California Battery Laws: Penal Code 242

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From a layman’s perspective, battery sounds like a severe altercation between people serving punches and kicks to each other. Legally, the battery can be simple or aggravated. For example, a person commits a simple battery offense when they unlawfully use force to cause minor physical harm to another. In contrast, aggravated battery involves serious bodily injury, which can lead to death or disfigurement. In this case, California laws on battery vary depending on the severity of the crime and each case’s details.

Definition of a battery according to California laws

Under Section 242 of the Penal Code, California laws describe battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” In simple terms, battery refers to an offensive touching of another individual without their consent. 

More importantly, one should note that a battery offense only exists when harmful contact has taken place. Battery crime can range from a somewhat harmless physical altercation like shoving someone to something as serious as a violent punch. Therefore, the law allows a prosecution to convict a defendant once they prove the victim was touched without consent. 

Types of Battery in California:

Domestic Battery

California battery law handles domestic battery as a misdemeanor that deserves punishment. Section 243 (e)(1) regards domestic battery as a “willful and unlawful physical touch that causes injury to an intimate partner.” An intimate partner falls under:

  • An offender’s current or former spouse
  • An offender’s current or former cohabitant
  • Mother or father of the offender’s child
  • An offender’s fiancé
  • A current or former dating partner

Not to be confused with domestic violence, domestic battery mainly applies to partners with a current or past intimate relationship. Simultaneously, the former mostly relates to intimate partners and people with close familial affiliations with the offender. 

Penalties for domestic battery

According to Section 243 (e)(1), domestic battery is “punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment”. 

However, if the court suspends the sentence, the law subjects the defendant to attend a counseling program of at least one year. Additionally, in case of a corporal injury, Sections 243(d) and 273.5 deem the crime a felony, and the court imposes more stringent penalties on the offender.

Sexual Battery

California laws recognize sexual battery as a crime and one that has severe consequences. The guiding law, Section 243.4, stipulates that touching another person’s intimate parts against their will and with intent to gratify or arouse your sexual desires is a serious offense and punishable by imprisonment and/or hefty fines.

Unlike rape, sexual battery does not require penetration, but minimal contact, which is sexual. 

Facts that prove a sexual battery in California

To prove sexual battery, prosecutors must also confirm the presence of the following factors:

  • The victim failed to consent to the sexual act
  • The victim was unlawfully restrained 
  • The victim was a minor preferably under 12 years and below, and unaware of the sexual act
  • The victim was institutionalized or physically disadvantaged and forced to touch the intimate parts of the accuser
  • The victim was misled to believe that the sexual touch was for medical examination or therapeutic purposes

Penalties for sexual battery

Sexual battery can be convicted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Prosecution for a conviction depends on various factors, including the offense’s nature and if the defendant had any prior convictions.

If convicted of a misdemeanor, the court can punish the accused with a $2,000 fine or one-year imprisonment in state prison. For a felony conviction, the most common court sentence is not less than two years in county jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

A battery on a government Peace Officer

Under California, Section 243(b) to 243(c) PC, battery on a police officer involves the willful and unlawful violent touch on peace officers who are on duty. Those protected under this law include:

  • Traffic cops
  • Firefighters
  • Emergency technicians
  • Custodial officers
  • Service processors
  • Employees from a probation department
  • Animal control officials
  • Emergency doctors and medical care specialists

Penalties for Battery on a Peace Officer

Typically, California law regards battery on a protected official as a misdemeanor offense. Yet, during instances of serious harm, the defendant risks being charged with a felony.

 For a misdemeanor battery, the court can fine the accuser $2,000 or sentences them a year in county jail. Or both. And, in case of a felony battery on a police officer, the court can imprison a defendant in county jail to not less a one year or impose a $10,000 fine.

Defense for battery in California

Perhaps the most common defense strategy is self-defense. To prove self-defense, the defendants must also show that their physical actions resulted from a perceived threat against them. However, the defendant should be in a position to prove in court that the force was the only necessary action available to use at the time of the incident. Another angle one can approach as the defendant is that the other party consented voluntarily to a particular act. 
Battery charges can turn ugly real quick if you don’t understand the severity of the possible outcomes. That is why it’s crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney like Don Hammond by your side to guide you through the legal process. You can reach out to our criminal defense hero at tel:+3235293660 for a free consultation about your case.