San Diego Criminal Attorney is an experienced and well-reputed criminal defense law firm serving people in and around the San Diego area. This law firm employs a team of highly skilled attorneys with years of experience handling Battery cases of all kinds under California criminal law. There are some possible defenses for an Aggravated Battery case, which a criminal defense lawyer can use to build a solid defense against the Battery charge for their clients. It is possible to argue that the client’s action was in the self-defense or that the touching was unintentional. They can also argue that the alleged victim is merely exaggerating the injuries, which in reality does not amount to serious bodily injury.
What is Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury Under California Law?
California criminal law has set up several legal codes against the prosecution of individuals involved in the crime of Battery. While Battery, in legal terms, is defined as any unlawful and willful use of force or violence against another person, it may or may not involve causing a physical injury and/or pain of any kind. If you commit a Battery without causing any serious bodily harm to another person, then you will be charged under Penal Code 242 PC for 'Simple Battery.' However, if your actions result in causing a severe injury, you can then be charged with a related crime referred to as 'Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury.'
According to the California Penal Code 243(d) PC, California law allows a prosecutor to file a case of Aggravated Battery against you in cases where the victim has suffered serious bodily injury. Aggravated Battery is a commonly used term for Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury in the state of California. An aggravated type of Simple Battery must fulfill all the elements of a Battery to qualify for more severe penalties. The elements of Cal PC Sec 243(d) includes:
- You willfully or intentionally touched another person in a hurtful or offensive way; and
- It resulted in a serious bodily injury to the victim.
It is in the best interest of any defendant to consult a professional attorney and discuss their Battery case in detail in order to prevent a charge and/or conviction of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury. Contacting the attorney without delay will also help them to develop a solid defense depending on the facts of your Battery case.
Understanding the Elements of Aggravated Battery
For you to be proved guilty of Battery causing serious bodily injury under Cal PC 243(d), the prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the three following elements:
Touching Another Person. This is the most critical element of a Battery crime. A conviction of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury necessitates that you initiate any bodily touch with the alleged victim. Sometimes, even a superficial or indirect physical touch could be considered as harmful and offensive touching. A victim's clothing or purse, which represents an extension of the person, may also be regarded as touch in the context of offensive touching. The range of touches may vary from the slightest touch by finger to using a rod or handbag. The prosecution must prove there was a direct or indirect form of contact between the defendant and the alleged victim.
For example, John and Michaela are in a relationship. The couple is arguing over some issues standing on the staircase outside Michaela's office. Feeling angry, John shoves her lightly and out of imbalance, Michaela slipped and fell, breaking her right arm. Although John didn’t touch Michaela forcefully but touched her at all, which resulted in a severe bone fracture, in such a case, he may be culpable of Battery with a Serious Injury.
Intentionally or Willfully. A willful or intentional touch is required to prove you guilty under PC 243 (d). A willful touch is when a person contacts the intention to do something on purpose; however, it does not mean the defendant has an intent to take any advantage, break the law, or harm another person. A conviction of aggravated injury is possible if that willful or intentional contact may result or have resulted in a serious injury to the victim. The prosecution has the liability to prove the contact was deliberate, and the intention was to touch the alleged victim in a hurtful or unpleasant manner. It is important to note that you may also be considered guilty for Battery with Serious Bodily Injury if you never planned to injure the victim. However, if the touch was unintentional or made accidentally, no Battery is said to have happened.
For example, during a party, drunk Mr. Rob was walking to the washroom but accidentally slipped. As an impulsive reaction to losing balance, he grabbed onto Catherine standing with her back facing him. Catherine fell and broke her left wrist. Mr. Rob shouldn't be convicted or charged with Aggravated Battery here, as his action was unintentional and involuntary.
Offensive or Harmful Manner. A defendant's action must be in a hurtful or unpleasant manner to qualify as an Aggravated Battery. A harmful touch could be a firm push or a punch or even a hard poke. For touch to be offensive, it should be mostly unwelcomed and done in a violent, angry, rude, or disrespectful manner. An injury that occurred due to a friendly and playful push should not be considered as a hurtful or offensive touch for the conviction.
For example, Charlie is a powerful man and a gym trainer. Nick is a young boy training at the gym under Charlie. During a fitness competition at the gym, Nick performed extraordinarily well and Charlie, being too excited over Nick's performance, picked up and hugged him tightly, causing breakage of several of Nick's ribs. Since Charlie's touching was not offensive or harmful, so he may not be charged with an Aggravated Battery.
Serious Bodily Injury. For an Aggravated Battery, the last and most crucial element is the requirement of a serious bodily injury due to the three elements discussed above. By saying a serious bodily injury, it means a significant impairment of the victim's physical condition. Among the common Injuries included under Cal PC Sec 243(d) are bone fractures, concussion, temporary unconsciousness, loss or damage of a body organ, serious disfigurement, or a wound demanding extensive stitches. Seeking medical attention is not a requisite for the injury to be regarded as 'serious.' The injuries mentioned are not an all-inclusive list, and the final decision if an injury qualifies to be a 'serious bodily injury' is typically based on how the jury interprets the severity of the injuries. Sometimes, an injury as small as a bruise may be considered serious if it meets the requirements under the California law.
Penalties for Aggravated Battery
In California, under PC 243(d), a Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury is a "wobbler" crime, meaning the prosecution has the choice to charge your offense like a misdemeanor or felony. The prosecution will take note of the unique circumstances and particular facts of the crime to determine whether an instance of PC 243(d) should be considered as a misdemeanor or a felony.
For a person with a history of prior violent offenses, the severity of the imposed penalties may be different than for an individual who has no criminal record. For a first offense and an injury with borderline severity, you can be indicted of a misdemeanor on the basis of the final assessment of the prosecution. On the contrary, even if you have no past criminal record, but your actions have caused extensive injuries to the alleged victim, you will most likely be charged with a felony. The penalties in a crime of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury can vary depending on the court's evaluation of the exact circumstances of the act of Battery.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor conviction under California law PC 243(d), the possible penalties may include:
- Misdemeanor probation;
- Imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one (1) year; or
- Fine not exceeding one thousand dollars (up to $1,000), or
- Both the imprisonment and fine.
However, if the prosecution charges you with a felony, the possible penalties can aggravate based upon the facts of your case. A felony is liable to be punished by:
- Felony probation or parole supervision;
- Jail sentence for two (2) to four (4) years; or
- Fine not more than ten thousand dollars (up to $10,000), or
- Both the imprisonment and fine.
Also, when you are found guilty of a felony Aggravated Battery, you will have a lifetime prohibition against firearms ownership and purchase in California. For a misdemeanor Aggravated Battery, this restriction lasts for ten (10) years. For an immigrant, deportation, and/or denial of other immigration benefits may occur.
In some cases, you may have to face a sentence enhancement due to a felony Aggravated Battery. In case the court discovers that the physical injuries caused as a result of your conduct are substantial or significant, and result in a physical impairment that’s more severe than a serious physical injury, then the victim is said to have suffered "great bodily injury" and may result in your sentence being enhanced. Based on the circumstance and/or severity of the crime committed under PC 243(d), the sentence for a great bodily injury can exceed by another three to six years of imprisonment, along with the penalties given under PC 243(d).
In cases where a conviction cannot be avoided, a skilled and experienced attorney can fight to minimize the consequences, like getting a shorter probation period, enrollment in diversion programs, or even getting charges reduced to misdemeanor or infraction offense(s).
Potential Defenses to Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Persons charged with an offense of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury are harshly punished under California law. It can damage your social reputation and affect your personal and professional life in different ways. A lot of people would be unaware that even a minor touching that had no intent to cause any harm can get onto their record for life and show them as a violent criminal. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor Aggravated Battery, employers are most likely not to hire you if they perform a criminal background check.
Fortunately, there are several potential defenses to a charge of Aggravated Battery. The charges may apply depending on the unique circumstances in your case. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can aid in fighting these charges and/or reducing them to a lower sentence, if not dismissed. Common legal defenses against Battery with Serious Bodily Injury are as follows:
Your Action was in Self-Defense
The self-defense theory is treated as 'affirmative defense' and can be applied to a charge of Battery, Causing Serious Bodily Injury in California. As per the California law, you can use force to either defend yourself or others. If you think you are in threat of suffering a physical injury or harm, you are permissible under law to protect yourself using force that is necessary to deflect the bodily injury or harm. In other words, this self-defense law allows a defendant to use a reasonable amount of force to defend themselves or others against an immediate threat of suffering physical harm or being unlawfully touched.
If a 'serious injury' is inflicted in the course of defending yourself or another person, you should not be convicted under PC 243(d) violation. For instance, if the alleged victim poked you in the chest and as an immediate reaction to it, you pushed the victim back, who tripped and fell hitting his head on a table corner and getting a concussion. In such a scenario, you may be able to protect yourself against a charge of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury using the self-defense theory. Since you pushed the victim as a 'sensible' reaction of his unlawful touching, your attorney will be able to put a defense for yourself.
You Didn't Act Willfully (or the touch was ‘Accidental')
You can have a defense against PC 243(d) if you didn’t mean to 'touch' or had no intention of inflicting force against another person. It is imperative for a prosecutor to prove that the physical contact was willful or intentional since Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury applies only to a defendant's willful acts. So, if your lawyer can prove a point that you had zero intention of touching the alleged victim and that the action of touching was unplanned, then you can put up a valid legal defense to a conviction under PC 243(d). However, if you made physical contact with an intent to 'slightly' harm someone, but that ended up causing a severe bodily injury, the jury will not consider that as an accident. Also, if you intend to hit somebody with a metal rod or any other item but missed hitting your target, and instead, hit somebody else, then also it will not be considered accidental since you had an intention to attack somebody else in an aggressive or harmful manner.
Typically, this type of defense requires both the defense attorney and the prosecution to study the circumstances of the alleged offense thoroughly deeply. Please note that an Aggravated Battery charge does not consider whether you had the intent to harm or cause a physical injury, but if you had no intention of touching, your attorney could prove the action was accidental or misunderstanding by the victim.
Your Action Did Not Cause Serious Injury
Since there is no clear line that defines when an injury may be called 'serious' for conviction under PC 243(d). It is up to the jury's evaluation whether a specific injury should be treated as serious or not. Typically, it is done on a case by case basis.
Often, it is seen that alleged Battery victims try to exaggerate the severity of their injuries out of anger, jealousy, or revenge. They may complain about severe pain they don't feel and/or seek medical therapy they, in reality, don't need.
A skilled criminal defense attorney can investigate to expose the real intent of the alleged victim's injuries by closing examining the so-called injury, seeking medical records, and determining whether the said injury could result in any kind of damage of a body part or organ. If substantial evidence can be provided to support the fact that the alleged injury caused could not rise to the intensity of a 'serious bodily injury,' in that case, your attorney can convince the prosecution to reduce charges to a simple Battery under California Penal Code 242.
Aggravated Battery and Associated Offenses
The crime of aggravated offense under Penal Code 243(d) can be frequently charged either in place of or along with several other related crimes. The California Penal Code has several associated offenses related to PC 243(d), which include:
Simple Battery - California PC Section 242
If a Battery does not cause a critical injury, you can be charged with a Cal PC 242 Simple Battery. It is a misdemeanor offense and has penalties less severe than PC 243(d). Under Simple Battery conviction, you may get imprisonment in the county jail for up to six (6) months and a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars (up to $2,000). Your attorney can file a plea bargain to reduce a possible conviction of Aggravated Battery reduced to a Simple Battery charge.
Battery on a Peace Officer – California PC Section 243(b) and 243(c)(2)
If you have committed Battery Against a Police Officer, it is much likely that you will get much harsher sentences for the same offense if committed against a civilian. You will be charged for PC 243(b) and 243(c)(2) if you commit Simple Battery (misdemeanor) against a peace officer and other protected categories, engaged in pursuing their duties. The penalties include up to one (1) year in county jail; or a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000); or both. On the other hand, if you are found guilty of injury a peace officer and other protected categories officers, no matter the damage is serious or not, you can be charged with sixteen months, two years, or three years of a jail sentence. Please note that the potential fine and jail sentence for Battery under PC 243(b) and 243(c)(2) is still lesser than the penalties associated with Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury.
Sexual Battery - California PC Section 243.4
If you or a partner unlawfully restrained somebody and touched one of the intimate parts of or touched any of your private parts to that person, you can be charged with a Sexual Battery charge. For PC 243.4 to apply, the touching must be done against that person's will and with the purpose of sexual abuse, arousal or gratification. An intimate part could be the groin, anus, buttocks, or breasts of a female. Unlawful restraint in such a case involves more than just the physical force required to achieve the sexual touch. Sexual Battery is a wobbler offense and can be charged like a misdemeanor or felony.
Other related offenses in California may include PC 273.5(a) and (b) Corporal Injury on spouse cohabitant, or significant other, PC 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery, PC 368(b)(1) Elder Abuse, and others.
Find a San Diego Criminal Attorney Specializing in Battery with Serious Bodily Injury Cases Near Me
Are you or a loved one arrested or charged for a crime of Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury, often referred to as Aggravated Battery? You must seek help from a top-notch criminal defense law firm like the San Diego Criminal Attorney. Our highly rated attorneys are well-versed with the ins and outs of the California criminal law and have the experience of how this crime is charged and prosecuted from the other side. We have successfully navigated wrongly accused individuals in cases of Battery Causing Serious Injury and many times we are able to reduce the exposure of such serious penalties by putting up a solid defense. Give us a call at 619-880-5474 for a free consultation by legal experts on your case. We promise to stand by you in your difficult times!