According to the California Penal Code, assault is a willful act that would apply force on someone or any action that gives reasonable evidence that force would be applied on someone. This means that assault charges do not only apply to people who have physically harmed someone, but also to people intending to harm others, even before they have committed the act.
Of course, this can get a bit complicated because the prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant would have committed an assault if not for any intervening bodies. Because of this, the California Penal Code lists down several categories that the prosecution must prove to be able to have the defendant convicted. He must be able to prove that the defendant’s actions were:
1. Directed and Probable
This means that the action was directed at the plaintiff and would have probably resulted in an application of force. For example, if a person marches towards someone with a baseball bat and swings it at the person before being blocked by a police officer, that person is deemed to have made directed actions that would have probably caused harm to someone.
The defendant was acting of his own will and volition; he was not being forced into doing that action. This, of course, is absent in situations of self-defense, among others.
3. With Probable Cause
This means that there is reason to believe that the defendant’s act was meant to apply force on the plaintiff. This could include a hostile history, or with them being involved in an unfavorable situation before the act in question.
4. With Present Ability
This examines whether the defendant could cause harm. If a person had made threats to punch someone from across the street, they will not have the ability to commit that assault unless they are capable of punching someone from across the street.
5. With No Legal Excuse
Legal excuses include self-defense and acting on another’s defense.
Assaults can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. It is only a misdemeanor if the victim wasn’t harmed or received only minor injuries. Misdemeanor assaults are punishable by up to six months in county jail or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
For felonious assault, the severity of the charge and subsequent punishment is based on how the crime was committed and any related offenses that may have been committed along with the felony assault.
Defenses for Assault Charges
There are two main strategies to defending against simple assault charges. The first is to question the verity of the accusation and the second is to question the parameters listed above and how well it applies to the case.
Question the Verity of the Accusation
It is not uncommon for people to press charges on others not because there is a valid cause, but only out of spite, hatred, anger, revenge, or envy. If this is the case, the elements of the crime will all have been made up by the plaintiff and will have been on no valid grounds. If proven, this pretty much assures the dismissal of the case.
Question the Parameters
Out of the parameters listed above, it is most common to question parameters 2 and 4.
The willfulness of action can be questioned if the circumstances leading to the incident are explained in detail. We live in a world where accidents can and do happen. It may not be our intention but sometimes we can cause harm to people.
For instance, if a person is riding a bike and suddenly has to avoid a speeding car and accidentally swerves onto a bystander. The defense for this would be to say that the biker did not willfully harm the bystander, he was only avoiding a car.
Assault charges can also be deflected by arguing that a person could not use force on someone. A person shaking his fists at someone can be charged with assault, but if he is shaking his fists from a window ten floors above the ground, then there is no more reason to believe that the person on the receiving end could have been harmed by the perpetrator.
Assault charges are complex areas of the law, so if you are facing one now, be sure to contact an Upland, CA, criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Marc Grossman to help you build up your defense. We will fight for you!
Battery (CPC §242)
Assault and battery often go hand in hand and are even often treated as one unit. We said a while ago that assault is an action that leads a person to believe that he would be harmed; battery is the bodily harm-causing action itself. This way, when the battery happens, the assault is said to be completed.
A person is charged with battery if he willfully and unlawfully comes into physical contact with someone in a harmful or offensive way, causing bodily injury outside the context of self-defense or reasonably disciplining a child.
Batteries can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the victim’s resulting injuries.
Assault with a Deadly Weapon that is Not a Firearm (CPC §245(a)(1))
The California Penal code section 245(a)(1) charges people who assault others with a deadly weapon that is not a firearm with a force that is likely to cause significant injuries.
Assault with a deadly weapon is also a wobbler offense in that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Penalties can include a fine of %10,000, up to four years in state prison, or both.
Assaulting a Public Servant (CPC §217.1(a))
Assaulting a public servant occurs when a person assaults any public officer, from the President to a peace officer, or even to any law enforcement officer. However, CPC §217.1(a) only applies to cases where the public servant is assaulted in retaliation or to prevent them from performing their official duties.
Penalties could include fines up to $10,000, 3 years in county jail, or both.
Disturbing the Peace (CPC §415)
Disturbing the peace entails fighting or challenging someone to a fight in public, intentionally making an unreasonably loud noise to disturb someone else, using offensive words to incite violence in public.
Disturbing the peace is punishable with 90 days in county jail, fines of up to $400, or both.
Should you have more questions regarding assaults and related offenses, don’t hesitate to contact a criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Marc Grossman, an Upland, California criminal defense law firm. Our lawyers are knowledgeable of criminal law and will defend you against your criminal charges.