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Criminal Defense Information for Battery (Cal. Penal Code s. 242)

  1. What is Battery?
  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Battery?
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Battery?
  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Battery?
  1. What is Battery?

    Street fight / battery

    Man battering another man by grabbing his arm (also assaulting him with raised fist)

    Battery (Cal. Pen. Code s. 242 Opens in New Window) is the unconsented to touching of another person in a rude, harmful, or offensive manner. No physical harm has to come to the victim nor does the contact have to be direct (i.e., the touching can be through clothes, via an instrument such as a baseball bat, etc.).

  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Battery?

    To prove the defendant committed Battery, the state must show that the defendant:

    1. Touched someone in a harmful or offensive manner; and
    2. Did not act in self-defense, defense of others, or while reasonably disciplining a child.
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Battery?

    Battery is a misdemeanor, meaning it carries a maximum sentence of six months in county jail and/or a $2,000 fine. If the battery was on a peace officer, firefighter, or other emergency personnel engaged in the performance of his duties, the sentence can be up to one year in county jail and/or a $2,000 fine.

    Battery that causes an injury to a peace officer, a firefighter, or other emergency personnel is a wobbler and can be punished by a $2,000 fine and/or one year in county jail OR 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison.

    Cal. Pen. Code s. 243 Opens in New Window

  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Battery?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    For Battery, convincing the jury that the prosecutor failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant touched the victim, that the touch was rude or offensive, etc., would be enough to get a not guilty verdict.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Battery, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Battery, some of these justifications include:

    • Self-defense;
    • Defense of another;
    • Alibi;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Necessity;
    • Accident;
    • Parent’s right to discipline children;
    • Entrapment; and
    • Statute of limitations.
See also, AssaultAssault on a Custodial Officer, Domestic Violence.