While many people use the terms “assault and battery” interchangeably, these two are separate crimes in the state of California. Assault and battery carry serious criminal penalties in California. However, they are also considered intentional torts under California civil law.

If you have been accused of or charged with assault or battery in California, consider speaking with a knowledgeable lawyer who will strive to protect your freedom and rights. Attorney Josh S. Brownstein and the Brownstein Law Group, P.C. has a proven track record of successfully defending clients in San Rafael, Novato, San Francisco, Marin County, and throughout California.



What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery?

While the terms assault and battery are often used together, they refer to two distinct crimes in California. Under California Penal Code Section 240, assault refers to an unlawful attempt to cause violent injuries to other people. In other words, you can be charged with assault if you intended to commit a battery but made no physical contact to do so.

Battery, which is codified at California Penal Code Section 242, refers to force or violence used against other people. Unlike assault, which does not involve physical contact, the crime of battery is the actual use of force or violence. The Penal Code also contains special code sections regarding physical force or violence committed against peace officers, emergency medical technicians, firefighters, school teachers, and others.

In other words, the biggest difference between assault and battery in California is that battery is the actual use of unlawful force, while assault is just an attempt to use force.

Simple vs. Aggravated Assault and Battery in California

California Penal Code also recognizes two degrees of assault and battery depending on the nature and severity of the offense:

  1. Simple and aggravated assault. Simple assault refers to the threat or attempts to cause physical injury to another person when the offender has the ability to carry out such a threat. However, if the offender has the intention to inflict serious bodily injury by assaulting a victim with a deadly weapon, they can be charged with aggravated assault. A deadly weapon can be a firearm, knife, baseball bat, or even a screwdriver, among other instruments and weapons. A person can also face aggravated assault charges if they commit assault with caustic chemicals or attempt to use a deadly weapon on a school employee.

  2. Simple and aggravated battery. Simple battery means forcefully touching someone in an unwanted manner. However, an offender can face aggravated battery charges if they cause a serious bodily injury. What constitutes a serious injury is one of the most debated issues in assault and battery cases in California. However, California law defines a serious injury as a substantial or significant physical injury.

Penalties for Assault and Battery in California

Penalties for assault and battery depend on the circumstances and nature of the offense, including whether the offense is simple or aggravated:

  • Simple assault includes a penalty of up to six months in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines, in addition to restitution to the victim.

  • Aggravated assault is punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $10,000, probation, and restitution to the victim. If the aggravated assault is a felony, the offender may face a longer jail sentence.

  • Misdemeanor battery is punishable by up to six months in county jail and up to $2,000 in fines, in addition to probation and restitution to the victim.

  • Felony battery is punishable by a maximum sentence of three years in a county jail or state prison, and between $2,000 and $10,000 in fines, in addition to probation and restitution to the victim.

Felony convictions may fall under California’s Three Strikes Law. Under the law, an offender can be sentenced to 25-to-life in prison if they have two prior felony convictions for violent or serious crimes on their record.


The assault and battery attorneys at Brownstein Law Group, P.C. are committed to providing clients in San Rafael and throughout California with high-quality legal representation. Assault or battery charges can be completely overwhelming for you and your loved ones—a conviction could affect your ability to find a job or decent housing in California and result in other negative consequences. Reach out to a fiercely compassionate attorney today to determine your best defense options.