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Assault (California Penal Code Section 240)

California Penal Code Section 240, which is in effect in Orange County, deals with assault, a crime that involves attempted battery. Assault is a threatened or actual attack or attempt to attack another person. Simple assault does not result in actual physical contact or the infliction of harm or injury, but being convicted can lead to issues with your immigration status, professional licensing and career prospects, since it will go on your criminal record. Whenever an organization performs a background check on you, they will be able to obtain this information.

A person may be found guilty of assault even if he or she did not make any physical contact with the alleged victim. Based on Assault (California Penal Code Section 240), "attempted assault" is not a crime. As such, a person who threatens someone else through words or actions may be found guilty of simple assault, provided the individual had the present ability to carry out the threat - even if it never happened.

Although battery and assault are typically grouped together, California law separates the two and based on the many different types of assault and situations surrounding the crimes, different penalties apply.

Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) defines assault as: "... an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another." The main difference between battery and assault is that the latter is the threat or attempt to cause physical harm, battery is the actual crime of causing injury.

A prosecutor who wishes to prove that you committed an assault must establish that:

  • the defendant had intention and present ability to of causing harm.
  • the defended committed an act that would likely involve using force on another person.
  • you (the defendant) were aware that his or her actions would result in using force on another person.

Application of force is the term around which assault cases are built and the term describes offensive or harmful contact. Even the slightest contact might be sufficient to violate the Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) statute, if it is done out of anger or in a rude manner.

Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) considers assault a misdemeanor offense for which a convicted offender may be sentenced to a six-month jail term, anger management classes, community service and substantial court fines.

Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) Defenses

If you are charged with assault, it is important to speak to an Orange County Criminal Attorney who has significant experience pertaining to Assault (California Penal Code Section 240). Your lawyer will be able to guide you based on the details of your case and help design an effective defense strategy.

California law allows you to fight back and defend yourself if you have reasonable cause to believe that someone else might hurt you. Therefore, self-defense may be a potential claim if you are charged with assault.

Since assault under California Penal Code Section 240 does not require for any physical contact to be made, nor for injuries to be sustained, you may use the false accusation defense.

In order to find you guilty, the prosecution will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted willfully and with purpose. Although the law seems ambiguous, it is usually easy enough to determine whether someone acted willfully:

Willfully putting your arm out to grab someone is an assault, for if it connects, you are guilty of using "application of force". Also, seeing your hand reach for them may give the victim reason to fear being grabbed.

However, in many instances an arrest for violating 240 PC can be quite ambiguous. Accidentally putting your foot in front of another person without being aware of their presence as you stretch out is not a willful act. If you are unaware of the fact that the person is present, you cannot reasonably assume that they will be fearful of the application of force.

Likewise, playfully "threatening" another person, you may assume that they will recognize it as a joke, which would therefore not give you any reason to believe that it will cause them to fear being struck. Competent criminal defense will ensure that the jury finds you not guilty.

You can only be convicted for a California Penal Code Section 240 if the prosecution can prove that you commited simple assault beyond a reasonable doubt. Your criminal attorney will defend you in such a way that it raises questions to create doubt. Some of the questions will include:

  • Did you act willfully, or were your accidental actions misconstrued?
  • Would your innocent actions have been perceived as the application of force by a reasonable person?
  • Were you falsely accused of committing assault?
  • Were any witnesses present who perceived the incident in the same way the victim did?
  • Is it a case of mistaken identity?
  • Was the likelihood of making physical contact so slim that any reasonable person would be offended, or was the actions of the accused of such a nature that it would probably and naturally result in the application of force?
  • Given the relative positions of the alleged victim and accused, was it possible for the accused to inflict injury?
  • Did the accused act maliciously, or in response to a treat that caused them to exercise their right to defending themselves and others in a reasonable manner?

Many acquittals are won by creating doubt and experienced criminal attorneys are skilled at creating doubt, which encourages prosecutors to avoid criminal conviction

If you want to use self-defense or the defense of other individuals to obtain a positive outcome, the following criteria must be met:

  • You must have had a plausible reason to believe that you or another person(s) were in clear and present danger of unlawful touching or potential injury;
  • You must have had a reason to believe that your actions were required in order to prevent the touching or injury;
  • You only used the necessary force required to defend yourself or the other person(s).

It can be more difficult to defend yourself against a false accusation. Someone may accuse you falsely of simple assault due to a misunderstanding, anger, jealousy or revenge. Experienced criminal attorneys have handled all types of cases and can see right through some of the most bizarre claims as well as cases of mistaken identity, self defense and more.

Aggressive Defense for California Penal Code Section 240 Offenses

Obtaining an aggressive Orange County Criminal Attorney will make the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict. Hiring someone who has experience in simple assault cases could lead to an instant dismissal of the charges against you, an amendment to a noncriminal or nonviolent charge, a "not guilty" verdict or even a deferred dismissal that results in dismissal.

An experienced attorney is skilled at presenting your case in such a way that your position is painted in the most positive light. This will gain the sympathy of the judge and jurors

Penalties for a California Penal Code Section 240 Charge

A violation of 240 PC is considered a simple assault and since it typically involves no physical harm or injury, it is charged as a misdemeanor. If you are found guilty of a California Penal Code Section 240 offense, you will face a maximum jail time of six months and or a fine or a maximum of $1,000 and summary probation.

These penalties typically won't involve checking in with the probation department, or attending meetings with the probation officer. However, you may be required to follow certain orders, such as abiding by the terms of a protective order, attending classes, and performing community service.

The penalties for a California Penal Code 217.1(a) conviction will be increased to a $2,000 fine and up to three years in jail if you commit simple assault (misdemeanor) against an individual who is performing his or her professional duties as a public official - or his or her family - at the time of the assault as a:

  • nurse or physician providing emergency health care outside of their professional setting;
  • mobile intensive care paramedic or EMT;
  • traffic or police officer;
  • lifeguard;
  • search and rescue team member;
  • parking control officer;
  • highway worker;
  • code enforcement officer;
  • animal control officer;
  • process server.

This includes any actions that involve preventing such officials from performing their professional duties.

The maximum penalties will be further increased if the assault is on property (or vehicles) belonging to public transportation providers, school property, or on park property.

Furthermore, when a California Penal Code Section 240 violation is committed against a person who is a member of the Armed Forces, a higher maximum penalty will apply.

In addition to simple assault, California Penal Code outlines additional assault charges:

  • Jail time up to six months
  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Summary probation

Summary probation simply means you likely won’t have to attend meetings with a probation officer, and you won’t have to check in with the probation department. However, you may have to perform community service, attend classes, and follow other orders, such as obeying a protective order.

If you are charged with misdemeanor, you could face county jail time up to a year and fines up to $2,000. A felony charge could result in state jail time from 16 months to three years.

Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) and Related Offenses

There are various types of assault in addition to simple assault. Here are some of the charges you may face:

Penal Code 245(a)(1)  - Assault with a Deadly Weapon: If you commit a misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon, you could be jailed for up to one year. If you are convicted of a Penal Code 245(a)(1) felony, you could face up to four years in jail and fines amounting to as much as $10,000.

Penal Code 244 - Assault with Caustic Chemicals: Assault with corrosive acids such as sulfuric acids, flammable substances (flashpoints, petroleum products or gasoline) or any substances that may corrode or burn organic tissue, is a felony. Being convicted of assault with caustic chemicals can result in up to four years in state prison.

Penal Code 415 outlines the assault-related crime of disturbing the peace, which involves actions such as:

  • Making public statements toward another person which are likely to provoke a violent response
  • Challenging another individual to fight, or fighting in public
  • Maliciously or willfully disturbing the peace by making unreasonably loud noise.

An initial simple assault charge with weak evidence may be reduced to disturbing the peace.

A Penal Code 415 conviction (disturbing the peace) can lead to fines of up to $400 and a jail sentence of up to ninety days.

Vehicle Code 23110 deals with the crime of throwing an object at a car, truck or similar vehicle, which is a misdemeanor. However, if the object has the potential to cause serious bodily harm, it may be upgraded to a felony charge. Assault charges may sometimes be reduced to a VC 23110 charge.

Why Hire a Criminal Attorney for Your Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) Case?

It is never a good idea to plead guilty or to try negotiate your case without professional assistance from an experienced criminal attorney, as you might live to regret the decision. Being convicted of a Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) violations can be listed on your criminal record and will be visible to anyone who performs a criminal background check, including:

  • future employers
  • future landlords
  • state licensing agencies

Orange County Criminal Attorney has represented individuals who have been charged with Simple Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) violations in many California courts over the years and has obtained excellent results, including case dismissals, acquittals and avoided many harsh consequences on behalf of our clients.

If you have been arrested or charged with simple assault or Assault (California Penal Code Section 240) violations, don't hesitate. Get in touch with Orange County Criminal Attorney at 714-831-1858 to schedule an initial case review. 

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