The crime of battery is a severe crime in California. This offense is committed when a person seriously injures another. The offense is punishable as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the severity of the victim’s injuries. When battery results in serious physical injuries, the court can sentence the offender to four years in jail after a felony conviction. The conviction also attracts a hefty penalty. However, a defendant may also go through a trial where he/she has a chance to defend him/herself.
If you or your loved one is facing charges for battery with serious bodily injury in Santa Ana, CA, Darwish Law might be able to help. You may have acted the way you did to protect yourself, or the injuries were not so severe as to warrant a felony conviction. Our criminal defense lawyers might be able to convince the court to either drop or reduce your charges.
Legal Understanding of Battery with Serious Bodily Injury
California laws against battery are very clear. However, an ordinary person may not have the legal background to understand what exactly qualifies as battery and what is the punishment if convicted. That is why there is a need for legal representation for anyone facing criminal charges. An attorney helps you understand the offense and what your options are. This way, you can make an informed decision that will not severely affect your life. An experienced criminal defense attorney will also know the right defense strategies to apply in your situation for a more favorable outcome.
If you face charges under Section 243(d) of the state’s Penal Code, you must first understand what the offense entails. The legal meaning of this crime is simple and is satisfied with the two statements below:
That you committed battery as defined under California laws
That the battery resulted in serious bodily injury on the victim
To understand the offense even better, let us look into the legal explanation of California battery and what ‘serious bodily injury’ entails.
Battery with serious bodily injury is an aggravated form of battery. In California, as defined under Section 242 of the state’s Penal Code, a battery crime is committed when a person willfully touches another in an offensive or harmful manner. Let us break down the offense elements for a better understanding:
As used in this definition, touching another person includes any physical contact a person can have with another, including through their clothing. Even a slight touch can be deemed a battery if it satisfies the other elements.
Example: Mary and James have been fighting so much lately. They have lived together for over five months. While arguing recently, Mary was overcome with great anger. She slightly pushed James, who fell and injured his arm.
Mary did not forcefully push James. Also, she did not intend to hurt James. But her actions, however slight, caused James a physical injury. If she is to face trial, Mary could be found guilty of California battery.
A mere touch does not qualify to be battery even if done in an offensive or harmful manner. The offender has to touch the victim willfully. A willful contact is one done on purpose or willingly. Note that a person doesn’t have to have intended to commit an offense, to gain an advantage over the victim, or harm the victim for the act to be considered willful.
A willful act doesn’t mean a deliberate act. The offender can willfully touch a victim without intending to injure them. The only requirement is that you were aware of your actions at that instance. You may have been aware that the touch is offensive or harmful but did not intend to hurt the other person.
Touching in an Offensive or Harmful Manner
A touch qualifies as battery in California if done in an offensive or harmful manner. It includes any contact that is rude, violent, disrespectful, or angry.
From the example above, Mary pushed her partner out of anger. Since the touch was done in anger, it becomes an offensive or harmful contact.
Example: A month after taking her college final exams, Mary received an email with her results. She hurriedly opens the email, and as she had anticipated, she had done very well. Mary could not wait to tell her husband, James, about it. As James was coming home from work that evening, Mary ran to the door to hug her husband and share the good news. Unfortunately, James fell and hit the ground hard.
If James were to legally pursue the matter in court, Mary could not be charged with battery as the act was done in a friendly manner and not in an offensive or harmful way.
Battery and Assault
Battery and assault are two offenses in California whose difference confuses a lot of people. Assault, as provided under the state’s Penal Code Section 240, is any unwanted touching of another person. It may or may not result in infliction of bodily harm. Battery, on the other hand, is an assault that inflicts force, violence, or injury on another person.
Note that California assault does not necessarily involve physical touching, which is a crucial element in battery.
Battery With Serious Bodily Injury
Now that you understand what battery entails let us look at what constitutes battery with serious physical injury. As previously mentioned, battery resulting in serious bodily harm is an aggravated form of battery.
Battery with serious injury has to start with battery, which results in a severe physical injury. Other than battery, serious physical injury is the other essential requirement of this crime. Let us look in detail at what constitutes serious bodily injuries.
Under the law, a serious injury refers to any severe impairment that could affect a person’s physical condition. The impairment could be minor or severe. The victim does not necessarily have to seek treatment for their injury to be considered severe. Below is a list of bodily injuries that could be regarded as serious under this law:
Impairment or loss of function of a body organ or part
A wound that might require extensive suturing
However, whenever a case of aggravated battery comes before a California court, it is usually up to the court to decide whether the injury in question qualifies to be a severe physical injury or not. Therefore, it will not matter if the resulting harm falls or doesn’t fall under any listed categories. It means that the victim might have incurred one of the injuries listed above but still not cause the defendant to face charges of battery with a severe injury.
Example: Two friends, John and Matt, engage in a physical fight after a disagreement while enjoying drinks in a local bar downtown. Matt throws a punch at John, which throws John off-balance. John falls hard on the floor, fracturing a bone on his left arm. The fracture is not so serious, so John doesn’t go to the hospital. The pain disappears after a few days.
If John pursues the matter in court, Matt could be convicted of battery with a serious injury. However, the jury may decide that the injury was not serious given that John’s arm was okay after a few days, even without treatment.
Penalties for a Conviction of California Penal Code Section 243(d)
California criminal courts treat aggravated battery as a wobbler. It means that sometimes prosecutors charge it as a felony and other times as a misdemeanor. The prosecutor will choose how to charge an offender, depending on the offender’s criminal history and case circumstances.
If you face misdemeanor charges for aggravated battery with serious bodily injuries, the penalties the court is likely to give you are as follows:
Misdemeanor or summary probation
Incarceration in a county jail for a maximum period of one year
Fines of not more than $1,000
If, on the other hand, you face felony charges for aggravated battery with serious physical injury, the penalties the court is likely to give you include:
Felony or formal probation
Two, three, or four years of incarceration in a county jail
A maximum fine of $10,000
Additionally, you are likely to lose your rights to buy or own a gun in the state if the court gives you a felony conviction for aggravated battery. If you ever own, purchase or even hold a gun after that, you could face additional felony charges under the state laws against committing a felony with a firearm.
Sentence Enhancement for Battery With Great Bodily Injury
On top of the penalties provided above, you will likely face additional criminal penalties if the court has convicted you of a felony aggravated battery with great bodily injury. However, the court has to be sure that the alleged victim indeed suffered a great bodily injury and not a serious physical injury in your hands.
Note that great bodily injuries are different from serious bodily injuries under this law. Great bodily injuries include more substantial or significant physical injuries, while serious bodily injuries refer to less severe injuries. Remember that not all situations treated as battery with a serious physical injury can result in a conviction. Criminal courts treat some cases as simple battery, others as battery with serious bodily injury, and others as battery with great bodily injury.
If the court determines that the victim suffered a great physical injury in your hands, its conviction will involve additional penalties to those listed above for a felony conviction. The extra penalty could be between three to six years of incarceration.
Possible Legal Defenses for Battery with Serious Bodily Injury Charges
If you face charges for battery with serious bodily injury, it does not necessarily mean that the court will find you guilty. The essence of a trial is to give you a chance to defend yourself. That is why you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will gather evidence and prepare for the defense to compel the court to either drop or reduce your charges. Once the court drops your charges, you will be free of all charges. But if your charges are reduced, it means that you will face lesser penalties than you would face if the court found you guilty of aggravated battery.
To benefit from that, your attorney has to put up a strong defense. Fortunately, there are several defense strategies that he/she can use to help with your case:
It Was in Self-Defense
A lot of time, people hurt others while trying to defend themselves or others from harm. Self-defense is a common defense strategy that works very well in cases related to battery and assault. However, for this strategy to be acceptable in your case, you must satisfy the following requirements:
You had a reasonable conviction that you or another person was in immediate danger of being harmed by the alleged victim.
You had a reasonable conviction that using immediate force at that time would prevent the alleged offender from harming you or that other person.
You didn’t use more power than was needed to defend yourself or the other person from that danger.
If the jury accepts the self-defense strategy, the court will drop your charges or charge you with a lesser offense like a simple battery offense.
It Was an Accident
One of the main elements of battery with serious bodily injury is that the act must be willful. If you didn’t act willfully, then you may not be guilty as charged. Therefore, you will not be guilty if the battery was an accident. It is not unusual for a person to be convicted for aggravated battery even when they didn’t intend to harm the alleged victim. However, if you did not willfully act the way you did, you are not guilty of aggravated battery.
For example, if you were arguing with a person and accidentally pushed them as you tried to flee from them, you cannot be charged for willfully pushing the person. You may have tripped and fallen on someone, which caused the person to fall and injure themselves. In any of these instances, you are not guilty of willfully touching the alleged victim.
However, you need an experienced attorney to aggressively convince the court that the act was not intentional or willful. If he/she succeeds in that, the court will drop your charges.
The Injury Wasn’t Serious.
Simple battery is already a grave offense in California. An aggravated battery will be more severe, attracting graver penalties than those of a simple battery offense. Battery with serious bodily injury is a form of aggravated battery offense, and it comes with severe penalties as those listed above. However, the court has to ensure that the alleged victim’s injury was severe before the judge passes the conviction. If the injury were not serious, the court might not convict you of aggravated battery. But you might be convicted of simple battery.
Your attorney can use this defense to compel the court to reduce your charges. Instead of the lengthy prison term and hefty penalties associated with a felony conviction, the court might convict you of a misdemeanor and place you on probation. Additionally, the penalties associated with a misdemeanor conviction could be less than $1,000.
California Battery With Serious Bodily Injury and Related Offenses
California law has some offenses closely related to battery with serious bodily injury. Criminal courts charge some of these offenses in place of and others alongside this offense. Some of them include:
In California laws, a simple battery offense is defined under Section 242 of the Penal Code. Simple battery occurs when a person willfully and unlawfully touches another in a harmful and offensive manner. However, an offense of simple battery doesn’t include severe physical injuries. That is why the crime is mainly charged as a misdemeanor, attracting a maximum penalty of six months of jail time.
Battering a Protected Officer
The law against battery on a protected officer is defined under Sections 243(b) and 243(c) of the California Penal Code. It happens when battery is committed against a protected or peace officer while the officer is undertaking his/her duties. This law provides a list of people considered protected or peace officers and may include the following:
Law enforcement officers
Paramedics or EMTs
Probation department employees
Animal control officers
Doctors and nurses serving in the emergency units
Battering a protected officer may also be charged as a misdemeanor and punished with a maximum jail sentence of up to one year.
Find a Santa Ana Criminal Attorney Near Me
If you face charges for battery with serious bodily injury in Santa Ana, CA, it is advisable to seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. A competent attorney may compel the court to either reduce or drop your charges. At Darwish Law, we have a team of well-trained and experienced attorneys who are willing to take you through the process for a favorable outcome. Call us at 714-887-4810 today and let us discuss your options.