Assault is a good example of criminal offenses primarily charged as simple crimes or misdemeanors in California. In this respect, it is commonly referred to as simple assault. Despite being a misdemeanor offense, it is prudent to seek legal representation during court since this crime can be charged alongside other criminal offenses such as battery. You also want proper defense if the plaintiff is an emergency personnel or a law enforcement officer (penalties would be higher if convicted). Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is ready to represent you in your trial. We work with clients all over Vista, CA and North County.

Legal Definition of Assault

Assault, according to Penal Code 240, is an attempt by an individual to commit a violent injury on someone. The elements of a crime that the prosecution must prove to charge you with assault entail engaging in an act that would ultimately result in the direct application of force to somebody else. You must have acted willfully as well. Also, while acting, you were aware of the facts that would enable a sensible person to believe that the action you engaged in would ultimately lead to the application of force. The present ability to apply the force unlawfully is also a critical element of assault.

Application of force, under this section, implies any touch which is either offensive or harmful. It includes even the slightest touch so long as it is done rudely or offensively. It is, however, not a must that the dangerous act is done directly – it can involve causing an object to touch the alleged victim. Furthermore, words alone no matter how offensive they sound, cannot prove assault charges. Thus, a person cannot be charged with assaulting verbally. Willfully, on the other hand, means doing something purposely or intentionally even if you did not intend to break the law, hurt someone, or gain any advantage.

Is Assault the Same As Battery?

Assault and battery are often confusing and are commonly used interchangeably. In reality, though, assault and battery in California are entirely different types of offenses. One of the critical difference is that, while penal code 240 assault is an action that may cause physical harm or unwanted touch, Penal Code 242 battery is the actual application or infliction of force or even violence on another person. Battery defined by California law states that you can be charged with battery only if you caused real physical harm to another person; while you can be charged with assault when there is only the presence of mere threats of harm.

Penalties for Assault

Violating penal code 240 is a misdemeanor offense whose penalties include a misdemeanor summary probation, a county jail term and fines. The jail term goes for a maximum of one year, while the maximum fine is 1000 dollars. However, the penalties are harsher if you are accused of assaulting an officer performing his or her duties in law enforcement or emergency departments as a lifeguard, firefighter, search and rescue member, process server, peacekeeping officer, emergency medical technician, or animal control officer. If you assaulted a person falling under any of these categories and you were aware that they occupy such positions, you will face an additional county jail term of one year and 2000 dollars fine.  

Aggravated assault charges may sometimes apply where you assaulted another person while in possession of deadly weapons or excessive force that is likely to cause significant bodily injury. This category of assault is cared under penal code 245(a) (1) and results in harsher penalties when convicted. It leads to four years in county jail and a fine of 10,000 dollars if charged as a felony, and a one-year county jail term in addition to 1000 dollars fine if charged as a misdemeanor offense.

The prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that, you assaulted someone to accuse you of aggravated assault. Also, they must show that while attacking, you used or were possessing a deadly weapon which may be any object with an ability to cause or inflict serious injury to the body. Typically, deadly weapons include guns, bombs, knives and even caustic acid.

Offenses Related to Assault

There are some offenses in California that can be charged alongside penal code 240 violation. Some of them can also be alternative charges for assault. Some of these charges include:

  1. PC 245(a) (1) Assault with Deadly Weapon (ADW).

This charge applies when you are accused of committing an assault while in possession of either lethal weapons or any other means of force that can cause great bodily injuries. PC 245 (a) (1) is a wobbler offense. As a misdemeanor, the maximum sentence is one year in a county jail. On the contrary, felony assault attracts two, three, or four years behind bars.

  1. Disturbing the Peace.

According to disturbing the peace laws codified under PC 415, it is a crime to fight someone in public, project provocative utterances on an individual in the open, and make unreasonable noises in a society which are likely to cause disturbances. This offense is a misdemeanor, and the usual punishment includes a maximum of ninety days in county jail.

  1. PC. 242 Battery

This charge applies when the accused apply force or violence against another person. It is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by an up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to 2000 dollars. However, if you caused severe injuries on the alleged victim, you will be charged with penal code 245(d) battery causing harm. As such, you may be charged with felony or misdemeanor. If convicted of a misdemeanor battery causing grave bodily injury, the penalties will include a maximum of one year in county jail, a 1000 dollars fine, or both the jail term and fine. If you are charged with felony battery causing severe bodily injuries, the sentence will include two to four years’ incarceration and/or a fine of up to 10000 dollars.

  1. Assault on a Public Official (Penal Code 217.1 (a))

This charge applies when you are accused of assaulting a public officer either by retaliating or thwarting him or her from executing official duties. Some of these public officials include public defenders, prosecutors, elected and executives, local, federal or state government officials. Such an offense is punishable as a misdemeanor or felony offense. For a misdemeanor, the penalties you are likely to face include a maximum one year in the county jail, a fine of up to 1000 dollars, or both penalties. You may also be subjected to a misdemeanor probation. If you are accused with a felony assault on a public official, the penalties might include sixteen months, two, or three years incarceration and/or a fine of 10000 dollars. Formal felony probation may also be given.

  1. Assault with Caustic Chemicals (Penal Code 244).

Assaulting with caustic chemicals implies hurling or placing any form of caustic chemical on the body of an individual with a view of disfiguring or injuring him or her. The offense is usually treated as felony attracting a penalty of two to four years sentence in state prison and/or a fine of 10,000 dollars.

  1. Throwing an Object at a Motor Vehicle (Vehicle Code 23110).

Rather than trying you under penal code 240, the prosecution can charge you with this offense if you are accused of throwing objects or substances upon moving motor vehicles on the public streets. You are charged with this offense regardless of whether you applied force while hurling the objects on the motor vehicle or not. VC 23110 is a misdemeanor in most cases, but if the object you threw upon the car had a potential of causing severe injury, or you did it with the intention of creating harm, it will be treated as a felony.

As a misdemeanor, the penalties include a misdemeanor summary probation, an up to six months in county jail. A fine of 1000 dollars can as well be used as a supplement or an alternative to the jail term. As a felony, VC 23110 (b) will subject you to harsher penalties which will include formal felony probation, sixteen months, two, or three years in state prison and a fine amounting to 10000 dollars as an alternative or an additional punishment.

Legal Defenses for PC 240 Charges

In any case you face an assault conviction, you may enter into criminal records as an assaulter which may impact negatively on your future life, career, and social status. To do away with any allegation, you should seek the help of an experienced lawyer who can take any of the following legal defenses.

  1. Lack of ability to impose force or violence.

One of the elements for PC 240 is that a defendant must have had the ability to impose force or violence on the victim. The attorney can defend you and refute the allegation by claiming that you did not inflict or apply any force.

  1. You Were Defending Yourself or Others.

Self-defense as a legal means of defending if you are facing any external bodily harm. Your attorney can argue that you attacked while trying to protect yourself or others from possible harm. However, some conditions must be confirmed for this defense strategy to hold. You must have reasonably believed that you or another person was in a looming danger of getting a bodily injury. It must also be proven that you believed that the use of force was an immediate necessity to protect yourself or others against the impending danger. Also, the energy you used or applied was just enough to defend against the threat. If you all the three conditions, you may not be held guilty of assault on the grounds of defense to self or others.

  1. You did not act willfully.

The penal code 240 assault holds you guilty if you assaulted out of will or you had an intention to attack. Your attorney can defend you by claiming that you did not willfully attempt to cause harm or use force. The attorney can also claim that your assault allegation was accidental, possibly resulting from the misunderstanding you had with the alleged victim. In some cases, the attorney can argue that you were misinterpreted by the victim, thus requiring the prosecution and the victim to provide the full story of how the incident unfolded.

  1. False Accusation.

There is no requirement according to Penal Code 240 for someone claiming to have been assaulted to have suffered actual injury. As a result, one can accuse you falsely of assault. The false accusation may stem out of anger, jealousy, and desire to revenge. An experienced attorney can refute the allegation by claiming that you were falsely accused and can request the prosecution to otherwise look for evidence from witnesses which may aid in finding the actual truth.

  1. Factual Impossibility.

Your attorney can argue that it was physically impossible to have engaged yourself in an assault depending on the facts presented in the court. For instance, you were medically incapacitated at the time of the alleged assault, and reasonably unable to assault someone. The attorney may also challenge the prosecution to seek more reliable facts backed with full evidence which can substantiate the allegations brought against you.  

Frequent Concerns About Assault

How long Does it Take to Receive Assault Charges in California?

Assault, like any other criminal charges, is customarily filled punctually or instantly. However, if it is charged as a misdemeanor, the district attorney (DA) takes typically one year from the date of arrest to file a case against you. It usually is advisable to seek an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately if you are fearful that someone might have filed an assault charge against you.

Is Spitting on Someone an Assault in California?

Spitting is considered offensive and unwanted touching especially when the spits contact the alleged victim. In some cases, if you spit on someone’s shoe, you can be charged with battery under penal code 242. Similarly, spitting on food that someone will eventually take, is another act of assault because the spits will ultimately come into contact with the other person. Furthermore, penal code 240 considers assault crime as an attempt to use force so even if the spits did not come into contact with the person, you would still receive assault charges.

Charges against spitting on someone may suffice if only you spat on a police officer or someone in an aggressive manner. Otherwise, most of the cases on spitting on someone are not reported frequently. In some cases, the arresting officer can merge the spitting offense to another charge like resisting arrest. Also, if you involve yourself with another altercation with the police, they may decide to charge you with a non-violent assault in the form of spitting.

What are the long-term consequences of assault conviction?

Assault conviction results in many devastating future impacts on an individual. For instance, if you were in the process of applying for citizenship, you might be denied because of an assault conviction. Similarly, some employers, companies and even learning institutions like colleges and universities will not admit any person with assault conviction in their records. Also, some professional occupations exclude individuals who have histories of assault and as a result, cause hardship to one’s career endeavors.

Civil Lawsuit for PC 240

Any victim of assault is entitled to sue the purported perpetrator regardless of whether he or she is guilty or not. The alleged victim can demand compensation for various damages, which may include medical bills and the wages lost during the incident. However, various conditions must be satisfied before such compensations are granted.

  • The suspect had an obligation to take care of the victim and not to cause any harm. For example, while driving, the accused was not expected to do anything in a manner that in one way or the other, would pose a danger to the alleged victim or another person;
  • Through negligence, recklessness or intentional wrongful actions, the alleged assaulter breached the duty of care by engaging in an act that posed a danger to the complainant or a damage to their property. Such an act would include hurling an object on the alleged victim;
  • Due to alleged assaulter’s breach of the duty of care, the complainant suffered damages. For example, after hurling an object, the complainant got injuries or lost their property to damages.

It is possible to be sued of assault even if you have not been proven guilty because the civil assault charges need not be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. The standard public requirement for the trial is just the judge’s discretion that the defendant assaulted the plaintiff resulting in a need for restitution. 

Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me

Beside jail terms and fines, assault charges can have adverse life-changing consequences. Fortunately, Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm is available and willing to defend you against any complications related to assault throughout Vista, CA and North County. Call us today at 760-691-1551 and let us take control of your case.