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Assault or Battery? That is the Question.

Updated: Jan 19

Often we lump “assault and battery” into the same crime, which leads to confusion. In California, these are actually two separate crimes, and you can be charged with both. Simple Assault, California Penal Code §240, is defined as “…an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” With an assault, there does not need to be any type of physical contact or injury. To be charged with assault you only have to have the ability at the time to hurt someone.


Comparing Simple Assault to a Simple Battery, found in California Penal Code §242, “[a] battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” An assault is only an attempt at force or violence, where battery is the actual infliction of force or violence. Further, battery does not have to result in injury, as “the slightest touching can be enough to commit a battery if it is done in a rude or angry way. Making contact with another person, including through his or her clothing, is enough. The touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind.” And to make it more interesting, the touching can be with an object, for example water or spit, or by causing someone else to touch the other person, e.g., shoving someone else into the alleged victim.


Penalties for Simple Assault can include one year of probation, up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Penalties for Simple Battery are generally the same, but the fines can be up to $2,000. With a conviction of either, you lose your right to possess a firearm for 10 years. Aggravated Assault, for example Assault with Intent Commit Rape or Mayhem, Penal Code §220, or any type of Aggravated Battery (against a custodial/peace officer, causing serious bodily injury, domestic assault or battery, sexual battery or to an elder) will have enhanced penalties, and could include prison.

There are legal defenses, and the best to fight Assault or Battery charges is with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. Some of the possible defenses may be

  • You acted in self-defense of someone else

  • The act was not done willfully

  • A parent’s right to discipline a child.

If you are facing assault and/or battery charges, it is in your best interest to retain a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. With over 20 years of experience handling criminal cases, the Law Office of Jeffrey R. Wood will be there to fight for you every step of the way, using his skill and knowledge to protect your constitutional rights. Contact a seasoned Sacramento and Placer County defense attorney today.



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