California Assault Laws

Assault vs Battery

In California assault is different than battery. Assault and battery are two different things in California but they are frequently confused.


For a criminal jury to convict a defendant on trial for assault in California under PC 240, all of the following must be true:

  • The defendant did something that was likely to result in the use of force against someone else;
  • The defendant did so willfully;
  • The defendant was aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that this act would directly and probably result in force being applied to the other person; and
  • The defendant had the ability to apply force to the other person at that immediate time.


In California assault and California battery are actually two distinct crimes, even though you often hear people use the phrase “assault & battery” . The California crime of battery consists of the actual use of unlawful force or violence against someone else (not just an attempt to do so).



Here are examples of situations where California assault charges may be filed:

A man hits on a woman at a night club in a way she finds offensive, then she throws the martini glass containing her lemmon drop at him;
During a confrontation over a parking spot, one man attempts to punch the other but the stranger ducks and avoids being punched; and
Three teenagers throw stones at a neighbor while she is mowing the lawn.


Penal Code 240 PC simple assault is a misdemeanor in California law.


The penalties for California assault in most cases include up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.


Legal defenses

You can be charged and convicted of California assault even if no one was actually hurt. As a result, it is easy for someone who tries to obey the law and avoid crime to find themselves facing PC 240 charges.

A California criminal defense attorney can help. There are several powerful legal defenses you can use to fight these charges. These include:

You did not actually have the ability to inflict force/violence on the other person;
You did not act willfully or with the required intent;
You acted in self-defense or defense of someone else; and
You were wrongfully accused.

In order to help you better understand California assault laws, our California criminal defense attorneys will address the following:

The Legal Definition of Assault in California

Assault vs. battery in California
Penalties for Penal Code 240 PC Assault
Assault on a law enforcement officer or emergency personnel
Legal Defenses to California Assault Charges
PC 242 California battery/battery causing serious bodily injury
PC 245(a)(1) assault with a deadly weapon
PC 415 disturbing the peace

If, after reading this article, you would like more information, we invite you to contact us at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman.

You may also find helpful information in articles on California Criminal Jury Trials; Legal Definition of a Misdemeanor in California Law; Common Legal Defenses to California Crimes; California Battery Law Penal Code 242 PC; Misdemeanor (Summary) Probation in California; Self-Defense as a Legal Defense in California Law; Legal Definition of a Wobbler in California Law; Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury Penal Code 243(d) PC; Legal Definition of a Felony in California Law; Penal Code 245(a)(1) Assault with a Deadly Weapon; Legal Definition of Great Bodily Injury/Harm; California “Disturbing the Peace” Laws Penal Code 415 PC; and Legal Definition of an Infraction in California Law.

Call us for help…

For questions about Penal Code 240 PC California assault, or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our California criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman.

We have local criminal law offices in and around Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, and several nearby cities.

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