Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury
California Penal Code 243(d) PC

Arrested for "Battery with Serious Bodily Injury"? We can help. Our criminal defense law firm is comprised of former cops and prosecutors. We have the insider knowledge essential to beating your Penal Code 243(d) PC charges.

Below, our California criminal defense attorneys1 address the following:

1. The Legal Definition of Battery
Causing Serious
Bodily Injury
2. Legal Defenses
3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing
4. Related Offenses

If, after reading this article, you have additional questions, we invite you to contact us.

You may also find helpful information in our related articles on Penal Code 242 PC Battery; Penal Code 273.5 PC Intentional Infliction of Corporal Injury; Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC Simple Domestic Battery; Great Bodily Injury; California Legal Defenses; California's Self-Defense Laws; Accidents; California Gun Laws; Restoring Your California Gun Rights; Penal Code 148 PC Resisting Arrest; and Battery on a Peace Officer.

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This photograph  was originally taken by Flickr user Perfecto Insecto and the original photo can be found here.

California law defines serious bodily injury as a serious impairment to one's physical condition.  Broken bones can constitute serious bodily injury, as can loss of consciousness, concussion, protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily organ, a wound requiring extensive suturing, or serious disfigurement.

1. The Legal Definition of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury

Let's start off with the basics. Penal Code 242 PC California's battery law prohibits willfully and unlawfully using force or violence against another person. Any unwanted touching...no matter how slight...constitutes a battery.2

However, Penal Code 243(d) PC is what's known as an aggravated battery. An aggravated battery is one that necessarily causes serious harm to the victim's body. But what exactly does this mean?

Serious bodily injury

California law defines a "serious bodily injury" as a serious impairment to one's physical condition. Examples include (but are not limited to):

  1. loss of consciousness,
  2. concussion,
  3. bone fracture,
  4. protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ,
  5. a wound requiring extensive suturing, and
  6. serious disfigurement."3

The most important point to note about this definition is that these injuries won't always necessarily qualify as serious bodily injury. They are simply examples of injuries that could be considered serious bodily injury but only if they cause a serious impairment to one's physical condition.4

Example : During a fight, Albert hits Rosa in the face and fractures her nose. Rosa waits until the next day to seek medical attention. Although her nose needs to be reset (it is fractured in three different places), she doesn't suffer from any other facial fractures, related sinus problems, or have difficulty breathing.   

Given these facts, a jury could determine that the fracture is a serious bodily injury. However, it is also likely that because there was no surgery, no life threatening impairment of breathing, and no curtailment of her daily activities that Rosa's fracture doesn't amount to a serious bodily injury.5

What qualifies as a serious bodily injury must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

And although the phrases "serious bodily injury" and "great bodily injury" are often used interchangeably, they actually have two very distinct legal definitions. Nevada law uses the term serious bodily harm, which defines the concept somewhat differently but still generally refers to serious injury.6

Great bodily injury

Penal Code 12022.7 PC California's great bodily injury law defines "great bodily injury" as a significant or substantial injury. The definition specifically excludes minor, trivial, or even moderate injuries.7

This means that, for example, a bone fracture could qualify as a serious bodily injury but not a great bodily injury. If the fracture is only "moderate", it may not rise to the level of a great bodily injury.

2. Legal Defenses

There are a variety of legal defenses to a Penal Code 243(d) aggravated battery allegation that your California criminal defense lawyer could present on your behalf. Some of the most common include (but are not limited to):

Self-defense

California's self-defense laws protect your conduct when you are simply trying to protect yourself or another person from imminent physical harm. Self-defense will therefore serve as a legal defense to a violation of Penal Code 243(d) PC California's "battery causing serious bodily injury" law as long as

  1. the force you use is reasonable under the circumstances,
  2. you stop your counter-attack once the danger has passed, and
  3. you didn't initiate the attack.8

Accident

Accident serves as a valid legal defense to injuring someone as long as you don't act with criminal intent or extreme negligence. This means that even if you seriously injure another person...but it was a "true" accident...California law excuses your conduct.9

Example : Mary runs into the bathroom. Joe follows her to make sure she's okay and pushes the door open. The door hits Mary in the head, knocks her to the floor unconscious, and leaves a serious scar on her forehead.        

Given these facts, it's true that Joe seriously injured Mary. However, the injury wasn't intentional, nor was it the result of Joe's recklessness. As a result, Joe should be acquitted of any wrongdoing.

The injury wasn't a serious one

As San Jose criminal defense attorney Jim Hammer10 explains, "If the injury didn't cause a "serious impairment" you aren't guilty of aggravated battery - period. You may be guilty of the lesser included offense of misdemeanor simple battery, but are entitled to an acquittal on the Penal Code 243(d) allegation."

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California Assault and Battery Laws at a Glance

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

Penal Code 243(d) PC California's "battery causing serious bodily injury" law is a wobbler. A "wobbler" is a crime that may be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on

  1. the circumstances of the case, and
  2. your criminal history.

If convicted of aggravated battery as a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.

If convicted of aggravated battery as a felony, you face two, three, or four years in the California state prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.11

Loss of Gun Rights

If you are convicted of Penal Code 243(d) PC as a misdemeanor, you will lose your right to own or acquire a gun for ten years under California's gun laws. If convicted of a felony, Penal Code 29800 PC California's "felon with a firearm" law imposes a lifetime ban on owning or acquiring a firearm.12

To learn how to restore these rights, please review our article on Restoring California Gun Rights.

California's Three Strike's Law

If the sustained serious injury can also be classified as a great bodily injury, the offense becomes a "serious felony".13 This means that in addition to the above penalties, a Penal Code 243(d) PC conviction will result in a "strike" on your criminal record pursuant to California's Three Strike's Law.14

If you are subsequently convicted of any felony, and you have a prior "strike" on your record, you will be referred to as a "second striker," and your sentence will be twice the term otherwise required by law.15

If convicted of a third felony, and you have two prior strikes, you will be referred to as a "third striker" and will serve a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years-to-life in California state prison.16

Aggravated battery and aliens

If the alleged victim in your case is an "intimate partner", that is,

  1. your current or former spouse,
  2. a person with whom you live or lived (otherwise referred to as a current or former "cohabitant" which includes minor and adult children),
  3. the mother or father of your child,
  4. anyone you are or were dating, or
  5. a current or former fianc� or fianc�e,

the crime will be classified as a California crime of domestic violence.17 California crimes of domestic violence subject legal immigrants and aliens to removal. For more information about how California's domestic violence convictions affect aliens, please visit our article on California crimes that lead to deportation.18

4. Related Offenses

Aggravated battery is closely related to a number of different offenses, largely because they are all variations on this crime. The following are examples of some of the most common.

Penal Code 243(e)(1) "simple" domestic battery

Penal Code 243(e)(1) California's domestic battery law is always a misdemeanor. This is the offense that prosecutors will typically file if you are accused of inflicting a non-serious injury upon an intimate partner (described above).

In fact, prosecutors can allege this offense even if you don't injure your partner...all that is required is that you willfully inflict force or violence upon him/her.19 And again, even the slightest touch can trigger this offense if it is done in a rude, angry, or disrespectful manner.20

Penal Code 273.5 PC intentional infliction of corporal injury

Like aggravated battery, Penal Code 273.5 PC California's "intentional infliction of corporal injury law" is a wobbler.21 You commit this offense if you willfully inflict a corporal ("bodily") injury on

  • your current or former spouse,
  • someone with whom you live or lived, or
  • the parent of your child

if the injury results in a traumatic condition.22 A "traumatic condition" is a wound or other injury (whether minor or serious) caused by physical force.23 Here, it is enough if any injury appears. If the accuser sustains any injuries...even as insignificant as scratches, red marks, or bruises...prosecutors could allege a Penal Code 273.5 PC violation.

As you can see, this crime has a more limited definition of who qualifies as an "intimate partner," as those who are or were dating and those who are or were engaged (assuming they never cohabitated) are excluded. This means that if, for example, you seriously injure someone you are or were dating, prosecutors could not file a 273.5 PC allegation, because that relationship is not covered under this law.

And this is why this offense is closely related to Penal Code 243(d) PC. Because 243(d) is applicable to all victims, this is the offense that prosecutors file against people who injure someone they are or were dating or someone to whom they are or were engaged.

Resisting Arrest and Battery on a Peace Officer

Penal Code 148 PC California's "resisting arrest" law prohibits you from willfully

  • resisting,
  • delaying, or otherwise
  • obstructing

an officer or emergency medical technician (EMT) while he/she is engaged in (or attempting to engage in) the performance of his/her duties.24 If, while you are resisting, you seriously injure the officer, prosecutors could charge you with resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer.

However, if you resist, delay, or obstruct an officer who is involved in an unlawful procedure (that is, he/she is engaged in an unlawful arrest or is using excessive force), then the officer is not engaged in the performance of his/her duties...which means that battery on a peace officer would be an inappropriate charge.25 As a result, prosecutors would alternatively attempt to convict you of aggravated battery.

Call us for help...
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If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 243(d) aggressive battery and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.

Additionally, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys are available to answer any questions relating to Nevada's assault and battery laws. For more information, we invite you to contact our local attorneys at one of our Nevada law offices, located in Reno and Las Vegas.26

Legal References:

1Our California criminal defense attorneys have local Los Angeles law offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank, Glendale, Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.  We have additional law offices conveniently located throughout the state in Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.

California Penal Code 242 -- Battery.  ("Battery defined. A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.")

2See also Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction 960 -- Simple battery.  ("The slightest touching can be enough to commit a battery if it is done in a rude or angry way.")

3Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction (CALCRIM) 925 - California's "battery causing serious bodily injury" law.  ("[A serious bodily injury means a serious impairment of physical condition. Such an injury may include [, but is not limited to]: (loss of consciousness/ concussion/ bone fracture/ protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ/ a wound requiring extensive suturing/ [and] serious disfigurement).]")

4People v. Taylor (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 11, 25.  ("[FN4] The statutory definition of serious bodily injury lists bone fractures as one example of a "serious impairment of physical condition." ([California Penal Code] � 243, subd. (f)(4).) Viewed in context, the reference to bone fractures does not mean "that every bone fracture is serious bodily injury but merely that it can be if it results in a serious impairment of physical condition."")

5Facts based on People v. Nava (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1490.

6See NRS 0.060 defining "serious bodily harm" under Nevada law as bodily injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ; or prolonged physical pain.

7Penal Code 12022.7 PC California's great bodily injury law.  ("(f) As used in this section, "great bodily injury" means a significant or substantial physical injury.")

1See also California Jury Instructions, Criminal (CALJIC 17.20) -- Great bodily injury.  (""Great bodily injury," as used in this instruction, means a significant or substantial physical injury. Minor, trivial or moderate injuries do not constitute great bodily injury.")

8Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction 3470 -- Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another (Non-Homicide). ("The defendant acted in lawful (self-defense/ [or] defense of another) if: [1] The defendant reasonably believed that (he/she/ [or] someone else/ [or] <insert name of third party>) was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury [or was in imminent danger of being touched unlawfully]; [2] The defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; AND [3] The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.")

9California Penal Code 26 PC -- Persons capable of committing crime; exceptions. ("All persons are capable of committing crimes except those belonging to the following classes...Five--Persons who committed the act or made the omission charged through misfortune or by accident, when it appears that there was no evil design, intention, or culpable negligence...")  When an individual allegedly commits a battery causing serious bodily injury but his/her acts fall under this category, accident serves as a valid legal defense.

10San Jose criminal defense attorney Jim Hammer uses his inside knowledge as a former San Francisco Deputy District Attorney to defend clients throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Berkeley, Marin County, and San Jose.

11Penal Code 243(d) PC California's "battery causing serious bodily injury" law.  ("(d) When a battery is committed against any person and serious bodily injury is inflicted on the person, the battery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.")

See also California Penal Code 672 -- Offenses for which no fine prescribed; fine authorized in addition to imprisonment.  ("Upon a conviction for any crime punishable by imprisonment in any jail or prison, in relation to which no fine is herein prescribed, the court may impose a fine on the offender not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) in cases of misdemeanors or ten thousand dollars ($10,000) in cases of felonies, in addition to the imprisonment prescribed.")

12Penal Code 29800 PC California's "felon with a firearm" law.  ("(a)(1) Any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of the United States, the State of California, or any other state, government, or country...and who owns, purchases, receives, or has in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control any firearm is guilty of a felony...(c)(1) Except as provided in subdivision (a) or paragraph (2) of this subdivision, any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor violation of... [Penal Code section] 243 [California's "battery causing serious bodily injury" law]...and who, within 10 years of the conviction, owns, purchases, receives, or has in his or her possession or under his or her custody or control, any firearm is guilty of a public offense, which shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or in the state prison, by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.")

13California Penal Code 1192.7(c) PC.  ("As used in this section [a California] 'serious felony' means... (8) any felony in which the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person, other than an accomplice, or any felony in which the defendant personally uses a firearm...")

14California Penal Code 667 PC -- Habitual criminals; enhancement of sentence; amendment of section

(otherwise known as California's Three Strikes Law).  ("(b) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting subdivisions (b) to (i), inclusive, to ensure longer prison sentences and greater punishment for those who commit a felony and have been previously convicted of serious and/or violent felony offenses.")

15California Penal Code 667 -- Habitual criminals; enhancement of sentence; amendment of section -- California Three Strikes law .  ("(e) For purposes of subdivisions (b) to (i), inclusive, and in addition to any other enhancement or punishment provisions which may apply, the following shall apply where a defendant has a prior felony conviction: (1) If a defendant has one prior felony conviction that has been pled and proved, the determinate term or minimum term for an indeterminate term shall be twice the term otherwise provided as punishment for the current felony conviction. (2)(A) If a defendant has two or more prior felony convictions as defined in subdivision (d) that have been pled and proved, the term for the current felony conviction shall be an indeterminate term of life imprisonment with a minimum term of the indeterminate sentence calculated as the greater of: (i) Three times the term otherwise provided as punishment for each current felony conviction subsequent to the two or more prior felony convictions. (ii) Imprisonment in the [California] state prison for 25 years...")

16See same.

17California Penal Code 273.5 PC -- Domestic violence.  ("(a) Any person who willfully inflicts upon a person who is his or her spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or the mother or father of his or her child, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000) or by both that fine and imprisonment.")

See also California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC -- Domestic battery.  ("(e)(1) When a battery is committed against a spouse, a person with whom the defendant is cohabiting, a person who is the parent of the defendant's child, former spouse, fiance, or fiance, or a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship, the battery is punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.")

188 U.S.C.A. � 1227 -- Deportable aliens.  ("(a) Classes of deportable aliens.  Any alien (including an alien crewman) in and admitted to the United States shall, upon the order of the Attorney General, be removed if the alien is within one or more of the following classes of deportable aliens...(E) Crimes of domestic violence, stalking, or violation of protection order, crimes against children and...(i) Domestic violence, stalking, and child abuse. Any alien who at any time after admission is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, a crime of stalking, or a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment is deportable. For purposes of this clause, the term "crime of domestic violence" means any crime of violence (as defined in section 16 of Title 18) against a person committed by a current or former spouse of the person, by an individual with whom the person shares a child in common, by an individual who is cohabiting with or has cohabited with the person as a spouse, by an individual similarly situated to a spouse of the person under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction where the offense occurs, or by any other individual against a person who is protected from that individual's acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the United States or any State, Indian tribal government, or unit of local government.")

See also endnote 16, above.  Because of the broad definition of domestic violence, any aggravated battery against an intimate partner can be classified as a California crime that can lead to deportation.

19California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC -- Domestic battery.  ("(e)(1) When a battery is committed against a spouse, a person with whom the defendant is cohabiting, a person who is the parent of the defendant's child, former spouse, fianc�, or fianc�e, or a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship, the battery is punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.")

20Judicial Council Of California Criminal Jury Instruction 841-- Simple Battery: Against Spouse, Cohabitant, or Fellow Parent (Penal Code 243(e)(1)). ("The slightest touching can be enough to commit a [domestic] battery if it is done in a rude or angry way. Making contact with another person, including through his or her clothing, is enough. The touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind.")

21California Penal Code 273.5 -- Willful infliction of corporal injury; violation; punishment.  ("(a) Any person who willfully inflicts upon a person who is his or her spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or the mother or father of his or her child, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000) or by both that fine and imprisonment.")

22See same.

23See same, subdivision "c".  ("(c) As used in this section, "traumatic condition" means a condition of the body, such as a wound or external or internal injury, whether of a minor or serious nature, caused by a physical force.")

24California Penal Code 148(a)(1) PC -- Resisting arrest.  ("(a)(1) Every person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or an emergency medical technician, as defined in Division 2.5 (commencing with Section 1797) of the Health and Safety Code, in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment, when no other punishment is prescribed, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.")

25California Jury Instructions -- Criminal.  CALJIC 9.22 -- Battery on a peace officer, etc.  ("In order to prove this crime, each of the following elements must be proved:[1] A person willfully and unlawfully applied physical force against the person of a [peace officer] [firefighter] [__________]; [2] At that time the [peace officer] [firefighter] [__________] was engaged in the performance of [his] [her] duties; [3] The person who applied the physical force knew or reasonably should have known that the other person was: (a) a [peace officer] [firefighter] [__________]; [and] (b) engaged in the performance of [his] [her] duties [; and] [.] [4] Injury was inflicted on the [peace officer] [firefighter] [__________].]")

26Please feel free to contact our Nevada criminal defense attorneys Michael Becker and Mike Castillo for any questions relating to Nevada's battery laws. Their Nevada law offices are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

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