California Penal Code § 243(d) defines the crime of aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury. This involves touching or striking another person in a harmful or offensive manner and thereby causing the person to suffer a serious injury.
As a wobbler, aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. Misdemeanor battery is punishable by custody in county jail for up to one year, and felony battery is punishable by a jail term of 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.
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. Related offenses
1. What is “aggravated battery with serious bodily injury”?
A prosecutor must prove the following elements to successfully convict you of aggravated battery in California:
- you 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
Under California criminal law, you commit an act willfully when you do it willingly or on purpose.2
1.1. Unlawful touching
For purposes of this statute, a touching occurs when you make physical contact with another party, including through clothing.3
Example: Overcome with anger, Melissa shoves Ben lightly. This causes Ben to slip and fall, breaking his ankle.
Melissa did not touch Ben 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” means any serious impairment of someone’s physical condition.5 Medical treatment is not required for a victim’s injuries to be “serious.”6
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?
In our experience fighting violent crime charges in California, the most effective defenses to aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury are that
- you acted in self-defense,
- there was no serious injury, or
- the incident was an accident.
Self-defense works as a legal defense against a battery charge when all of the following are true:
- you reasonably believed that you (or another person) were in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm,
- you reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger, and
- you used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.12
To prove this defense, we would amass such evidence as video surveillance footage and eyewitness accounts to show that your actions were justifiable under the circumstances.
2.2. No serious injury
PC 243d charges apply only if you commit a battery and cause the victim to suffer a serious injury. A defense, then, is for you to say that while you may have committed a battery, the alleged victim did not suffer a serious injury.
To prove this defense, we rely on medical expert testimony to show that any injury the alleged victim sustained does not meet the legal definition of “serious.”
You cannot be convicted of aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury if you did not touch the victim willfully—that is, if the entire incident was an accident.
So if you accidentally shoved someone in a crowd, or tripped and fell into them, you should not be found guilty of this crime.13
To show that what happened was an accident, we would consult with an “accident reconstruction expert.” This expert may be able to scientifically show that what transpired could not have been intentional.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of PC 243d is a wobbler, meaning that a prosecutor can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:
- the facts of the case, and
- your criminal history.
Misdemeanor aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury 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 aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury is punishable by:
- jail time of up to four years, and/or
- a fine of up to $10,000.15
Note that you will receive a penalty enhancement of three to six years if you commit felony battery and cause the victim to suffer a great bodily injury, per California Penal Code 12022.7.16
4. Related offenses
- Simple battery (PC 242) – willful and unlawful use of force or violence on another person.
- Simple assault (PC 240) – unlawful attempt, along with the present ability, to cause a violent injury to another person.
- Mayhem (PC 203) – unlawfully or maliciously attacking another person in a way that causes disfigurement or disability.
- Assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245(a)(1)) – attacking or attempting to attack another person with a deadly weapon.
- Domestic battery (PC 243(e)(1)) – using force or violence against your cohabitant, co-parent, or current or former significant other.
- Sexual battery (PC 243.4) – touching another person’s intimate parts without their consent for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse.
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 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 (“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 pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, three, or four years.”). 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. 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.
- 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.