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.