The crime of battery occurs if the prosecutor can prove that the defendant willfully touches another person in a harmful or offensive manner (Penal Code section 242(a)). In the majority of battery cases, the contact is often more than just offensive and involves some measure of force applied against the victim (a punch, slap, kick, etc.). However, a person can be found guilty of this offense even if the injury is minor or non-existent. For example:
- a customer grabs the name tag of a store clerk while asking a question
- a pedestrian, while walking along a path, pushes a cyclist aside who happens to be blocking the path, with his walking stick
- a male patron of a bar, after consuming a “few too many”, puts his arm around an undesiring female patron
- a student grabs and pulls on the backpack being worn by another unsuspecting student
Thus, it is sufficient that the victim is merely “offended” by the defendant’s conduct and the physical contact is de minimis or slight. Also, the contact is not required to be applied directly upon the person – the touching can occur through the victim’s clothing or indirectly, using some type of object.
There are many defenses available to successfully counter a battery charge. These include, but are not limited to:
- accidental or unintentional (the defendant was pushed into the victim by another person)
- provocation (the victim was hurling vile racial slurs at the defendant)
- the contact was consensual (the defendant made a hard tackle of victim while playing football)
- self-defense (the defendant reacts to the victim angrily approach him with a closed fist)
- factual innocence (a video captures the entire event showing that defendant never touched the victim)
Punishment & Firearms Ban
A battery is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable by a period of informal probation (usually three years), up to one year of custody in the county jail, fines/fees and restitution to the victim, if any. Additionally, all violence-related offenses are considered to be “crimes involving moral turpitude” and as such, there are additional collateral consequences that may include; loss of employment, removal (deportation) from the country and simply, loss of one’s good reputation. Importantly, a misdemeanor battery conviction will impose a ten-year ban on possessing a weapon. Moreover, any firearms that the defendant owns or has in his/her possession will have to be given up or confiscated.
Given all of the consequences for a battery conviction, it is extremely helpful to speak with an attorney to develop an effective strategy that can be presented to the local prosecutor. Doing so may prevent the case from being filed in the first place or assist in having it dismissed later. If these results are not possible, then genuine efforts can be made to reduce the charge and/or lessen the possible penalties.