How Does California Define Assault Or Simple Assault?

As defined in California Penal Code 240, assault or a simple assault is when one attempts to commit a violent injury on someone else.

Is A Simple Assault Considered A Misdemeanor Or A Felony Charge?

A simple assault is a misdemeanor in California. The penalties for such a charge include a fine up to $1,000 and/or six months in the county jail.

Examples Of Criminal Acts Which Can Be Construed As Simple Assault

Some examples of situations where assault charges may be filed in California are as follows:

  • A woman in a bar throwing a drink at a man who offended her
  • A fight at a Walmart between strangers, one throwing an object at the other, but misses because the other person ducked
  • A couple of teenagers throwing rocks at people who are walking by

Does A Victim Actually Need To Be Injured For A Simple Assault Charge?

No. The alleged victim does not have to be injured for an assault to have occurred. If the injury occurs, then the assault becomes a battery. So, technically by law, there does not need to be any injury or contact made for the assault to occur. A simple threat is not an assault. There needs to be an actual overt act for an assault charge to occur.

Do People Commonly Level Baseless Allegations of Assault?

They do. However, prosecuting agencies usually do not file charges unless it is a serious case or endangerment to the public.

What is Aggravated Assault And Battery In California?

California law allows the prosecutor to pursue charges of aggravated assault in most serious cases. The prosecutor must show an aggravating circumstance to elevate the charge of an assault to aggravated assault against the defendant. One example is the use of a deadly weapon. This is often considered an aggravating circumstance that can elevate the charge to an aggravated assault. Another example of aggravated assault is an assault with the intent to commit a felony such as murder or rape. So a simple assault becomes aggravated assault if the original intent was to commit a felony, such as murder, rape, or any other serious felony. Now, that simple assault becomes an aggravated assault for prosecution purposes.

Is The Intent A Hard Thing To Prove In An Assault Case?

Intent of the perpetrator is the key element in California assault charges. For a defendant to be convicted of an assault charge in California, all of the following must be proven.

  • The defendant did something that was likely to result in the use of force against someone else
  • The defendant did so willfully
  • The defendant was aware of the facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that this act would directly and probably result in a force being applied to the other person
  • When the defendant acted, she or he had the ability to apply force to the other person.

What Is Considered Assault With A Deadly Weapon In California?

In California, an assault with a deadly weapon is defined as an assault in which the defendant used any deadly weapon, other than a firearm, in a fashion likely to produce great bodily injury. In California, the term deadly weapon is deliberately not defined hence so it could be interpreted as broadly as possible. Deadly weapon could be a blunt instrument like a bat, or blade instrument like a knife, or even a moving vehicle if it is alleged one purposely attempted to hit a person with their car.

A coffee cup or anything that could cause serious injury could be defined as a deadly weapon and that is why the statute in California is so vague. It allows the interpretation of a deadly weapon to be very broad.

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