It is extremely important to understand the fine distinctions of how battery laws in California are defined under Penal Code 202.
Due to evolutions in modern English, many people fail to intuitively perceive the difference between the crime of battery and the crime of a common assault. In many fictional works in the media, the term “assault and battery” is thrown around using an artistic license that does not address the legal distinctions between assault and battery. Legal professionals need to understand the precise differences that separate the crime of battery and the crime of assault as defined under current California legislation.
In general terms, the crime of battery is an assault that is the direct result of the perpetrator having substantive physical contact with the victim. Under California law, the charge of assault can be applied even if the perpetrator never physically made contact with the victim. Unfortunately, many people convicted of battery are surprised to learn that they can be successfully prosecuted even if the victim sustained no injury or injuries. The threshold of an assault rising to the level of a battery under Penal Code 202 only requires that the victim was touched or physically contacted in an unlawful or offensive way.
If a battery does result in the victim sustaining an injury or injuries, the perpetrator may be charged under Penal Code 243(d), the subsection dealing with the crime of battery which causes any serious bodily injury. Generally speaking, most battery charges are initially filed as misdemeanors. It is important to realize, however, that the charge of battery where a victim was injured is known to legal professionals as a “wobbler”. This slang term refers to the fact that prosecutors retain the right to upgrade a battery charge to a felony, depending on the severity of the injuries sustained by the victim, the heinousness of the circumstances of the offense, as well as the known prior history of the perpetrator.
Under Penal Code 202, a simple battery is classed as a misdemeanor offense. Penalties can include a fine of up to but not exceeding $2,000 and up to six months of incarceration. Individuals convicted on felony battery charges can be incarcerated for up to four years in prison on each charge.
Individuals committing the crime of battery against the following class of protected victims may receive extended jail sentences: animal control officers, doctors, traffic officers, custody assistants, lifeguards, security guards, firefighters, custodial officers, probation department employees, and nurses providing emergency care.
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