Assault and battery are often mentioned together, but they are actually separate crimes in California. Simple assault is a misdemeanor in the Golden State, but prosecutors can choose to file misdemeanor or felony charges in battery cases. Crimes that can be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies are often called “wobblers.” Choosing between felony and misdemeanor counts is usually left up to prosecutors, but judges may also make these decisions if they feel district attorneys are acting too harshly or too leniently.
The difference between assault and battery
Under California law, assault is an attempt to violently injure another. People can face simple assault charges even if they did not carry out their planned attack. Battery is an actual act of violence, and the penalties for committing this crime can be severe if the battery resulted in serious injuries or the victim was an emergency worker. When individuals commit violent acts with deadly weapons or during the commission of felonies, prosecutors may charge them with aggravated battery.
Assault and battery penalties
A conviction for simple assault can lead to a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. Six months is also the maximum custodial sentence for misdemeanor battery, but offenders face fines of up to $2,000 and may be ordered to pay restitution to their victims. The penalties for felony battery are more severe and include jail sentences of up to four years if the victim was a peace officer, emergency medical technician or nurse who suffered serious injuries.
Assault and battery defenses
When their clients are charged with assault or battery, experienced criminal defense attorneys may check police reports to see if they took action to protect themselves or others. If the incident was not an act of self defense, attorneys may seek to reduce the charges during plea discussions if their clients have previously unblemished criminal records or were provoked.