Under California law, assault is defined as any “unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” Assault is an umbrella term, and within it, there are two different types: simple assault and felony assault. The difference between the two lies in the circumstances and severity of the crime as well as the penalties that can be handed down if you are convicted.
Simple assault is a misdemeanor crime. There are a few elements that must be satisfied under the California Penal Code in order for someone to be charged with and convicted of simple assault. In order for simple assault to occur, you must:
- Do something that involves applying force to another person
- Do the act willfully
- Be aware of facts that should make you realize that your actions would result in applying force
- Have the present ability to apply force
- Possess no legal excuse for your actions
Notably, self-defense does not qualify as simple assault. Examples of simple assault would be throwing rocks or other objects at someone or punching someone in the face.
If you are convicted of simple assault, you could face six months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Felony assault is more severe and is, as the name indicates, a felony charge. An assault goes from being a misdemeanor to a felony if there is a deadly weapon involved, you assault a public officer, there are caustic chemicals involved, or if you intend to inflict great bodily injury. The elements remain the same, but since the crime is more severe, you will be charged with a felony.
If you are convicted of felony assault, the jail sentence increases depending on the details of the situation.
Battery is defined by the California Penal Code as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” In order to be convicted of battery, this must be proved without a reasonable doubt. Once again, self-defense or defense of another person is an exception.
Battery is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable “by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
Examples of battery include spitting on someone or pushing someone. Similar to assault, battery can be charged as a felony if there are more severe elements involved, such as serious bodily injury.