WHAT IS A BATTERY?
California Penal Code §243 defines battery as the willful use of force or violence on another person. For purposes of California Penal Code §243, “use of force” on another person, it is not required that the force was violent or severe. Further, to constitute a battery, the touching does not have to result in paid, injury, or bodily harm to the person. Any harmful or offensive contact, without the consent of the other persons, will meet the threshold requirement of touching for the purposes of a §243 charge. If, however, the touching resulted in serious bodily injury to the person, the Defendant could be charged with a battery causing serious bodily injury under California Penal Code §243(d); the consequences of which include more severe penalties (up to two (2), three (3), or four (4) years of incarceration).
Ultimately, the crime defined in §243 is simply the non-censual touching of another individual. This crime is referred to as a “general intent” crime. This means that the person being Prosecuted under §243 can be charged with the offense even if the Defendant didn’t intend to actually touch the other person, even if it was on accident.
The “force” as defined in §243 can be accomplished either directly, or indirectly. Direct force would be the actual touching of one person by another person. Examples would include punching shoving, kicking, or tackling another person. Indirect force is accomplished by causing another object to make contact with the person, or by forcing a person to engage in conduct which would result in a harmful or offensive touching (pointing a gun at someone and telling them to jump off a bridge). Examples of indirect force include throwing a bottle and hitting the target person, shoving a table into another person, or dropping a chandelier on another person. It should be noted that provocation through words alone is never a sufficient defense for the crime of battery. This means no matter how exasperating, or offensive, another person’s speech is, you will still be found guilty of battery if you retaliate by using force or violence on the other person; directly or indirectly.
For example, in California, you could be guilty of a battery if you kissed someone without their consent, throw a drink at them, or even poke someone without their consent.
To maintain a conviction for the crime of battery as defined by §243 of the penal code, the Prosecution must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. You touched another person;
2. The action that resulted in the touching was willful; and
3. The touching was in a harmful or offensive manner.
As mentioned above, the Prosecution must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, if the Prosecution does not prove all the elements; you should not be convicted of a battery. The attorneys at Orange County Criminal Attorney have years of experience representing clients in wide range of criminal charges, including battery charges. Our attorneys at OCCA are familiar with every phase of the criminal process, and will bring their considerable knowledge to bear in advocating for you freedom. In the event that your OCCA attorney is unable to convince a jury to return a verdict in your favor, our attorneys will vigorously advocate for the lowest penalty available at law. In order to understand the crime of battery, it is import to understand the elements of the crime, which will be discussed below.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A TOUCHING OF ANOTHER PERSON?
The first element that the Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the Defendant actually “touched” the victim. Keep in mind that a battery can be seen as the completion of an assault. In order for the Prosecution to obtain a conviction on a battery charge, they must prove that the Defendant actually made physical contact with the victim. “Physical contact” in turn, means that the contact occurred in a harmful or offensive manner. It is necessary to show that there is an actual, present, ability to cause the physical contact. It should be noted that the severity of the touching is irrelevant to a battery charge, as it relates to your guilt or innocence, even a superficial touching can result in a conviction for battery under §243. As noted above, the physical contact could also be accomplished through indirect means, by causing another object to touch the other person. Further, the touching does not necessarily have to be of the actual body of the victim; anything connected to the victim is also considered their person. As such, if you grabbed a person’s purse or backpack in a harmful or offensive manner, you could still be convicted of a battery.
Brandon went to a night club with a few of his friends. Brandon saw a very pretty girl dancing on the floor, so he went and grabbed her breasts. Brandon can be found guilty of a battery.
Vince is a well-known food critic. After receiving bad fish in one of his plates, Vince became irate. As Vince’s server walked by the table, Vince slapped the server’s tray out of his hand and berated him for the poor meal. In this example, Vince can be found guilty of a battery because he slapped the tray out of the server’s hand. This is so because, as mentioned above, anything attached to the person, is considered part of the person. Here, the server was carrying a tray, and thus, the tray became part of his person for purposes of a §243 conviction.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ACT WILLFULLY?
The second element the Prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that the Defendant acted willfully. Pursuant to California law, a person is deemed to have acted willfully when they intended the act that resulted in the touching, it is irrelevant that the Defendant didn’t intend to cause harm to the victim.
The Prosecution must present evidence to the jury that the Defendant acted intentionally by engaging in an action that by its very nature would likely result in the touching of another person, in a harmful or offensive manner. It is unnecessary to show an intent to cause a specific harm, it is only necessary to show that the Defendant engaged in conduct that would likely result in the detrimental consequence of a harmful or offensive touching.
As mentioned above battery, as defined by §243, is a general intent crime, all that is necessary is that the Defendant had knowledge, or should have had knowledge, of facts that would a lead a reasonably prudent person to believe that the conduct they are engaged will naturally, and probably, result in the application of force against another person.
Further, “willfully” means that the action was done on purpose, again it does not matter whether or not the Defendant intended to act in illegal manner, or cause harm to the victim.
EXAMPLE: Tom was in a meeting with Thomas to discuss Thomas’ progress on the assignment Tom had given him three weeks prior. Upon hearing that the work was not completed, Tom began to berate Thomas. Eventually, Thomas began crying. Realizing that he may have been a little harsh towards Thomas, Tom came around his desk and gave Thomas a hug. Under these facts, it is unlikely that Tom would be convicted of battery, unless the Prosecution can show that the hug was harmful or offensive. For purposes of the willful element of this crime however, the Prosecutor could prove that Tom acted willfully in engaging in the conduct that was the hug.
WHAT CONSTITUTES HARMFUL OR OFFENSIVE TOUCHING?
It is necessary to point out that a battery is not committed unless the touching is harmful or offensive. This means the touching must occur in a violent, rude, or aggressive manner. Further, it is unnecessary for the touching to actually result in an injury to the victim. However, if there are injuries including scrapes, cuts, or bruises, the Prosecution will have a much easier time proving their case to the jury.
Brandon and Clark had been out drinking one night, and had gotten into an argument over who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman. The argument got heated, and Clark tackled Brandon. Brandon was not injured in any manner by the tackle, but pressed charges anyways. The Prosecution could maintain their charge of battery against Brandon because Clark acted willfully, by tackling Brandon, and the touching was harmful or offensive because it was done in a violent manner.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT IF I AM CONVICTED FOR BATTERY?
A simple battery, without aggravating factors, is punishable as a misdemeanor in California. A conviction for simple battery is punishable by a fine of up to two thousand ($2,000) dollars or incarceration for up six (6) months, or a combination of both. These penalties are set forth in California Penal Code §242.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL DEFENSES MY OCCA ATTORNEY CAN RAISE IF I AM CHARGED WITH BATTERY?
- As mentioned above, a simple battery is chargeable as a misdemeanor in California. A conviction for battery will go on your criminal record, which is available to anyone conducting a background check on you. Employers regularly conduct background checks on potential employees, and a conviction for a simple battery may lead a potential employer to conclude that you are not fit for the job they are considering hiring you for. If you have been charged with a simple battery, contact an attorney at Orange County Criminal Attorney immediately. Our OCCA attorneys have ample experience representing clients in a wide variety a criminal charges including simple battery. Our extensive experience representing clients in criminal proceedings allows your OCCA attorney to approach the case from multiple angles, either defeating the Prosecution’s case on critical elements, presenting defenses to the charge, or advocating for a lesser sentence. Having an OCCA attorney with you throughout the entire process is essential to obtaining a favorable outcome. Some of the defenses your OCCA attorney can raise for you include: The harmful or offensive touching was to defend yourself from physical harm, or to defend someone else from physical harm.
- You did not act in a willful manner when you engaged in the conduct that resulted in the harmful or offensive touching.
- You were wrongfully accused on the person who committed the harmful or offensive touching.