You’ve most likely heard the phrase “assault and battery” before, even if you’ve never been involved with these crimes in any way. You might have heard them on television legal dramas, via the news, or from a friend.

Likely, you’ve never stopped to think why the term assault always seems to get paired with the term battery. Many people actually think these are one crime or two crimes that always go together, but it’s not quite that simple.

While you don’t need to know the details to enjoy a television police procedural, you definitely need to know the difference if you are facing criminal charges. Below, we dig into what these two terms mean when it comes to California criminal law.

What Is Assault in California?

According to the California penal code, assault refers to the attempt to violently injure another person. There must be a present ability to carry through with the attempt for it to be considered assault. Threatening someone on the phone when you’re two counties away, then, isn’t assault (though it might be another type of crime, depending on the circumstances).

Assault is a blanket term, so it can refer to a wide range of actions that may or may not result in injury. Simple assault, for example, occurs when someone attempts a physical attack but isn’t successful or they are successful, but the attack doesn’t result in any injury.

What Is Battery in California?

Battery is technically a type of assault. In this case, the assault results in physical contact and the victim of the crime is injured.

Types of Assault and Battery Charges

Assault and battery charges can range from misdemeanors to serious felony offenses.

Simple assault, as described above, is typically the least serious of the crimes that fall under the assault umbrella. On the other end of the spectrum, you have crimes such as aggravated battery or assault with a deadly weapon. These charges are levied when someone causes serious injury to another person or uses a gun, knife, or other weapon in the assault.

Simple assault is typically a misdemeanor. Some types of battery are also misdemeanors, as the level of the charge typically depends on the seriousness of the injuries inflicted. Even aggravated battery may be a misdemeanor or a felony based on the injuries involved in the case.

How Can You Defend Yourself Against Assault and Battery Charges?

One of the first steps in defending against an assault or battery charge is understanding exactly what you’re being charged with. As noted above, there’s a difference between simple assault and battery. There’s also a difference between aggravated assault and vehicular battery.

Knowing these differences can help in your defense. If you’re being charged with aggravated battery but the prosecution can’t prove that you caused an injury, for example, you may be able to get the charges reduced to misdemeanor simple assault. That might substantially lower the consequences you’re dealing with.

Self Defense

One common defense against battery charges is self-defense. If you can demonstrate that you perceived a realistic threat and were acting to defend yourself against that threat, you might be able to avoid a conviction.

Obviously, the exact details of the case matter greatly, and you also need evidence such as videos of the incident or witness accounts. This is all true for other defense claims, such as defending your property or defending someone else.

No Intent

One common defense against simple assault and other assault charges is that you had no intent. If you were joking around with a friend, pretending to box, and you accidentally hit a passerby, this might be a good case for a lack of intent to commit the battery, for example. Again, the unique facts of your case must be examined to determine if such a defense strategy would be viable.

Shared Fault in a Fight

There are also times when you might end up in a fight with someone else and you both entered into the fight willingly and of your own accord. Perhaps, for example, two people become angry with each other at a sporting event and begin to have a physical altercation. If both parties are involved in the fight and at equal fault, it’s possible that this can be used as a basis for a defense if one of the individuals is later charged with battery.

Work With an Experienced Criminal Defense Team

Because assault and battery charges can vary so widely in California and depend on details specific to each case, it’s a good idea to get a criminal defense attorney involved as soon as you’re charged with one of these crimes. Your lawyer can review the facts of the case and help you understand exactly what you’re being charged with and what consequences you might face if convicted.

Your legal team can also help you understand what type of defense strategy might be best in your case. They might advise a plea bargain to reduce charges or have an option for working to prove your innocence in court. Whatever path you choose, with an experienced criminal lawyer at your side, you’ll be less confused by the criminal justice system and more confident in your approach to the matter.

If you or someone you love is facing assault or battery charges, getting legal help is important. Reach out to the bilingual Spanish-speaking team at Confianza Legal at 562-991-6298 to find out how we can help.