Penal Code 243d sets forth the California crime of aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury. This is defined as touching or striking another person in a harmful or offensive manner and thereby causing the person to suffer a serious injury. The offense may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances and the extent of the injuries.
The language of Penal Code 243d states:
“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 [for up to four years] …”
- during a burglary, a man grabs the victim’s arm and dislocates her elbow.
- a person punches someone and breaks the alleged victim’s nose.
- a girl pushes a guy into a bathroom mirror, causing it to shatter and cut the guy’s neck.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help clients contest aggravated battery charges. A few common defenses include showing that:
- the defendant acted in self-defense,
- an injury was not “serious,” and/or
- the battery was an accident.
A violation of California Penal Code Section 243d is a wobbler. A wobbler is a crime that a prosecutor can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor battery under this code section is punishable by custody in county jail for up to one year.
Felony battery is punishable by a jail term of up to four years.
Our California criminal defense attorneys will explain the following in this article:
- 1. What is “aggravated battery with serious bodily injury”?
- 2. What are the best defenses to Penal Code 243d PC?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Are there related offenses?
1. What is “aggravated battery with serious bodily injury”?
A prosecutor must prove the following elements to successfully convict a defendant of aggravated battery California:
- the defendant willfully and unlawfully touched the alleged victim in a harmful or offensive manner, and
- the alleged victim suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the force or touching.1
Note that, under California criminal law, someone commits an act willfully when he/she does it willingly or on purpose.2
Questions sometimes arise under this law as to the meaning of:
- unlawfully touching someone, and
- serious bodily injury.
1.1. Unlawful touching
For purposes of this statute, a touching occurs when a person makes physical contact with another party, including through his/her clothing.3
Example: Ben and Melissa are lawyers on opposing sides of a major case. They are arguing over an issue in the case while standing on the front steps of the courthouse.
Overcome with anger at Ben, Melissa shoves him lightly. This causes Ben to slip and fall down the steps, breaking his ankle.
Melissa did not touch Ben particularly forcefully—but because she touched him at all, and a serious injury resulted, she may be guilty of battery causing serious injury.
Also note that an offensive touching can be done indirectly, by causing an object or someone else to touch the alleged victim.4
1.2. Serious bodily injury
The term “serious bodily injury” under this law means any serious impairment of someone’s physical condition.5
Note that it is not necessary that medical treatment is required for a victim’s injuries for a serious bodily injury to occur.6
Whether a given injury is actually a serious bodily injury is always a question for the jury or judge to decide in each individual case. A judge or jury decides the issue by examining all of the facts within the case.
In past California criminal cases, courts have found the following physical conditions to constitute serious bodily injuries:
- a lost tooth up to its root,7
- a loss of consciousness,8
- a cut under the eye requiring eight stitches,9
- a broken tooth, wounds on eyebrow, and lips requiring sutures,10 and
- bone fractures, broken bones, or serious disfigurement.11
2. What are the best defenses to Penal Code 243d PC?
People accused of criminal charges under this statute can challenge them with a legal defense. Three common defenses include accused people showing that:
- they acted in self-defense.
- an injury was not serious.
- a battery was the result of an accident.
Self-defense works as a legal defense to a battery charge when all of the following are true:
- the accused reasonably believed that he/she, or another person, was in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm,
- the defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger, and
- the defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.12
2.2. No serious injury
Recall that a person is only guilty under this code section if they commit a battery and cause the victim to suffer a serious injury. Further, the determination of whether a serious injury occurs depends on the facts of the case. A defense, then, is for defendants to say that while they may have committed a battery, the alleged victim did not suffer a serious injury.
The legal defense of accident can apply to PC 243d charges.
According to Pasadena criminal defense lawyer Neil Shouse:
“It’s true that you can be convicted of aggravated battery even if you didn’t intend to injure the victim. But you can’t be convicted if you didn’t touch the victim willfully—that is, if the entire incident was an accident. Maybe you accidentally shoved someone in a crowd, or tripped and fell into them. In that case, you shouldn’t be found guilty of this crime.”13
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of PC 243d is a wobbler offense. A wobbler is a crime that a prosecutor can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:
- the facts of the case, and
- the defendant’s criminal history.
Misdemeanor battery under this statute is punishable by:
- custody in county jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to one year, and/or
- a maximum fine of $1,000.14
Felony battery is punishable by:
- jail time of up to four years, and/or
- a fine of up to $10,000.15
Note that a defendant will receive a penalty enhancement if he/she commits felony battery and causes the victim to suffer a great bodily injury, per California Penal Code 12022.7.16
If this enhancement applies, a defendant can face an additional jail term of three to six years.17
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury. These are:
- simple battery – PC 242,
- mayhem – PC 203, and
- assault with a deadly weapon – PC 245a1.
4.1. Simple battery – PC 242
Per Penal Code 242, simple battery is the crime where people willfully use force or violence upon the person of another.
Unlike with PC 243d, people are guilty of this offense even if the alleged victim does not suffer an injury. An offensive touching is enough to trigger the crime.
4.2. Mayhem – PC 203
Per Penal Code 203, mayhem is the crime where people do any of the following to others:
- deprive them of a body part, or
- disable, disfigure, or render useless a member of their body.
California law treats mayhem as a more serious crime than aggravated battery. The offense is punishable by up to eight years in state prison.
4.3. Assault with a deadly weapon – PC 245a1
Under Penal Code 245a1, assault with a deadly weapon is the crime where people attack (or attempt to attack) another person with a deadly weapon or by means likely to cause great bodily injury.
As with charges under PC 243d, people can defend against charges under this law by raising the defense of self-defense.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law office/law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
Our lawyers also represent clients throughout California State, including those in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.
- California Penal Code 243d PC. See also CALCRIM No. 925 – Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury; and, People v. Martinez (1970) 3 Cal.App.3d 886.
- CALCRIM No. 925. See also People v. Lara (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 102.
- CALCRIM No. 925.
- See same.
- CALCRIM No. 925. See also People v. Burroughs (1984) 35 Cal.3d 824; People v. Blakeley (2000) 23 Cal.4th 82; and, People v. Taylor (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 11.
- People v. Wade (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 1142.
- People v. Belton (2008) 168 Cal.App.4th 432.
- People v. Wade (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 1142.
- People v. Hood (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 1356.
- People v. Hale (1999) 75 Cal.App.4th 94.
- CALCRIM No. 925.
- CALCRIM 3470 – Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Others.
- Our Pasadena criminal defense lawyers have conducted dozens of jury trials and juvenile adjudication hearings, defending everything from assault & battery (including aggravated battery) to California elder abuse cases to sexual battery to DUI and domestic violence.
- California Penal Code 243d PC. See also California Penal Code 672 PC.
- California Penal Code 243d PC. See also California Penal Code 1170h PC.
- “Great bodily injury” is distinct from “serious bodily injury. “Great bodily injury” is defined as a significant or substantial physical injury (People v. Taylor (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 11).
- California Penal Code 12022.7 PC.