Assault vs. Battery Charges: San Diego Battery Laws

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Assault and battery in California have important differences under the law. Each charge carries different consequences and requires different proof.

If you are facing criminal assault or battery charges, you should speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to assess your legal options. 

What Is Assault?

Under California Penal Code section 240, assault is an unlawful attempt to commit a violent injury to another person.

To meet the definition of assault, the defendant must have the present ability to commit a violent injury.

Assault charges do not require actual physical injury. Just the attempt and present ability to cause violent injury meets the legal definition.

For example, if someone threw a heavy object at another person and missed, that may qualify as assault.

California has various levels of assault, and each carries different consequences.

If someone threatens another person with a knife or other weapon, they may face charges of assault with a deadly weapon or firearm.

Generally, assault under California law is a misdemeanor with possible penalties, including:

  • Possible jail time up to six months,
  • Fines of up to $1,000, and
  • Probation for three years.

However, depending on the circumstances, the prosecution may choose to charge assault as a felony. Assault with a deadly weapon may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case. 

What Is Battery?

Battery, unlike assault, requires proof that a person used force or violence on another person.

Battery requires showing that there was physical contact. However, proving a battery charge does not require that the victim suffered injuries.

For example, if two people are arguing and one pushes the other during the confrontation, that may qualify as battery even if no injuries occurred.

Like assault, punishments and classifications of battery depend on the severity of the crime.

Normally, battery is a misdemeanor punishable by:

  • Up to six months in jail,
  • Fines of up to $2,000, and
  • Probation for three years.

If battery results in serious bodily injury, courts may impose harsher penalties. In the most extreme cases, a person may be sentenced up to four years in state prison even if no weapon was used. 


Assault and battery have similar defenses. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you identify your best defenses and build a strong argument for your case.

Self-defense is a common defense to both assault and battery.

You might argue that you acted in self-defense if your actions were necessary to protect yourself or others from imminent bodily injury.

However, you may use only the amount of force reasonably necessary to prevent bodily harm to yourself or others.

If you use unreasonable or unnecessary force, you may still face criminal charges.

Consent is another common defense to assault and battery. For example, if you are playing a contact sport and are aware of the risks, you consent to any physical contact or injuries that may result.

Such injuries or physical contact may not qualify as assault or battery.

For any assault or battery charge, the prosecution must prove all of the elements of the crime.

If the prosecution fails to demonstrate that you did not have the intent necessary to commit the crime, you are not considered guilty under the law.

A skilled criminal defense attorney can identify your best possible defenses and create a strong legal argument to protect your rights and freedoms. 

Contact a Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney Today

Assault and battery charges are serious, and convictions can carry serious legal and personal consequences.

If you are facing assault or battery charges, you should speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney right away.

The lawyers at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, have extensive experience defending our clients’ legal rights.

Our attorneys have taken their clients’ cases to jury trial well over 100 times.

Additionally, attorney Kerry L. Armstrong is a criminal law specialist certified by the State Bar of California. 

We put our clients first and fight diligently to protect their interests. Our dedicated staff can answer your questions and provide you with support throughout the process.

For a free consultation, call our office at 619-900-6902, or fill out an online form today. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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