Assault refers to inflicting physical harm or unsolicited physical interaction with someone. It is common to have Assault coupled with battery and therefore referred to as "Assault and Battery," but there are jurisdictions that separate these two. There are various forms of Assault crimes, and it is vital that you understand what sorts of charges have been assessed against you and their legal implications. At The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney, we will represent you in court if you are facing any type of Assault charges.
The California Penal Code Section 240 defines Assault as any illegal and willful attempt to commit a violent injury upon another human being, and there must be present ability to achieve that goal. Simple Assault crimes may be undertaken without coming into physical contact with the victim but merely displaying intentional force that would evoke reasonable fear in them or the expectation of bodily harm. For example, if a person threatens to punch another while holding up their fists and then throws a punch, this attack is categorized as Simple Assault.
The Penal Code 240 PC classifies Simple Assault as a misdemeanor offense, and the accompanying penalties typically include a monetary fine of up to $1000 and serving a sentence of six months in county jail. Simple Assault may not carry heavy penalties, but it still taints your record and may keep you from getting hired in some establishments. If you run into more legal troubles, having a Simple Assault charge on your file attracts unwanted scrutiny by law enforcement as they see you as a repeat offender. Hiring a defense lawyer is important so they can challenge these accusations.
Felonious or Aggravated Assault happens when a person maims, disfigures, wounds, or otherwise puts another person's life in danger. This Assault is made purposely and recklessly with the intent of causing bodily harm with extreme disregard for the value of human life. It can happen anywhere, including inside a victim's home, in a public setting, or a dark alley by unknown assailants.
The severity of Aggravated Assault is hinged upon these factors:
Use of a deadly weapon
California Penal Code Section 245 stipulates that brandishing a gun when attacking someone qualifies as Aggravated Assault even if the object did not harm the victim. In this scenario, there is a reasonable fear of more grievous injury or even fatalities. Whether or not a weapon qualifies as deadly depends on how the attacker used it. For example, someone carrying a pocket knife to perform simple tasks is not seen as having a deadly weapon unless they attack someone with a knife. Considering that a knife could break an artery to cause excessive bleeding that leads to death, then holding it near the throat elevates to Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon.
Status of the victim
Any acts of violence against members of law enforcement, firefighters, teachers, among other peace officers are perceived as Aggravated Assault in many jurisdictions, including California. The perpetrator must be aware of this person's status, e.g., a student attacking a teacher who gave them low grades. The victim must also be in the line of duty, such as a police officer canvassing a sketchy neighborhood then being assaulted by gang members to send a message.
In some cases, perpetrators attack members of individual communities out of sheer prejudice perhaps to further their political message. For instance, beating a Jewish person can be seen as an anti-Semitic attack, and attacking a gay couple in public transport can be seen as homophobia. Such cases in which the status of the victim was the main driver of attacking them becomes an Aggravated Assault.
The intent of the offender
The underlying motive to carry out such crimes can make them qualify as Aggravated Assault. For example, lurking around to ambush someone and beat them until their limbs are broken and therefore, unable to defend themselves is a goaded attack. Reckless behavior also applies where the person acts in a manner that undermines another human being's life even if the action was not deliberate. For instance, carelessly handling factory equipment that has the potential to cause harm and knowingly disregarding safety instructions. If something goes amiss and a factory worker incurs injury or death, this reckless behavior would be categorized as a provoked Assault.
Degree of injury incurred
Unlike Simple Assault, Aggravated Assault is considered as a felony and therefore, subject to harsher penalties and assessments. When a victim is severely injured, or they die as a direct result of an attack, this action qualifies as Aggravated Assault. A bar fight that ends up with a victim breaking his neck will be eligible as an Aggravated Assault even when the two parties did not know each other, but there was obvious intent to harm them. For instance, the perpetrator could have started a fight and threatened to harm the victim and proceeds to do so.
Punishments for Aggravated Assault in California
Under California law, Aggravated Assault is a "wobbler" as it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or escalate to a felony as per the prevailing circumstances. If the victim only suffered minor injuries, and there was no deadly weapon involved, you will be charged with a misdemeanor and face the following consequences:
- Summary probation
- Jail term of up to one year
- Monetary fines of up to $10,000
- Pay restitution to cover damages
- Your weapon will be confiscated
- Obligatory Anger Management program/ community service
The same penalties apply to felony Aggravated Assault, but the sentence is longer. Also, this offense falls under the "Three Strikes Law," where if you have previous strikes for other felonies or violent acts, you are eligible to 25 years to life in prison.
How Can I Challenge my Aggravated Assault Charge?
Being charged with any crime is a serious event that can alter the course of your life. Aggravated Assault charges can mean heading to jail, not to mention adding a strike on your criminal record. If you already have a record perhaps from a felony DUI charge or another criminal conviction, you direly need a defense lawyer. An experienced lawyer can fight these new charges through the following means:
You acted in self-defense or were defending others
Being in a situation where your life is in danger, accords you every right to protect yourself or someone else. For instance, if you were attacked on a deserted street then managed to hit the attacker with a blunt object, this can be seen as self-defense even if the attacker is severely injured or dies. A burglar attacking you at the confines of your home is yet another reason to protect yourself and other home occupants.
Prove you were unable to commit a violent act
A charge of Aggravated Assault in California requires more than just intent to do a crime but also the means to cause grave bodily harm. Carrying a firearm that is not loaded can help your attorney plead down to Simple Assault as you couldn't have possibly inflicted severe injury or death on the victim. The same line of defense applies where unscrupulous law enforcement officers plant evidence accusing you of bringing a weapon. Your lawyer can put the arresting officer's character into question if they have a record of falsifying evidence to meet arrest demands.
Claim you were falsely accused
If there is no viable evidence or witness testimony to back the charges leveled against you, your lawyer can argue the case is baseless. They can challenge the arresting procedures by the said peace officer and even look into their background to see if they have a history of accusing suspects without evidence. California Penal Code 118.1 is the statute that deems it unlawful for a peace officer to record a false statement in a crime or police report, and it can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Curtis Borman of Walnut Creek is an example of this betrayal after he was accused of misrepresenting information and statements. News reports indicated that out of 116 cases, Borman said he booked evidence, but it wasn't found. If a peace officer can steal critical pieces of evidence – such as drugs, weapons, etc. – they can also enter false information in crime reports. A seasoned defense attorney is well aware of such possibilities so they will not hesitate to explore this angle if it means getting you off the hook.
You had no motive to commit said crime
As mentioned previously, Aggravated Assault charges in California must have proven intent, which implies a voluntary action on the perpetrator's side. In the example of a bar fight, you may have inflicted serious bodily harm to a fellow patron who may have been instigating things.
As your legal defense, our team may argue that you went into that bar with the sole intent to enjoy a few drinks before heading home. You were not acquainted with the victim before this unfortunate encounter and their actions left you no choice but to retaliate perhaps to scare them. Excellent legal representation can make all the difference between serving time in prison or jail and getting exonerated from crippling charges.
Sexual assault and unwanted sexual advances are common and are usually classified under sex crimes. The California Penal Code prohibits touching another person's private parts without their consent. Private parts include sexual genitalia, the anus, groin area, or buttocks, and female breasts. When sexual advances escalate to forced sexual intercourse, the crime becomes rape. Just like Aggravated Assault, sexual crimes can happen under any circumstances, and therefore, the law classifies them into three broad categories:
Simple Sexual Assault
This crime entails forcing a person to participate in any form of sexual activity without their explicit consent
Aggravated Sexual Assault
This crime happens when the victim suffers grievous injuries, is viciously beaten, or stands the possibility of death as a direct result of a sexual attack.
Please note, you or your lawyers cannot use self-induced intoxication as a defense to fight any of these sexual charges, and neither is being in a domestic partnership or marriage an acceptable excuse. Moreover, the victim's sexual history does not come into play, which means sex workers can sue for rape and other sexual attacks even at the hands of their clients. Also, the law stipulates that minors cannot legally give consent to sexual activity.
Sexual Assault with a Weapon
This crime involves the use of or threatening to use a weapon to cause injury to the victim when perpetrating a sex crime.
How Can the Prosecutor Meet the Burden of Proof in Sexual Assault Cases?
When pursuing a Sexual Assault case, the prosecutor must prove specific requirements:
- The defendant touched the victim’s intimate parts directly or indirectly as they or someone else restrained the victim
- The victim did not consent to this act of touching
- The victim was institutionalized and either medically debilitated or gravely disabled and therefore unable to give consent or defend themselves
- The motive of this unwanted touching was to get sexual arousal, gratification, or to commit sexual abuse. Nonetheless, if a medical professional did the unwanted touching, the case becomes harder to prove, but it is still possible
- The victim was forced to touch theirs or another person's intimate parts in any of the above scenarios
Penalties for Sexual Assault in California?
Under the California Penal Code Section 243.4, misdemeanor Sexual Assault is punishable by a sentence of up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If the perpetrator was the victim's employer, the monetary penalties could go as high as $3,000.
Felony Sexual Assault
A great example of felony Sexual Assault and Battery is where a male therapist convinces his patient that she should let him touch her bare breast so she can get over her sexual hang-ups. Forcing a mentally ill person to reach their private parts for sexual gratification also falls under a felony. There are many forms of punishment for this crime, including but not limited to serving up to 2, 3, or 4 years in California state prison and paying monetary fines of up to $10,000.
Registration of Sex Crimes in California
Sex crimes that necessitate sex offender registration are categorized into three:
- Tier one – this group bears the lowest level of requirements for sex crimes like misdemeanor Sexual Assault and Battery or Indecent E The Penal Code 290 statute requires people charged with misdemeanor sexual battery to register as a tier one sex offender for at least ten years.
- Tier two – this group entails mid-level sex crimes like engaging in vulgar acts with a minor under 14 and non-coerced sexual activity with a minor. Offenders convicted under this category must remain in public registry for at least 20 years.
- Tier three – this group faces the most rigorous requirements that necessitate a compulsory sex offender registration for life. People convicted of felony crimes such as rape, sex crimes against children under 10, and sex trafficking of minors fall under tier three. Repeat offenders of first and second tiers are more than likely to be included in this group.
California has a wide range of offenses that qualify for this requirement, and the judge is allowed to make offenders register with public sex offender registries even for crimes not stated in PC 290. What's more, this law applies to persons working, residing, or attending school within the state even if they were convicted elsewhere.
Adhering to Sex Offender Registration Laws in California
Being registered as a sex offender under any category can ruin your life for many years or even permanently. Prospective employers will not want to hire someone who has been convicted of sex crimes and even more, so it narrows down your job opportunities. For instance, you cannot secure a job at a school or any form of employment involving minors, or be in proximity to them.
Sex offenders must continually adhere to laws such as registering with the local police office within five days of release from jail or within five days after the sentence is meted out. Moreover, you will report to your local police station for at least once per year within five days of marking a new birthday or after a new year commences. More compliance requirements for registered sex offenders in California include the following:
- Must report to your local police station inside of five days of relocating
- Homeless offenders must report to the local law enforcement every 30 days
- Register with campus police officers within five days if you work at a college or attending classes there. You must also register within five days of leaving the school
- Registered sex offenders diagnosed with a hazardous medical disorder must update their registration with local police after every 90 days
- You must report a change of name to local police officers within five days
What are the Restrictions for Convicts of Sexual Assault/Battery?
- Perpetrators cannot live within a certain distance of a school or any place with children such as parks. This requirement may keep you from finding housing in the majority of neighborhoods.
- High-risk sex offenders must wear GPS monitoring around their ankle
- If you have other criminal convictions, you may be subjected to prolonged extended parole and probation sentences
How Can the Senate Bill 384 Help Me?
From these mandatory requirements, it is apparent that Sexual Assault and Sexual Battery are not taken lightly in California. Senate Bill 384 was proposed to change registration requirements for convicted sex offenders as of January 2021, thus allowing for some convicts to be removed from public records. While some view this new law as giving a lifeline to sex offenders, lawmakers argue it is set to equip the police with more robust tools of preventing sex crimes. The Democratic Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco said SB 384 would channel resources to safeguard people from violent sex offenders as opposed to spending too much effort on low-level offenders.
As per the Sex Offender Management Board, this registry spans 70 years and bears over 100,000 names including people caught urinating in public or engaging in sexual activity in parks are mixed in with people convicted of rape or child molestation. Law officers spend an estimated two-thirds of their time monitoring low-level sex offenders, which means this record is not useful in fighting high-risk offenders. SB 384 will allow many convicts to turn the page on their past by petitioning to have their names scrapped off from public and police sex offender registries, but decisions will depend upon the severity of their crimes. Perpetrators who have committed more sex crimes or gross felonies after serving time will not be eligible for this remedy.
Launching insults at someone in public or a private setting is legally termed as Verbal Assault, and this too carries penalties. The law punishes oral or non-physical attacks that yield emotional, mental, or psychological injury to the recipient as opposed to visible bodily harm.
Proving Verbal Assault is more challenging, but if your accuser has a voicemail or video footage of the said altercation, this is admissible in court. For instance, sending an angry voicemail to your separated spouse qualifies as Verbal Assault. If this recording includes verbal threats, you will face penalties as per penal code 422(a) pc, which is another wobbler. A misdemeanor carries up to one year in jail or a probationary sentence coupled with mandatory counseling.
A felony of this nature carries a prison sentence of 2, 3, or 4 years in a California prison. However, without any form of evidence, and if you don't have a prior history of domestic abuse, the case will be based on ambiguity, conditional threats, or other applicable defenses. No matter how justified your actions presumably are, you still need an assault defense lawyer to plead your case and possibly have the charges dismissed.
Find a Defense Attorney Near Me
Many forms of Assault charges could be leveled against you, covering the spectrum of Simple Assault to Sexual Assault and Battery. Being convicted with any of these crimes has severe consequences, such as the inability to find meaningful employment. Jail sentences can derail your career and having your name on California's sex offender's registry is not good either. The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney has many years of experience defending clients who are charged with Assault charges. Call our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer today at 310-564-2605 for expert legal representation