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Are assault and battery the same?

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

Assault and battery constitute two distinct charges under California law. To build a viable defense, you need to understand what exactly the police say you did.

This is how the California code defines the two charges:

  • An assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.”
  • A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”

The intention is key here. If the police believe you tried to hurt someone, you will probably face assault charges, regardless of whether you succeeded in harming them.

Battery charges require actual contact with the other party but could result from merely touching someone without any desire to harm them. For instance, pushing them in an argument or poking them with your finger could all lead to accusations of battery.

Does the aggressor’s size matter?

It may. Since the definition of an assault requires a “present ability” to injure someone. Let’s say you are the size of a small child with muscles to match. Unless you were holding a weapon or are a practiced martial artist, the chance that you could inflict harm on a six-foot-tall grizzled ex-marine is slim. That size difference might be enough to get an assault charge downgraded to one of battery.

What if the other person started the fight?

Self-defense can be a valuable defense against charges of battery or assault. Even if the other person did not touch you, if you can show you had reason to be afraid they might, a judge may consider the actions you took as valid.

Defending against charges of assault or battery is complex. Getting help from an experienced California criminal defense attorney will be crucial.