California Penal Code §242 PC: Battery
California Penal Code §242, defines “Battery” as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
Simply put, any degree of unwanted physical force upon another person is a Battery; regardless of any actual physical injury, the Battery is done when contact is made.
The penalties following a conviction for even a minor Battery can be significant – including time in jail. If for no other reason, the prospect of jail time makes hiring an attorney who knows how to defend battery cases essential. Your lawyer must know how to question each of the underlying facts and analyze each of the specific circumstances of your case; one who will formulate a proper and practical defense for court. Having the right attorney on your case early can be the difference for your future.
Definition and Elements of Battery PC §242
Because of the simplicity, PC §242 is among the most frequently filed criminal charges in the Coachella Valley. California Penal Code §242 defines battery as any unlawful and willful physical touching of another person. That’s it. Simple.
Thanks to TV and movies, too many people believe that battery is the same as Assault (PC §240), it actually constitutes a separate offense altogether with separate and distinct elements.
To prove that a battery in trial, the prosecution must establish the three specific elements beyond reasonable doubt:
- The defendant did, in fact, willfully and unlawfully touch another person in a manner that might reasonably be expected to inflict injury or cause offense.
- The defendant’s action was not done in self defense nor in defense of another person.
- The defendant’s act was not a part of reasonable, non-abusive child-discipline.
It is absolutely essential to understand certain facts about Battery:
- Just the slightest touch can constitute a violation of PC §242, when it is done in an angry or even rude manner.
- Even contact only made through the other person’s clothing can be enough for PC §242.
- It does not matter if the contact causes any injury or pain to count as PC §242.
- Sometimes, all you have to do is touch an object that a person is holding, a bike he is riding, or anything “closely connected with” the person can be enough for PC §242.
- Awful or hurtful words alone are not enough to create a valid excuse for violating PC §242. Provocation only legitimately permits a response of force where there has been a direct and imminent threat of bodily injury.
Sample Violations of PC §242Battery
These samples should help make more clear what Battery is and is not. They are extreme, one constituting Battery and the other not, in order to highlight the exact boundary at which Battery begins.
- We are in a bar, where a man sees a woman; she is quite good-looking. He makes his way over and tries to strike up a conversation with her. As is often the case, she has no interest in him whatsoever. As she turns away from him, he lightly touches her wrist to keep her from leaving.
It’s a battery.
There was no physical harm, but he touched her in an unwanted and [to her] offensive manner, he could be prosecuted for Battery.
- Now we are at the gym. Two guys wearing boxing gloves are duking it out without mercy. Within minutes, both are badly bruised and bleeding.
Not a Battery.
Since the guys agreed to engage in this boxing match, it is neither unlawful nor unwanted.
Other infractions of the California Penal Code that are similar to or associated with criminal Battery include:
- Simple Assault, as outlined in PC §240
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW), covered under PC §245(a)(1)
- Domestic Battery, which is Battery against a spouse or romantic partner, as outlined in PC §243(e)(1)
- Sexual Battery, covered under PC §243.4
- Battery causing serious bodily injury, found in PC §243(d)
Defenses for a PC §242 Charge
Your Attorney must be skilled enough to dig through a mountain of the evidence to find the most reliable strategy against a charge of PC §242.
The three most workable defenses are:
- Self-Defense/Defense of Others – You were using force to protect yourself or another person against an imminent threat of bodily injury or from becoming the victim of a crime.
- You Lacked the Required Intent – The physical contact involved was not intentional. Without intent, it is just an accident.
- Legal Discipline – The Client was the parent of a child and was using reasonable disciplinary methods. This is parenting, not Battery. However, if an unreasonable amount of force was applied, it could constitute child abuse under PC 273(d).
A so-called “simple” Battery under PC §242 is a misdemeanor that is punishable by any of the following:
- Up to six months in jail
- Substantial fines and assessments
- Court Probation
- Community service or labor
- Anger management and other counseling
In California, even a “simple” Battery is considered a violent crime, which can carry additional and serious consequences beyond the court sentencing.
Landlords and potential employers who conduct background checks have been known to turn away applicants with any kind of battery incident on their record. Moreover, a conviction for even the slightest unwanted touching can prevent the defendant from owning or possessing a firearm for up to 10 years.
Where an unlawful and unwanted touching results in serious bodily injury, Battery can be charged as a felony. A felony conviction could result in a prison term of up to four years as well as a lifetime ban on gun ownership and voting rights. It can also result in a “strike" on the defendant’s criminal record under California’s Three Strikes Law, which will lead to significant penalty enhancements on any future convictions.
Criminal Defense for Battery Cases
If you or someone you care about in Palm Springs, La Quinta, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Cathedral City, Indio, and beyond have been accused or arrested on charges of Battery, it is critical that you contact an experienced Coachella Valley Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. A defense attorney with extensive knowledge of the California criminal code and court system will be able to aggressively and skillfully pursue your best interests.
At the Law Office of David J. Givot, we understand how to seek out, identify, and communicate mitigating circumstances that may lead law enforcement and prosecutors to decide against filing a PC §242 charge against you. If we cannot prevent your case from going to court, we can provide you with comprehensive representation from beginning to end. We know the severe, life-changing consequences that a Battery conviction can bring, and we fight hard to defend you.
Call us at 760-610-6109 TODAY to schedule a free consultation or to get further information on California Battery law.