Assault, battery, and aggravated assault share many similar requirements under California law, but their severity and the consequences of each set them apart. The simplest difference among the three is the extent to which each has the possibility of harming another. Normally, the least severe is assault or simple assault. Simple assault does not require physical contact. The next step in severity is a battery charge, sometimes referred to as assault and battery. Battery requires the application of force to another. The elevation of both of these criminal charges is aggravated assault. Aggravated assault carries more extreme consequences than both battery and simple assault.

Aggravated assault has the potential to become a felony charge based upon motive, intention, the victim, and the tool of assault. This article will discuss the differences among these three criminal charges as well as the sentencing repercussions and a brief overview of felony and misdemeanor consequences.

What Is Defined As Assault In California?

Assault is the act of attempting to apply unlawful and violent force to another individual’s person without their consent paired with the ability to do so. Assault or simple assault are defined by California Penal Code 240 PC. Simple assault does not involve the actual application of force to another person; it is an attempt to do so. Under this wording, it is legal for authorities to intervene before any physical action occurs. Depending upon who the victim is, whether they belong to a protected group under California law, the tool used in an assault, or the intent behind the assaulter’s action, the simple assault charge could be elevated from its normal misdemeanor status to that of a felony charge. If convicted of simple assault, one could face up to six months in county jail and/or up to $1000 in fines.

Examples of Assault

Tod is walking down the street when he starts to cross a crosswalk. As Tod is walking, Jon sees him in the distance and decides to play what he considers a joke. Jon begins speeding towards Tod and veers away at the last moment leaving Tod unscathed but frozen in terror. While Jon did not apply any force to Tod or even say anything, Jon has just committed assault. Jon possessed the ability to apply force to Tod, and while he did not intend to hit Tod, his joke was an attempt to do so. Tod could sue Jon for subjecting him to the ordeal by proving Jon has the ability to do the following: Jon had the ability to apply force to Tod by driving into him. Jon was willfully doing so. Jon knew that the car had the ability to apply force to Tod, and the act in itself, driving into a person, would apply force to someone by the nature of the action.

What Is Defined As a Battery Charge?

A battery charge is any unlawful and willful act which applies force to another person. It is defined under California Penal Code 242 PC. Battery, while similar in requirements to simple assault, has the distinct characteristic of actual contact. Often, assault and battery are charged at the same time when there was a period of escalation that came to a physical altercation. Battery does not have to be what would normally be considered a violent crime, such as a physical fight. Battery charges can consist of merely touching another person, especially if the tough is annoying, disrespectful, or invading such as an intimate area. Battery has multiple variations depending on the victim and if a weapon was used. These details could elevate a battery charge to aggravated assault if serious enough. A couple of sub-categories of battery are domestic violence and sexual battery and battery on a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency worker. These specific categories carry particular restrictions that are not part of basic battery charges. Similar to assault, battery is a wobbler offense meaning it could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony based on the case details. The basic battery charge at the misdemeanor level carries a sentence of up to 6 months in county jail and/or up to $2000 in fines. Additionally, Penal Code Section 12021 C 1 calls for a 10-year firearm ban for misdemeanor battery convictions If convicted of a felony, Penal Code Section 12021 A 1carries a lifetime ban from possessing or owning firearms for life.

Domestic Violence Battery:

Under Penal Code 273.5, domestic violence is any act against a spouse, former spouse, fiance, or domestic partner. If convicted, one can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony based on the severity. Additionally, if convicted as a felony, the sentence might call for time in state prison instead of a county jail. Domestic violence has can also carry a fine of up to $10,000 which does not include court-ordered restitution and or payments to a battered women’s shelter not to exceed $5000. This type of battery usually entails parole, community service, or even court-ordered domestic communication classes. By federal law, anyone convicted of a domestic abuse misdemeanor or felony is subject to a lifetime ban of owning or possessing a firearm.

Sexual Battery:

Under Penal Code 243.4(e)(1), sexual battery is defined as touching any intimate part of another person without consent for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse. If convicted under PC 243.4 e1, one can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor and be forced to register as a sex offender for life under Penal Code 290. If the sexual battery is committed upon an individual that has been restrained by the accused or an accomplice Penal Code 243.4(a), the charge could be raised from a misdemeanor to a felony. A felony charge for sexual battery can lead to a fine of up to $10,000 and or two, three, or four years in state prison. Additionally, sexual battery is also charged when a boss touches an employee, a caretaker touches someone who is mentally ill or incapacitated, or if a figure of authority levies their power against another.

Battery Against a Peace Officer, Firefighter, or Medical Worker:

Battery against a peace officer, firefighter, or medical worker carries the same charge as a simple battery if no injury occurs. However, if an injury is the result of battery, the charge can be raised to the felony level. This can lead to a prison sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years, and a fine of up to $10,000.

An Example of A Simple Battery:

Jane is walking down the street when someone begins shouting at her. The person, Sarah, begins to insult Jane’s partner, her work, and her family. Jane approaches the person in a fit of rage and hits Sarah with a closed fist. While Sarah was yelling at Jane, Jane did not have a right to assault her. In this case, Jane could be charged with battery because she applied physical force to Sarah by punching her. Jane did this willingly and with the knowledge that the action would apply force to Sarah.

What Is Defined As Aggravated Assault?

Aggravated assault is defined by California Penal Code 245 as the act of purposely inflicting or intending to inflict serious bodily injury upon another individual. Aggravated assault is both assault and battery taken to a more extreme level. Simple assault can be raised to aggravated assault if it is committed with a deadly weapon or a firearm. Any attempt to commit homicide, mug, kill, rape, rob or assault with a deadly or dangerous weapon is considered aggravated assault in California. Aggravated assault is a wobbler offense and can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor depending upon the seriousness of the incident. Those convicted of a misdemeanor aggravated assault can face parole, up to a year in county jail, and or up to $10,000 in fines. If the charge is at the felony level, one can expect larger fines and a longer sentence but to state prison as opposed to county jail.

Example of Aggravated Assault:

Jerry decides to rob a stranger on the street, Kerri. Jerry comes up behind Kerri with a gun and yells, “Give me the bag, or I will shoot.” Kerri drops the bag and Jerry runs off. He is later arrested and charged with both robbery and aggravated assault. While Jerry did not physically hurt or apply force to Kerri, Jerry did use a firearm or deadly weapon. By using a firearm, Jerry’s case can be raised from simple assault to aggravated assault or assault with a deadly weapon which carries higher penalties.

The Differences Among Assault, Battery, and Aggravated Assault

The difference between assault, battery, and aggravated assault is dependent upon physical contact, any items used, and the relation between the victim and accused. Simple assault does not contain any contact. Battery and aggravated assault both rely upon physical contact actually happening with an exception for aggravated assault. If someone commits an assault with a deadly weapon or a firearm, the non-contact assault charge can be elevated to aggravated assault. Aggravated assault differs in the severity of injury inflicted upon the victim. If the altercation is minor, was not based on prior planning, and did not involve a deadly weapon or firearm, it is more likely to be treated as battery. Depending upon the relationship between the victim and the accused, the battery could be listed in a specific category, such as sexual battery. Aggravated assault, on the other hand, is any violent act of injury upon another. This can be with or without a weapon. It is more extreme than a battery in the extent of damage caused. Battery can be raised to aggravated assault if it is apparent that the accused had no regard for the victim’s life in their actions or intended to inflict serious bodily injury.

Sentencing and Fines For Assault, Battery, & Aggravated Assault

Simple Assault:

  • Up to six months in county jail
  • Fines up to $1,000


  • Misdemeanor level: up to six months in county jail
  • If an injury occurs, up to one year in county jail
  • Up to $2,000 in fines
  • Felony level: 16 months, two years, or three years in a state prison

Sexual Battery Charges and Fines

  • Lifetime sex offender registry
  • Misdemeanor: up to one year in county jail
  • Fines up to $2,000
  • Felony: two, three, or four years in state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Domestic Violence Battery

  • Lifetime firearm ban
  • Misdemeanor: up to one year in county jail
  • Fines up to $2,000
  • Felony: two, three, or four years in state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Battery Against a Peace Officer, Firefighter, or Medical Worker

  • Misdemeanor: up to one year in county jail
  • Fines up to $2,000
  • Felony: two, three, or four years in state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one has been charged with assault, battery, or aggravated assault, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.