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In this article, we explain in detail what assault is, a violent crime that is severely punished in California. Assault is the attempt to intentionally cause physical harm or threaten to injury another person.

Our violent crime lawyers at Lluis Law are experts in these cases. We have over 50 years of combined legal practice always striving to obtain favorable results for our clients.

If you have been charged with a charge of assault or any other violent crime, contact us. Request a private consultation and we will help you.

What is assault in California 

Assault is considered a misdemeanor along with battery under California Penal Code § § 240. It differs from the crime of battery because there is actually no physical contact with the victim during the criminal act.

Instead, physical aggression involves the deliberate and illegal use of violence or force against another person. Other violent crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon capable of causing physical injuries are classified as serious crimes.

In California, both assault and battery are called “wobbler” crimes So the prosecutor can decide whether to classify them as simple assault or as serious battery (serious offense). 

There are mitigating elements and circumstances that a good violent crime lawyer should invoke during the trial. In this way, if the client is found guilty, he could receive a misdemeanor charge during the trial.

What is simple assault

An example of what simple assault in California is, is to hit another person during a personal fight. Although the hit failed, the intention was to hit the other person, who must be located at a certain distance.

Although the words themselves do not constitute assault, the intention to materialize a threat if it is a crime. That is, accompany the verbal aggression with the intention of hitting or hurting a third party.

In order to establish the charge of assault, seriousness of the crime and its punishment, the identity of the victim is very important.

When the assault is against law enforcement officials and certain public officials, the crime is aggravated. Especially when it is emergency services personnel working on the street and the accused is aware of this.

The law includes among others:  

  • Doctors and nurses.
  • Paramedics and emergency medical technicians. 
  • Firefighters and first responders.
  • Employees of school institutions.
  • Workers who perform work on roads.
  • Members of the United States Army assaulted for serving in the Army.
  • Public transport staff.
  • Probation department staff.
  • Animal control officers.

Examples of simple assault

Some examples of simple assaults considered “wobblers” and prosecuted as misdemeanors or serious crimes are:

  • Assaulting a custody officer in a prison.
  • Assaulting a school district police officer.
  • Assaulting a member of the main or alternate jury for being part of a case.

Elements that constitute the crime of assault

The intentional conduct of the accused for the crime of assault is required for crucial in these cases. It could happen that one person feels attacked by another who did not really intend to attack or threaten them.  

Simple accidental action does not constitute a crime. To convict a defendant in an assault trial under PC 240, it must be proven that:

  • The defendant threatened another person with the use of force.
  • The threat was made voluntarily and intentionally.
  • The accused was aware that his actions would lead anyone to think that he would be attacked.
  • At the time of the act, the accused had the ability to attack or use violence against the other person. 

California assault penalty

arrested criminal

The California Penal Code § 240 establishes prison sentences and fines for this offense. A person convicted of simple assault could face the following penalties:

  • Up to six months in prison in a county jail.
  • Fine of up to $ 1000 (or $ 2000 if the assault is against a parking guard or a policeman who issues parking tickets).
  • Trial period of up to six months.

When the assault is against a health worker or public official, the aggravated sanctions include:

  • Up to one year in prison in a county jail.
  • Fine of up to $ 2000.
  • Trial period of up to one year.

Attacks classified as “wobbler” carry the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in jail in a county prison.
  • 16 months to two to three years in prison in a county / state jail. The classification of the crime and the place of confinement will depend on the criminal record of the accused.
  • Fine of up to $ 2000.
  • Trial period of one to three years.


The Court may substitute probation for imprisonment as a sanction for the crime of assault. Or, also, after the convicted person has served part of the sentence in prison.

Probation requires that the defendant meet periodically with a probation officer. In addition, you must comply with the conditions set by the court. 

For example, not getting involved in more problems, doing community service, and attending counseling talks. Sometimes house arrest and electronic monitoring (with ankle bracelet) are established.

Restitution of damages

This means that the person convicted of assault must reimburse the victim for the damage caused by the crime. For example, psychological treatment (consultations and medicines), emotional damage. 

Such restitution of damages could be fixed by the court with the payment of between $ 150 to $ 1000. If the person is prosecuted for a misdemeanor. When classified as a felony, the amount to be paid to the victim can range from $ 300 to $ 10,000.

Restitution is almost always part of the penalty established by the court in these cases.

Possible legal defenses

Some people, unaware that they are committing a crime, could face an assault charge at any time. People do not necessarily have to be damaged or injured for the crime to be established.

A good Los Angeles criminal lawyer can help an assault defendant eliminate or reduce these charges. Some of the legal defenses that our violent crime attorneys invoke are these:

  • The accused was not capable of assaulting or using force towards the alleged victim. Because it was located at a great distance from the other person.
  • In reality the defendant was only defending himself, so he acted in self-defense. This reacted when being harassed or assaulted by the other person.
  • The defendant never intended to assault the other person with his actions. There was a misunderstanding and the other person believed he was threatened.
  • The client is the victim of a false accusation due to jealousy, revenge or anger of the other party.

Other crimes related to assault

The California Penal Code includes other crimes that can be sanctioned as assault or appear related. These are:     

  • Battery PC 242). Causing serious bodily injury to another person.
  • Assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245 (a) (1). Be it a pistol / knife or any other means of causing harm.
  • Assault on a public official – PC 217.1 (a). To prevent it from fulfilling its functions or by retaliation. Includes: prosecutors, judges, public defenders, deputies, senators, and other elected government representatives.
  • Assault with caustic chemicals (PC 244). It constitutes a form of felony assault in California. For example, throwing acid on another person’s face or body to disfigure or injure them in some way. 
  • Throwing objects or substances against a motor vehicle (Vehicle Code 23110) on the street. It is not necessary to prove that the defendant had the ability to reach the moving vehicle or not. 

Although it is a misdemeanor, it can become serious if the object or substance can cause injury to the occupants of the vehicle.

vehicular crimes

In our vehicular crimes section you will find other charges similar to the one mentioned.

  • Disturb peace (PC 415). For example:
    • Fighting in public with another person.
    • Intentionally and irrationally making noise on the street or in the neighborhood in order to disturb others. This is considered a misdemeanor in California.
    • Throwing expletives and other provocative words at someone in public. 
  • Domestic violence: Physical assaults against direct relatives (spouses, partners, children, parents).

The crime of attempted murder is not included because this crime in California requires “specific intent.” In other words, it must be proven that the accused not only intended to harm the other person, but to murder him.

Frequently asked questions about the crime of assault

Below we answer many of the frequent questions we receive at the office. If you have your own questions to ask do not hesitate to contact us.

What if I am accused of assault while defending myself?

This is one of the forms of defense that the assault crime attorney can invoke. Acting in self-defense is accepted by almost all criminal laws in the world. 

In this case, either in self-defense or that of another person who is attacked by a third party. However, the acceptance of this defense remedy will depend on the argumentation capacity and the evidence presented by the defense. 

The California Penal Code states that a person can reasonably use force to defend himself. 

Can I defend myself against the crime of assault by alleging that the prosecutor made a mistake in charging me?

The prosecutor is free to classify the crime of aggression under which a person is accused. It can be for a misdemeanor or a felony, because it is a “wobbler,” or for a similar crime. Only he must prove the crime under the elements previously exposed.

We do not mean by this that the prosecutor cannot be wrong in establishing the crime. Since to commit the crime of battery, for example, assault is required, but not vice versa. Therefore the prosecutor could be wrong.

Can people who throw objects at a moving car be charged with assault?

As previously stated, throwing objects or substances at moving motor vehicles is a crime. Except that the object has been thrown without intention of hitting the vehicle or its occupants.

For example, throwing a stone while walking on a road and hitting a vehicle that suddenly appeared.

This offense is criminalized in Vehicle Code 23110 and California Penal Code Section 240. 

Can I be convicted of assault for using an unloaded pistol?

The mitigating circumstances of the event will be assessed by the judge. The way the weapon involved in the crime has been used. If the gun pointed at the victim was unloaded, the defense attorney may have a compelling claim.

You can argue that even though he frightened the victim, the defendant had no ability to actually harm him. Unless you have also attempted to hit the victim with the unloaded weapon.

What happens if I am accused of assaulting a person but it was accidentally?

The prosecutor must demonstrate that the accused intended to assault the alleged victim. Although the doctrine does not say if the person who was attacked was the target. 

Accidentally assaulting or injuring another person can be a complex case to solve. For this reason, it is advisable to consult a violent crime lawyer to offer insight into the possible defense. 

If the alleged victim is a relative, can I be charged with assault? 

Yes, you can definitely be accused of this crime. Under the California Penal Code, a person can be charged with assault regardless of who the victim is. That is, husband / wife, friend, or stranger.

Additionally, the prosecutor could charge the perpetrator with battery and domestic violence. This crime is much more serious. 

Los Angeles assault attorneys

The benefits of hiring a capable and experienced attorney is critical in these cases. Criminal defense attorneys help their clients better understand the content of California assault laws.

Being accused on a charge of assault can have serious consequences for anyone. Seeking help and legal representation from skilled assault attorneys is crucial to getting rid of these charges and reducing them.

The best-trained criminal lawyers provide clients with timely responses, protection and effective defense strategies. A good defense can help the client preserve her freedom by having the judge dismiss the charges.

If not, charges may be reduced or changed. It is also available the option to clean a criminal record after the sentence has been served, depending on the type of crime charged. 

Now you know what assault is, if you or a loved one was accused of the crime, call us with confidence. We will surely help you solve your case and find the best possible defense for you.