Difference Between Assault & Battery

The California criminal offenses of “assault” and “battery” are commonly used interchangeably. However, each offense represents two different yet closely related violent crimes. The crime of assault is described under California Penal Code statute 240 as an unlawful attempt, with present ability, to commit a violent act upon another person. Conversely, described under California Penal Code statute 242, battery is a willful and unlawful use of force committed upon the person of another. Therefore, while the definition of both offenses sounds very similar, the distinguishing characteristic between the two is that the crime of assault does not require any physical contact, whereas the crime of battery does. In other words, assault can be accurately described as an attempted battery.

Are Assault & Battery Felony or Misdemeanor Charges?

Violent crimes can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors in California depending on factors such as a person’s prior criminal record, whether a weapon or firearm was used, and the extent of the victim’s injuries. While seriously injuring another person would clearly rise to felony conduct, it is possible to be charged with a felony crime without causing injuries or even making physical contact with another. Raising your fist at another in a threatening manner would constitute a misdemeanor assault. However, raising your fist with a knife in your hand in a threatening manner would constitute a more aggravated form of assault – assault with a deadly weapon. Defined under California Penal Code statute 245(a)1, assault with a deadly weapon is a wobbler offense which can be prosecuted as either a felony or misdemeanor.

Punishment for Assault & Battery in California

Although misdemeanor assault and battery are two different offenses, they carry a similar punishment range as a person could serve up to six months in jail if convicted of either offense. Although assault is typically viewed as the less serious of the two crimes due to there not being a physical contact requirement, jurisdictions such as Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Ventura County aggressively prosecute and punish assault, as well as battery equally. Therefore, it would be wise to consult with a criminal defense lawyer with experience defending assault and battery charges before speaking to police or appearing in court.

Call for a Free Consultation

If you have more questions regarding assault and battery charges, contact the Los Angeles assault and battery lawyers at Sitkoff & Hanrahan, LLP for a complimentary case review. We have over 70 years of combined legal experience defending violent crimes in Southern California. Call us today at (866) 430-8383.

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