive a harsher sentence if they used a deadly weapon during an assault or assaulted a first responder or school employee.
Misdemeanors and felonies
An individual commits assault in California when they threaten to physically harm another person or attempt to physically harm another person, and they commit battery when they use violence or force against another person. Assault is always a misdemeanor offense in California, but battery can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony.