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What is Battery with Serious Bodily Injury?

In most criminal cases involving “Battery”, it will also be accompanied by a criminal charge of “Assault”. Assault is known as a “lesser included offense” to a battery charge. The reason for this is the two crimes share many similarities. First and foremost, a battery is typically a completed assaulti. The similarities do not stop there, like assault, most forms of battery are known as “wobbler offenses”, and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Further, the penalties associated with battery, much like with assault, vary based on who the battery was committed against, where the battery was committed, and how the battery was committed. For purposes of this article, the how the crime was committed bears a striking resemblance to Assault with a Deadly Weapon. In fact, the consequences for Assault with a Deadly Weapon and a Battery with Serious Bodily Injuryii are identical, including the potential for the offense to be considered a “strikeable offense” under California’s Three Strikes Law. The Prosecutor will base their decision of whether to bring a charge of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury on the extent of the injury, the Defendant’s prior criminal history, the age of the parties, and any other surrounding circumstances. Finally, both Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury are “general intent” crimes. This means that as long as the Defendant willfully engaged in the conduct that resulted in the battery, the Defendant will also be at risk for Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury if the Victim suffers Serious Bodily Injury. This also means that in addition to the general defenses against the crime of battery, the Defendant will also have the opportunity to argue that the Victim did not suffer Serious Bodily Injury.

If you have been arrested for Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for a free consultation immediately. In your first meeting, your lawyer will discuss every piece of information relating to the crime you are accused of, while you still remember it vividly.

Contacting an attorney from Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can have a significant impact on the ultimate outcome of your case. The primary benefit of immediately contacting LACL is that you will be able to provide your attorney with all the pertinent information while it is still fresh in your mind, a benefit you may not enjoy if you contact your attorney a long time after you have been arrested. The practical benefit of providing your LACL attorney with fresh, accurate, information is that they will be able to craft a much stronger argument if they have indisputable information to work with. Knowing what time of day you were arrested, the conduct of the officer when arresting you, and what occurred in the moments leading up to the crime you are accused of could be the difference between a conviction and a dismissal. The most skilled attorneys understand that when faced with criminal charges, every detail can make a world of difference, no matter how insignificant it may seem. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we pride ourselves on utilizing every detail of our client’s case to obtain the very best results possible.

Utilizing the information you have provided, your LACL attorney will approach the District Attorney who is prosecuting the case against you, and present a strong case for why they should not proceed against you. Sometimes this doesn’t accomplish that goal, but the amount of time your LACL attorney has had to prepare a defense tailor made to you will be invaluable during a criminal trial. Our attorneys dedicate all of their time to building an ironclad defense in your case, and the best defenses take time to build and investigate. At trial, your attorney will be able to effectively advocate to the jury that the Prosecution has failed to meet their burden. That is, they have not proven each element beyond a reasonable doubt.

The crime of batter is set forth in California Penal Code §242, and the penalties associated with battery can be found in California Penal Code §243; the penalties associated with Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury are specifically set forth in §243(d). You can find the Judicial Council of California’s approved jury instructions on the crime of battery in CACRIM 925iii. In order to be convicted of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury in a criminal trial, the Prosecutor must prove the following:

  1. The Defendant applied physical force, or caused physical force to be applied to the Victim;
  2. The physical force was harmful or offensive in nature;
  3. The Victim suffered Serious Bodily Injury as a result of the force used;
  4. The Defendant acted willfully when they applied, or caused to be applied physical force to another person which was harmful or offensive in nature.

The Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution has been interpreted to require that the Prosecution prove each and every element of the criminal charges against the Defendant beyond a reasonable doubt before they can properly be deprived of live, liberty, or property. If the Prosecution cannot meet this substantial burden, a conviction will be found to have violated the Constitution. The crime of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury requires a showing of two basic concepts: (1) the Defendant must be guilty of a “simple battery”. Assuming the Prosecution can prove that the Defendant was guilty of a “simple battery” they must then prove a second fact, that the Victim suffered “Serious Bodily Injury.” If the Prosecution does not prove both of these aspects beyond a reasonable doubt, Defendant cannot be convicted of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury.

Since the Prosecutor must prove every element of the crime the Defendant is accused of to obtain a conviction, it is standard line of defense to attempt to negate one or more of the elements of the crime the Defendant has been accused of committing. Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer has a staff that possesses decades of combined experience representing clients accused of criminal conduct; including Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury. LACL has a deep understanding of the elements of every crime, including Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury. Utilizing their intimate knowledge of the law, LACL will provide you the best opportunity to receive a dismissal of your case before it ever goes to trial, or a verdict acquitting you of the crimes you are accused of if the case goes to trial. This article will discuss: (1) the specific elements of the underlying offense of a “simple battery”, (2) the additional elements that the Prosecution must prove to maintain a conviction for Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, (3) the penalties associated with a conviction for Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury and (4) what Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can do to help you in the event you are charged with Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury.

What does it Mean to “Apply Physical force, Or Cause Physical Force to be Applied to Another Person”?

The crime of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury is designed to punish the individual who actually applied physical force to another person, and caused “Serious Bodily Injury.” In contrast, Assault with a Deadly Weapon is designed to punish the individual who engaged in conduct that was likely to result in the application of physical force to another person, and it that conduct has a high likelihood of resulting in “Serious Bodily Injury.” Criminal law acknowledges that there are an infinite number of ways of causing actual physical force to another person, but has identified three general forms that the application of force to another person can be accomplished. every method of accomplishing this required aspect of actual physical contact will be accompanied by an example describing behavior that would satisfy this element.

Who is “Another Person”?

This article takes it as a given that the reader understands the component that physical force be applied to “another person” includes the actual body of the Victim. The law has expanded the definition of “another person” to encompass other culpable conduct, which includes conduct beyond the physical touching of one person by another. According to California lawiv 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 “other person” prong of this crime.

EXAMPLE 1:

Dan is a 7th Degree Black Belt in Karate, and has a proven record of putting people in the hospital when he fights them. Dan sees Victor walking down the street carrying a piñata. Dan and Victor had recently gotten into an altercation at a popular nightclub in Downtown Los Angeles, and Dan felt he hadn’t gotten a fair chance to fight Victor. Dan ran up to Victor and performed a roundhouse kick, causing the piñata in Victor’s hands to explode. Dan can be convicted of “simple battery”, but not Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury. Since the piñata in Victor’s hands was considered part of his person, the act of kicking the piñata constituted the physical touching of Victor’s person. However, the extension theory of battery does not apply to Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, Victor was not harmedv.

EXAMPLE 2:

Dan is an accomplished MMA fighter, with 15 knock out wins under his belt. Dan sees Victor, who is currently dating his ex-girlfriend, and Dan suspects they were seeing each other well before the break-up. Hoping only to put Victor in fear, Dan walked up to Victor and threw a quick punch. Despite his intentions to not harm Victor, Dan accidentally struck Victor in the face, fracturing his nose, and knocking victor unconscious. Dan can be convicted of both Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injuryvi

“Apply Physical Force”

Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury can be accomplished either directly, or indirectly. The first element of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury requires that the Defendant made physical contact with the Victim, or caused the Victim to be physically contacted. This section will identify what “directly applying physical force” is. As noted above, items connected to the Victim are considered an extension of the Victim’s body. Similarly, objects connected to the Defendant are considered extensions of their body.

EXAMPLE 1:

Dan sees Victor walking down the street, and decides he does not like the shoes Victor has on. Dan grabs a baseball bat out of his trunk, and approaches Victor. Victor is holding a vase with roses, and Dan decides he would like to scare Victor. Dan swung the bat and struck the vase, causing it to shatter in Victor’s hands. Dan can be convicted of Battery and Assault with a Deadly Weapon, but not Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injuryvii

“Cause Physical Force to be Applied”

Another way to be convicted of a “simple battery” is to cause physical force to be applied to another person. While California and most other states adopt the theory that items connected to a person are considered extensions of that person, California also accepts that someone can commit a battery without physically contacting another person under the extension theory.

EXAMPLE 1:

Dan sees Victor walking down the street, and decides he does not like the shoes Victor has on. Dan grabs a baseball bat out of his trunk, and approaches Victor. Victor is holding a vase with roses, and Dan decides he would like to scare Victor. Dan swung the bat and struck the vase, causing it to shatter in Victor’s hands. The glass from the vase struck Victor in the eyes, and rendered him temporarily blind in his right eye. Dan can be convicted of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury because he indirectly caused the glass from the broken vase to strike Victor in the eye. Further, being rendered blind, even for a temporary time, constitutes Serious Bodily Injury.

Next, the Prosecution must convince the jury that the touching was a punishable type of touching; not all touching will be deemed a battery.

“Harmful” or “Offensive” in Nature

It is not sufficient to show that the Defendant touched the Victim, or caused the Victim to be touched in a manner that resulted in Serious Bodily Injury, the Defendant’s conduct must have been culpable in some fashion or another. The law requires that the touching be either harmful or offensive. What is harmful or offensive is generally decided by applying a “reasonable person’s” perspective in light of the surrounding circumstances. The basic rule is that a touch is harmful or offensive if it is done in a rude or angry fashion. An exception to this general rule occurs when the Defendant has knowledge about the specific Victim that the touch would be deemed harmful or offensive; he Prosecutor has the burden of proving that fact. In circumstances where the Prosecutor believes they have sufficient evidence to support a charge of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, it is nearly a given that this element will be satisfied unless the Defendant can successfully argue that there was no serious bodily injury, and the Prosecutor fails to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.

It is not enough to show that the Defendant touched the Victim, or caused the Victim to be touched in a harmful or offensive manner. The Prosecution must also show that the Defendant acted “willfully” when they engaged in the conduct that resulted in the “touching.”

What Does it Mean to Act “Willfully”?

A critical concept in criminal law is that in order for conduct to be considered criminal, it must be accompanied by a defined intent. There are two types of intent: “general intent” and “specific intent.viii” The word “willfully” typically tells the Court that the crime is a “general intent crime.” On the other hand the phrase “with the intent to…” generally informs the Court that the Defendant must have intended the result, this is known as a “specific intent crime.ix

Battery is one of many crimes that are considered “general intent crimes.” General intent is deemed present when the Defendant willingly engaged in the conduct that gave rise to the injury constituting Serious Bodily Injury. It is irrelevant whether or not the Defendant intended the outcome. Consider the example above where Dan kicked the vase in Victor’s hand with the intent to frighten him. Since he acted willingly when he kicked the vase, it is not an argument to say that he did not intend to harm Victor. Provided the Defendant knows what they are doing, and they intend to do that act, they will be found to have acted willingly regardless of the consequences that flow from that conduct. It should be noted that all elements of battery must be satisfied to maintain a conviction for battery, so simply acting willfully will not result in a conviction in the consequences were truly unforeseeable. As a practical matter, the Prosecution will not have a difficult time proving that the Defendant acted willfully, unless there are extenuating circumstances present. Your LACL attorney will raise many defenses attempting to negate the willful element of a battery charge, but most cases are not won by those defenses.

If the Prosecution can prove all of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you may be convicted of battery. However for a charge of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, the Prosecution must also prove that the Victim actually suffered a Serious Bodily Injury. Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer prides themselves on their thorough approach to every single case, frequently employing private investigators to assist with their defense strategy. In cases such as Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, additional investigation can prove invaluable; evidence may be presented that the Victim is fabricating the extent of their injuries. In these situations, the charges against you will likely be dropped to a “simple battery.” While that will be discussed below, a critical element the Prosecution will have to prove, is that the Victim suffered Serious Bodily Injury.

What is Serious Bodily Injury?

Serious Bodily Injury is vague phrase, and has been defined as a serious physical impairment, as opposed to minor or moderate. Examples of a serious physical condition include broken bones, loss of sight, serious disfigurement, concussions, loss of consciousness, wounds requiring significant medical attention and the impairment of any other part of the Victim’s body. If the Prosecution can prove every element of “simple battery” in addition to the existence of a Serious Bodily Injury, you will be convicted of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury. The penalties associated with Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury are dependent on whether or not you have been charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.

I Have Been convicted of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, What Penalties Could I be Facing?

As mentioned above, Battery with Serious Bodily Injury is considered a “wobbler offense”, which means the Prosecutor has the option of pursuing the charges against you as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The most significant factor the Prosecution will consider in making their decision is the severity of the injury caused to the Victim. The Prosecutor will also take your age, prior history, and reputation into account when making this determination.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, you will face incarceration in county jail for a period of not more than one (1) year; this crime does not provide the option of a fine.

If you are convicted of a felony Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, you will face imprisonment in California State Prison for a period ranging from two (2), three (3), or four (4) years. Additionally, you will like receive a “strike” pursuant to California’s Three Strikes Law. The impact of this can be substantial.

If you have previously been convicted of a violent felony, you likely received a “strike” on your record under California’s Three Strikes Law. If you have already received a “strike”, and this is your second “strike”, the Court is authorized to impose up to double the statutorily allowable period of incarceration; this means you could face four (4), six (6), or eight (8) years in state prison if convicted. If you are convicted of a third “strike” the Courts are authorized to impose a sentence of twenty-five (25) years to life imprisonment in state prison.

The impact of being charged with Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury cannot be understated. It is essential that you contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately if you have been arrested for Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury. Having competent counsel to guide you through the process can provide many tangible benefits.

I Have Been Accused of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, How Can Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer Assist Me?

Any criminal charge carries a substantial amount of fear for both the accused, and their families. Having an attorney with decades of experience can help to alleviate some of that fear, as they work with you to be build the strongest case available. A misdemeanor can have a significant impact on your future because it remains on your criminal background for a substantial period of time. This information is available to anyone who routinely conducts background checks, which frequently includes potential employers.

A conviction for a violent felony can have even more pronounced effects on people who conduct background checks. This is in addition to the high likelihood that you will receive a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law. As mentioned above, having a “strike” on your record will have a harsh impact on any subsequent criminal charges that are being brought against you. If you are charged with another violent felony, you could face double the time in prison, or even life in prison. If you are charged with a subsequent violent misdemeanor, evidence of your prior conviction will still be admitted in an effort to impose harsher sentencing.

Having an attorney from Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer will provide you the very best opportunity to avoid these negative consequences. Your attorney will work with you to build the strongest case possible, and present it to the District Attorney in an effort to convince them to drop the charges against you, or reduce the charges against you. LACL has decades of combined experience representing clients accused of criminal conduct, and have developed an unparalleled skill in criminal jury trials. At trial, your attorney will raise defenses including:

  • You did not cause the Victim to be subject to the application of physical force
  • If you did cause the victim to be subject to the application of physical force, that physical force was not harmful or offensive
  • Even if the touching was harmful or offensive, and you caused the Victim to be subject to the application of physical force, you did not act willfully
  • You were acting in self-defense, you just happened to be the stronger person
  • The Victim did not suffer Serious bodily injury

As mentioned above, whether or not the Victim actually suffered Serious Bodily Injury as a result of your conduct is the key distinction between a conviction for Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, and a “simple battery.” At LACL we utilize every tool we have at our disposal to obtain favorable results for our clients. One of these tools is our in-house private investigators. If you are accused of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, we will investigate the Victim in an effort to uncover evidence that they were not hurt as severely as the Prosecutor claims. Frequently people, who claim to be severely injured, continue their ordinary lives as if nothing happened. This is precisely the evidence we seek to uncover; it could be the difference between time in prison, and walking free.

In some unfortunate scenarios, LACL cannot convince the jury that our client is not guilty of the crime they are accused of. Your LACL attorney will advocate on your behalf to reduce the penalties you face by arguing:

  • You’re young, and prolonged incarceration would not be in your best interest
  • You have never been involved in a physical altercation before, and this incident simply got out of hand
  • The extent of the Victim’s injuries are not substantial enough to justify prolonged incarceration
  • Your reputation in the community is generally positive
  • The Victim has a reputation for getting into fights

If you have been accused of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately at 310-502-1314. We will set up a zero-obligation, FREE, consultation with one of our many skilled attorneys.


i Recall that the assault is a willful act that has the natural and probable result of causing physical force to be applied to another person, while a battery requires willful conduct, which does result in the application of physical force to someone else.

ii It should be noted that chances are if you are charged with Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, and a firearm was involved, you will likely be charged with attempted murder as well. However, Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury is a “lesser included offense” to attempted murder.

iii 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.

iv As well as every other state’s law regarding battery.

v Dan could still be charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon.

vi Dan may be charged with attempted murder as well if the Prosecution can prove additional factors, but it is likely Dan would only face charges of Assault Causing Serious Bodily Injury.

vii Unless the vase shattering in Victors caused the glass to cause Serious Bodily Injury, but this would be an indirect application of force to another person.

viii This is often referred to as the “mens reas” component of the crime.

ix Distinguish Assault with a Caustic Chemical or Flammable Substance and “simple assault”

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