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Assault is one of the most common crimes people get arrested for in Ventura. In fact, arrests for violent crimes like assault are on the rise in Ventura County. In an interview with the Ventura County Star last year, Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney said, “Arrests were up nearly 17%. Reported violent crime was up more than 35% and the total number of violent crimes increased to a five-year high.” When a person is charged with assault, one of their first questions is whether assault is a misdemeanor or felony charge, and what sort of penalties might result from a conviction. Ventura criminal defense attorneys explain when assault is a misdemeanor, when assault is a felony, the penalties for assault in California, and how assault is different from related crimes like battery.

Is Assault and Battery a Misdemeanor or Felony in CA?

People frequently use the term “assault and battery,” which suggests “assault and battery” is a single crime. In fact, assault and battery are completely separate offenses in California. If a person is being charged with assault and battery, it means they are being charged with two different crimes. However, if the defendant is convicted or enters a guilty plea for both charges, he or she will be sentenced for battery, which is the more serious of the two offenses.

So how are assault and battery different? How is each crime “graded,” or categorized, in terms of being a felony or misdemeanor? And are there any related charges Californians should be aware of?

Our Ventura assault defense attorneys will start with the first question: what is the difference between assault and battery? The answers can be found in the California Penal Code, specifically in the following statutes:

  • Assault – Cal. Penal Code § 240
  • Battery – Cal. Penal Code § 242

Each of these statutes provides a short and, compared to most other statutes, relatively simple definition for each offense. Assault is defined under Cal. Penal Code § 240 as “an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” Notice that the action doesn’t have to result in injury, merely constitute an attempt (with ability) to inflict injury.
Battery is similar, but has a subtly different legal definition. Under Cal. Penal Code § 242, a person commits battery when he or she makes “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Unlike assault, battery involves the actual use of force or violence, as opposed to simply an attempt coupled with physical ability.

Despite having different legal definitions, assault and battery are both misdemeanors in California. However, there are many related offenses which are either felonies or “wobblers” (crimes that can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies). Wobbler assault crimes in California include:

  • Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW) – Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(1)
  • Assault with a Firearm – Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(2)
  • Assault Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury – Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(4)
  • Battery on a Peace Officer/Police Officer – Cal. Penal Code § 243(b)
  • Battery Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury – Cal. Penal Code § 243(d)
  • Sexual Battery – Cal. Penal Code § 243.4(a)

Examples of felony assault crimes in California include:

  • Assault with a Machine Gun – Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(3)
  • Assault with a Semiautomatic Firearm – Cal. Penal Code § 245(b)

This is not an exhaustive list, but provides some common examples of wobbler and felony assault offenses people can be charged with in Ventura.

Assault Charges: Jail Time and Other Penalties

To reiterate, assault and battery are both misdemeanors (with exceptions for the wobblers and felonies listed above). However, the penalties for battery are more serious.

The penalties for misdemeanor battery are set forth under Cal. Penal Code § 243(a). These penalties include:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Up to $2,000 in fines

By comparison, the penalties for misdemeanor assault, which are listed at Cal. Penal Code § 241(a), include:

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • Up to $1,000 in fines

The maximum jail sentence is the same, but the fine is considerably lower.

The penalties for related offenses that are wobblers or felonies can be much more severe. For example, below are the penalties if you are charged with sexual battery, a wobbler, and convicted. California’s sexual battery penalties are set forth by Cal. Penal Code § 243.4(a) and include:

  • Misdemeanor Sexual Battery
    • Up to 1 year in jail
    • Up to $2,000 in fines
  • Felony Sexual Battery
    • 2, 3, or 4 years in prison
    • Up to $10,000 in fines

Furthermore, judges may impose additional penalties on top of fines and incarceration, such as probation, community service, and mandatory participation in anger management programs.

Ventura Assault Defense Lawyers Handling Violent Crimes

Arrests for violent crimes are on the rise in Ventura. Regardless of whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony violent crime, you face incarceration, expensive fines, probation, and other devastating consequences, in addition to the many burdens that are created by having a criminal record.

If you were charged with assault and battery or related offenses in the Ventura area, you need immediate legal help from a highly experienced Oxnard criminal attorney. To talk about your California assault charges and what to do next in a free and confidential legal consultation, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC right away at (805) 585-5056.

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