What is a Battery?
The crime of “Battery” is very similar to the crime of “Assault” in many ways. First, and foremost, a Battery is the completion of an Assault. That is, if physical force is not applied to the person of another, the Defendant can only be found guilty of assault, or a variation of assault. If physical force is actually applied to the person of another, the Defendant can be convicted of battery. Further, much like assault, the penalties associated with battery are enhanced when the victim is a specified person, or the battery occurs in a specified location. Another similarity is that many variations of the crime of battery are known as “wobbler offenses” in California. This means that the Prosecution can charge the defendant with a misdemeanor battery, or a felony battery. This decision is often determined by the facts surrounding the battery itself, the age of the Defendant, the age of the Victim, the severity of the harm caused, and the Defendant’s criminal history. Finally, like assault, this a “general intent crime”, which limits the defenses the accused can raise in their case.
If you have been accused of battery, contact an attorney at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for a free consultation immediately. In this initial consultation, your attorney will obtain all the information surrounding the incident, while it is still fresh in your memory. There are many advantages to this, and they will be described throughout this article. The most significant benefit of receiving the story of “what happened” while it is still fresh in the mind of the Defendant is that the attorney will be able to begin crafting a defense strategy unique to your case. Utilizing this information, your attorney will be able to approach the District Attorney with a coherent argument as to why the charges should either be dropped entirely, or at least reduced to a lesser offense. In the event the District Attorney is unwilling to cooperate, your attorney will be able to continue building on your defense theory throughout the legal process, setting your case up for better chances of success at trial. The crime of battery is set forth in California Penal Code §242, and the penalties associated with battery can be found in California Penal Code §243. You can find the Judicial Council of California’s approved jury instructions on the crime of battery in CACRIM 960i. In order to be convicted of battery in a criminal trial, the Prosecutor must prove the following:
- The Defendant applied physical force, or caused physical force to be applied to the Victim;
- The physical force was harmful or offensive in nature; AND
- The Defendant acted willfully when they applied, or caused to be applied physical force to another person which was harmful or offensive in nature.
If the Prosecutor can’t prove each of these elements to a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, the Defendant cannot be convicted of what is known as “simple battery.” Naturally, if there can be no “simple battery” conviction, the Defendant cannot be convicted of any other crimes that are predicated on the occurrence of a “simple batteryii.”
Since the Prosecution must first prove the elements of the crime, it is a common defense strategy to simply negate the elements of the crime the Prosecution must prove, and then submit other defenses to the crimeiii. The attorneys at Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer (“LACL”) have decades of combined experience exclusively representing clients defending against criminal charges. The LACL attorneys have a deep understanding of the elements of every crime, including battery. Using their mastery of the law, your attorney will provide you the best opportunity of receiving a positive outcome to your case. The remainder of this article will discuss: (1) the specific elements of a battery charge, (2) the penalties associated with a conviction for battery, as well the penalties associated with a battery meeting specific criterion; and (3) what Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can do to help you in the event you are charged with battery.
What does it Mean to “Apply Physical force, Or Cause Physical Force to be Applied to Another Person”?
The crime of battery is designed to punish the actual application of physical force to another person, as opposed to behaving in a way that could result in the application of physical force to another personiv. The law recognizes that there are multiple ways to accomplish this task. Each form that will be discussed in this section will be accompanied by an example of what would satisfy this element, and what would not satisfy this element.
While common sense dictates that the actual body of a person, if contacted, would satisfy this element, the law takes “another person” a step further. According to California lawv a person’s body extends to objects that are attached to them. This means items the Victim is holding, as well as clothing, are sufficient to satisfy the “another person” prong of this crime.
Dan sees Vivian walking down the street carrying a purse that appears to be bulging with something valuable. Dan runs up behind Vivian, grabs her purse, and takes off running down the street. Dan can be convicted of batteryvi because he personally applied physical force against Vivian when he grabbed her purse while she was holding it. The reason Dan will be deemed to have applied physical force to Vivian is because while she was holding her purse, it was deemed an extension of her person.
Dan sees Vivian walking down the street, and put her purse on a table next to her while she chats on her cellphone. Dan runs by the table and takes Vivian’s purse. Dan cannot be convicted of battery because he applied physical force to Vivian’s purse, but it was not connected to her in any way; thus it was not considered an extension of Vivian’s personvii.
“Apply Physical Force”
There are two ways the Defendant can apply physical force to “another person”; directly, and indirectly. This section focuses on the direct version of causing physical force to be applied to another person. As mentioned above, the “extension of the person” theory applies to the Defendant as well. This means objects connected to the Defendant are deemed part of the Defendant.
Dan sees Vivian walking down the street with a tote bag, and decides he wants it. Dan grabs a five foot pole with a hook on the end of it, and waits for Vivian to pass by. As she passes, Dan reaches the hook out, and snatches Vivian’s purse without every touching her personally. Dan can be convicted of battery. Since anything Dan is holding is deemed to be an extension of Dan, and anything Vivian is holding is considered an extension of Vivian, this is exactly the same as if Dan had grabbed Vivian’s purse himself.
Dan sees Vivian walking down the street with a tote bag, and decides he wants it. Vivian sits down to talk with her friend, and places her tote bag on the ground next to her. Dan walks by, and hooks the bag, then takes off. While the hook is an extension of Dan’s person, Vivian’s tote bag is no longer an extension of her person, since it is no longer connected to her.
“Cause Physical Force to be Applied”
The final form of applying physical force is indirectly. This encompasses the notion that there are some ways to commit a battery where the “extension of the person” theory doesn’t cover both actors. California also punishes conduct that requires something to occur in between the Defendant’s conduct, and the application of physical force to another person, or an extension of that person.
Dan, returning from baseball practice, sees Victor walking down the street. Victor played for a rival team to Dan’s and Dan figured he would try to frighten Victor. Dan grabs a baseball, and hits it with his bat towards Victor. The ball struck Victor in the rib, cracking two of them. Dan can be convicted of batteryviii. Since anything connected to Dan is deemed an extension of his person, and Dan hit the ball with the baseball bat, he is deemed to have caused the baseball to hit Victor. It doesn’t matter Dan, or his bat, never touched Victor.
Dan, returning from baseball practice, sees Victor walking down the street. Wanting to intimidate Victor with his sheer power, Dan hits the baseball with his bat in a different direction. The baseball hit the leg of a table, which collapsed and catapulted a glass of water into the window of a car that was driving by. The driver was startled and swerved his vehicle into Victor. It is unlikely that Dan can be convicted of battery under these facts. While his conduct was certainly culpable, it would be improper to say that Dan caused the car to hit Victor. Dan certainly caused the leg of the table to collapse, and arguably caused the glass of water to be catapulted. It would be a stretch to say that Dan also caused the glass of water to fly into the window of a car, the driver to be startled, and the driver to swerve into Victor.
The next element the Prosecution must prove, is what the nature of the physical contact was. It would be unreasonable to say that all touching is a battery, as some touching is completely harmless and unavoidableix.
“Harmful” or “Offensive” in Nature
As mentioned above, it is not enough for the Prosecution to prove that the Defendant applied physical force, or caused physical force to be applied, to another person. The Prosecution must show that the nature of the physical force was harmful or offensive. To put it plainly, any touching with is done in a rude or angry way will satisfy this element. It should be noted that whether or not something is harmful or offensive is generally determined by what a reasonable person would think. An exception to this general rule is when the Defendant had specific knowledge about how the Victim would perceive the touching.
Dan knows that Vivian is extremely sensitive about her wig, since she lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy. Dan, thinking it would be funny to mess up Vivian’s wig, walks up and runs his hand through Vivian’s wig, setting is slightly askew. Nobody else saw, but Vivian was very offended. Dan has probably satisfied this element because he knew Vivian would find it offensive. It could also be argued that messing up someone’s hair is offensive in general, but that would be a much tougher argument to make for the Prosecution.
Dan and Vince just started playing baseball on the same team. Unbeknownst to Dan, Vince has a wig since he lost all his hair in chemotherapy. After Vince hit a game winning homerun in the 9th inning, Dan ran up and rubbed his head in excitement. Vince’s wig fell off in front of everyone, and he was mortified. Dan probably will not have satisfied this element of battery because it is unreasonable to believe it is offensive to touch someone one’s hair when you are their teammate and they just won the game. Again, the argument could still be made that messing up someone’s hair is offensive in general, but since Dan did not know about Vince’s wig and in context it was probably appropriate, a Prosecutor will have a difficult time convincing the jury that this element has been satisfied.
In addition to proving that the Defendant touched, or caused the Victim to be touched, and that the touching was harmful or offensive, the Prosecutor must also show that the Defendant acted willfully when he acted.
What Does it Mean to Act “Willfully”?
As mentioned throughout this website, there are two types of crimes when it comes to the required intent to maintain a conviction; “general intent” and “specific intentx.” General intent is often signaled with the word “willfully”, while specific intent is frequently signaled with the phrase “with the intent to…xi” Battery is a general intent crime. General intent requires that the Defendant intended to engage in the act that gave rise to the battery charges against them. It is no defense to say that the Defendant did not intend the outcome of their action, as that would be a defense to a specific intent crime. The legal community has been engaged in a discussion as to whether this definition is sufficient, it has been suggested that the correct definition of willfully is a person acts “willfully” when they engage in conduct on purpose, they are aware of what they are doing, and they intend to engage in that actxii. For practical purposes, absent extenuating circumstances, this element is fairly easy for the Prosecution to prove; many of the defenses your LACL attorney can raise will be aimed at negating the possibility that the Defendant was acting willfully.
If the Prosecution can prove all of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you may be convicted of battery. If you are convicted of battery, there are a number of possible penalties you may face.
I Have Been Convicted of Battery, What are the Penalties I Could Face?
It is an unfortunate reality that even the best attorneys can’t win every case. As mentioned above, battery can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in most cases. This determination will be based on many external factors including the identity of the victim, the identity of the Defendant, the severity of the harm, the items used to commit the battery, the age of the parties, and the Defendant’s prior criminal history. There are special penalties for batteries committed against peace officers in the performance of their duties, which will be discussed in our page on Battery on a Peace Officer. There are also different penalties associated with a battery that results in what is known as “serious bodily injury, which will be discussed in our page on Battery involving Serious Bodily Injury. Below is a list of potential penalties based on different facts, which the Prosecution must prove in addition to the “simple battery allegations.
If you are convicted of a “simple battery” without any additional enhancements, you will face up to six (6) months of incarceration in the county jail and/or a fine of up to two-thousand ($2,000) dollars.
If you are convicted of “simple battery” and the victim is a spouse, cohabitant, girlfriend, or any other individual identified in California Penal Code §243(e)(1), you will face up to six (6) months in county jail and/or a fine not exceeding two-thousand ($2,000) dollarsxiii
Penalties for a Battery Against a Custodial Officer
If you are convicted of “simple battery” against a custodial officer who was engaged in the performance of their duties, and you knew or should have known they were a custodial officer in the performance of their duties, California Penal Code §243.1 mandates punishment in accordance with California Penal Code §1170(h)xiv.
Penalties for Battery on the Property of a School, Park, or Hospital
If you are convicted of a “simple battery” on the property of the locations listed above, you will face incarceration in county jail for a period of up to one (1) year and/or a fine not more than two-thousand ($2,000) dollars pursuant to California Penal Code §243.2.
Penalties for Battery Against an Elder, or a Dependent Adult
If you are convicted of a “simple battery” against a person who is defined by California Penal Code §368 as an elder, or a dependent adult, and you know that they are an elder or dependent adult, you will be incarcerated for up to one (1) year in county jail and/or fined up to two-thousand ($2,000) dollarsxv.
Penalties for a Battery Against Transportation Personnel or Passengers
If you are convicted of a “simple battery” against transportation personnel engaged in the performance of their duties with knowledge that they are engaged in their duties, or a passenger on any form of public transportation, you will face a fine of up to ten-thousand ($10,000) dollars and/or incarceration in county jail for up to one (1) year.
If you inflict an injury on the Victim, you will face a fine of up to ten-thousand ($10,000) dollars and/or incarceration for a period of sixteen (16) months, two (2), or three (3) years in state prison if you are convicted of a felony. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you will face up to one (1) year in county jailxvi.
There are a number of other victims and locations that will have an impact on the penalties a person convicted of “simple battery” will receive. It is beyond the scope of this article to identify each, and every one of those variations. If you are convicted of a “simple battery” your LACL attorney may still be of use, they can advocate for reduced or alternate sentencing.
I Have Been Accused of Battery, What can my Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer do to Help Me?
If you or a loved one has been accused of a “simple battery”, it can be a frightening experience for everyone involved. Having competent counsel representing you can help alleviate some of that fear. From your initial consultation throughout the entire course of the proceedings against you, Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer will be available to you 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We will be available to provide information and updates as the status of the case against you, and provide insight as to how the case will proceed. If you have been accused of a “simple battery” the best thing you can do to help your case is contact one of our skilled attorneys immediately so they can begin crafting a defense tailor made to the facts of your case. At LACL we believe that “cookie-cutter” defenses are both unethical and ineffective; we take the time to get to know you and your case. Armed with years of experience, and substantial skill, your attorney will approach the District Attorney in an effort to convince them that the case against you is not strong enough to pursue. In the event that your attorney’s efforts with the District Attorney do not succeed, your LACL attorney will skillfully present your case to the jury in the hopes of obtaining a favorable verdict. In order to do this, you attorney will raise defenses including:
- You did not cause the physical force to be applied to the Victim
- The Victim was not a member of an identified class
- The battery did not occur in a specified location
- You did not act willfully
- The physical contact was neither harmful nor offensive.
- Involuntary intoxication
- You were wrongfully accused
In the event your LACL attorney cannot obtain a favorable verdict, and you are convicted Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer will vigorously advocate for a lesser sentencing raising every argument available to persuade the sentencing judge. The value of skilled representation cannot be understated.
If you or someone you love has been accused of battery, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for FREE consultation at 310-502-1314 immediately!
i The Judicial Council of California Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions has drafted and approved jury instructions for every crime set forth in the California Penal Code (“CALCRIM”). Attorneys will frequently submit their own jury instructions, but the CALCRIM instructions provide excellent guidance as to what the Prosecution must prove in order to obtain a conviction.
iii It could be properly said that the additional defenses also negate elements of the crime, but for ease of reading this article does not adopt that view.
iv The latter would be deemed an assault.
v As well as every other state’s law regarding battery.
vi Dan can also be convicted of Robbery
vii An argument could be made that Dan committed an assault.
viii Dan can also be convicted of Battery with Serious Bodily Injury.
ix For example, people on the bus frequently make minor contact with each other throughout the course of transit; it would be absurd to say that this constitutes a battery.
x This is often referred to as the “mens reas” component of the crime.
xi Distinguish Assault with a Caustic Chemical or Flammable Substance and “simple assault”
xii California Crim. Jury Instr. Companion Handbook § 5:1, California Crim. Jury Instr. Companion Handbook § 5:1
xiii This is discussed further in Domestic Battery.
xiv This mandates that the crime be treated as a felony, and the convicted Defendant will face a range of sixteen (16) months, two (2), or three (3) years in county jail.
xv This will be discussed in Elder Abuse.