Punching a person is a battery under California law (per Penal Code 242) and it could be charged as a felony if the defendant:
- punched a public servant, as in a police officer, firefighter, or EMT, or
- punched a person and it caused great bodily injury.
In both of the above scenarios, the battery is charged as a wobbler offense, which means the crime gets charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony at the prosecutor's discretion.
Please note that a “simple battery” under California criminal law is defined as:
- any willful or unlawful use of force or violence, and
- the force is committed on someone else.
Also note that a person accused of battery can raise a legal defense to try and challenge the accusation. Two common defenses include that the defendant:
- acted in self-defense, and
- did not act willfully.
What is simple battery under Penal Code 242?
The legal definition of “simple battery” in California is as follows:
- a person touched someone else,
- the touching was done willfully, and
- it was done in a harmful or offensive manner.
Note that a “touching” means that a defendant makes some type of physical contact with another person. It is not necessary that an injury results from the contact. In fact, the slightest touching can be a battery.
“Harmful or offensive” means a touching that is
- angry, or
Simple battery is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:
- misdemeanor (summary) probation,
- up to six months in county jail, and/or
- a fine of up to $2,000.
What is battery on a peace officer under Penal Codes 243b and 243c2?
One of the ways in which battery can be charged as a felony is if it was committed on a peace officer or similar public servant, per PC 243b and 243c2.
The specific classes of people protected by the crime of “battery on a peace officer” are people in the following occupations, engaged in the performance of their duties:
- police officer,
- EMT or paramedic,
- security officer,
- process server,
- traffic officer,
- animal control officer, or
- a doctor or nurse providing emergency medical care.
A violation of these statutes is a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.
If charged as a felony, the crime is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for:
- 16 months,
- two years, or
- three years.
What is battery causing great bodily injury under Penal Code 242d?
The second way (of two ways) in which battery can be charged as a felony is if a defendant commits a battery on a person and he causes a serious injury in doing so. Per PC 242d, this offense is known as battery causing great bodily injury, or “aggravated battery.”
Aggravated battery is a wobbler under California law, which means it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
The maximum misdemeanor sentence for this offense is up to one year in county jail.
If the crime is charged as a California felony, battery causing serious bodily injury can lead to imprisonment in the State prison for:
- two years,
- three years, or
- four years.
Are there legal defenses to battery charges?
A person accused of battery in California can raise a legal defense to try and challenge the accusation. A good legal defense can work to reduce or even dismiss a charge.
Two common legal defenses to a battery charge include:
- the defendant acted in self-defense, and
- the accused did not act willfully.
Note that with regards to a defense involving self-defense, it can work provided that:
- the defendant reasonably believed that he or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched unlawfully,
- he reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger, and
- he used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.
As to a defense of not acting willfully, it might be the case that a defendant committed a harmful touching on accident.
What is the difference between assault and battery?
California assault and California battery are, in reality, completely different offenses. The difference is that:
- Penal Code 240 assault is an action that may inflict physical harm or unwanted touching on someone else, and
- Penal Code 242 battery is the actual infliction of force or violence on someone else.
An assault doesn't necessarily involve any actual physical contact, whereas a battery does. Put another way, an assault is like an “attempted battery,” and a battery is like a “completed assault.”