Am I Facing Jail Time if Arrested for Simple Battery?
If you’ve been charged with battery in Alameda County, you may be asking yourself, “Am I facing jail time if arrested for simple battery?” The most direct – though ambiguous – answer is “maybe.”
Before digging into the potential penalties for a simple battery conviction, it’s helpful to review California assault and battery laws. The first important distinction is that, in Alameda County and the rest of California, battery is one crime and assault is another crime. Assault is taking part in an action that could physically harm someone else. Battery is actually harming someone else. Another way to look at it is that battery involves contact with the other person, while assault may not.
The Differences Between Assault and Battery in Alameda County
Under California law, the act of assault is “an unlawful attempt, coupled with present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” To prove assault, the prosecutor must demonstrate that the accused acted in a way that would probably have the consequence of using force against another person. They must also prove that the accused acted intentionally – that they were actually trying to use force against the other person. Finally, the prosecutor has to prove that the accused was physically able to use force against the other person.
Let’s move from the abstract to the concrete. Let’s say that James and Bernard are arguing about whether or not Bernard’s car is blocking James’ driveway. James has a short fuse and pulls his fist back to punch Bernard. James thrusts his fist forward, but Bernard ducks to the left and James never connects. James could face assault charges because his actions would have resulted in using force against Bernard, James was actually trying to punch Bernard, and James would have been able to land the punch had Bernard not ducked.
In contrast to assault, battery occurs when physical contact occurs. In the case of James and Bernard, if Bernard didn’t duck and James punched Bernard in the face, then James could be charged with battery. California law dictates that battery is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” As with assault, a successful prosecution for battery involves proving three elements. For battery, the elements are that the accused had physical contact with the other person, that they did so intentionally, and that they did so in a way that was angry, disrespectful, or violent.
Drilling Down into the Components of Battery
It’s important to note that battery can be charged for any type of physical contact. In other words, James doesn’t need to punch Bernard. James can spit at Bernard. He can knock Bernard’s phone out of his hand. He can push a cream pie into Bernard’s face or onto his shirt. If you’ve been charged with simple battery in Alameda county, the takeaway is that the contact you make with the other person doesn’t have to be skin-to-skin. You can use an object or make contact through their clothing.
If you’ve been charged with battery, you might think that the prosecutor has no case because the other person wasn’t injured. It’s crucial to understand that the other person does not need to be injured in order for the charges to stick.
Another component of proving a battery case involves intention. If James purposefully balled up his fist and pulled back his arm before taking a swing at Bernard, then that can be used to support the Alameda County prosecutor’s battery case. If James is angry and picks up a rock to throw on the ground and accidently hits Bernard instead, the prosecutor can argue that James intended to throw the rock and thus created a situation that endangered Bernard.
For a battery charge to stick, the Alameda County prosecutor must prove that the action was done out of disrespect, anger, or violence. If James was wildly gesticulating when he knocked Bernard’s phone out of his hand, then it’s easy to connect the dots between James’ anger about where Bernard parked his car and the physical action that caused Bernard’s phone to crash into the ground. In contrast, if the circumstances were different, the battery charges wouldn’t hold up. For example, if James was flailing his arms in excitement because the Oakland A’s won the American League West division championships and clipped Bernard’s phone, that wouldn’t be battery. He wasn’t disrespecting Bernard, or acting out of anger or in violence.
Can a Simple Battery Conviction Lead to Jail Time?
If you’re accused of simple battery, then the alleged victim likely wasn’t injured or suffered only minor injuries. If the other person sustained a serious injury, the charges are almost surely aggravated battery, also known as battery causing serious bodily injury.
In Alameda County and the rest of California, there are three categories of offenses: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. The infractions that most often come to mind are traffic offenses, like speeding or failing to stop at a red light. The felony that most often comes to mind is murder. Misdemeanors are viewed as more serious than infractions and less serious than felonies. Simple battery is a misdemeanor.
In most cases of simple battery, the maximum penalty for a conviction is six months in county jail and a fine of $2,000. From James’ perspective, that seems like a stiff penalty for losing his temper with Bernard. It is, which is why it is in James’ best interest to contact an Oakland battery attorney. His Oakland battery lawyer can help James avoid jail time and advocate to the prosecutor that his charges should be reduced or dropped altogether.
Of those who are convicted of simple battery, many are able to opt for misdemeanor probation, also known as informal probation, instead of jail time. If James receives probation, he’ll have to comply with a number of probation conditions, such as paying for Bernard’s broken phone and participating in community service. If James doesn’t meet the conditions of his probation, the judge has a few options. They can look the other way or hold a probation violation hearing and either modify James’ probation order or revoke his probation and require James to serve out his sentence in jail.
When Simple Battery Charges Become More Complicated
James’ situation is fairly straightforward. He had a dispute with his neighbor, and it got out of hand. However, there are circumstances when battery charges quickly become more complicated. For example, if the person James is accused of attacking is acting in certain official roles, the penalty for a misdemeanor battery conviction grows from a maximum of six months in county jail to a maximum of one year in county jail.
The specific roles included in enhanced penalties for misdemeanor battery include several related to law enforcement. As might be expected, any California city or county police or sheriff’s officer falls into this category, but so do members of the California Highway Patrol and police officers from the University of California and the California State University systems. The law broadly defines peace officers to include everyone from those who enforce fish and game law to California State Fair marshals. Health inspectors and investigators from a variety of California agencies are also counted as peace officers.
People who are acting in other capacities also receive special protection under California battery laws. For example, those that might help in the event of an emergency are included, such as firefighters, lifeguards, paramedics, and EMTs, as well as off-duty doctors and nurses who might stop to help. Highway workers and school employees are among those also singled out as protected categories of people under state battery laws.
Similar complications can occur if the incident takes place in certain locations. If James didn’t confront Bernard near his house, but instead confronted him at a school or park, on hospital property, or at a bus or train station, the penalty for a battery conviction can be enhanced.
Why You Need an Alameda County Battery Attorney
If you’ve been charged with simple battery in Alameda County, it’s natural to think that you can handle it on your own. Nothing could be further from the truth. Without an Oakland battery attorney at your side, you are at the mercy of the prosecutor and the court system. Chances are, you don’t understand the nuances of the law and aren’t equipped to navigate the criminal justice system. Your Alameda County battery attorney does and is.
For example, your attorney can review your arrest record and the witness statements gathered by the police, and then present the prosecution with a plausible alternative framework for the events that transpired. For example, your Alameda County battery attorney might argue that you were acting in self-defense or that you struck out in order to protect someone else. They might assert that one or more of the three criteria for a simple battery conviction have not been met, and therefore the prosecution does not have a case. They may note that the incident was an accident, and that you did not intentionally move in a way that led to the contact with your accuser. Your Oakland battery attorney has a deep understanding of the law and can use their knowledge to undermine the prosecutor’s case.
If the prosecutor decides to move forward and the evidence is not in your favor, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a plea agreement to a lesser charge. The number of people facing charges in California is exponentially greater than the capacity of prosecutors to bring each case to trial or the capacity of judges to preside over cases. That’s why a prosecutor is eager to reach an agreement with a defendant and why most cases are resolved through plea negotiations. Your Alameda County battery lawyer understands the way the system works, and may be able to have your charges reduced to, say, disturbing the peace. While disturbing the peace is still a misdemeanor, the potential penalties for a conviction are much less severe, namely up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $400.
If you decide to go the route of a plea agreement, your Oakland battery attorney can also negotiate the sentence that the prosecutor recommends to the judge in your case. For example, your attorney can advocate for probation instead of jail time. Your probation conditions might include paying restitution or performing community service, but probation is much less disruptive to your family, livelihood, and freedom than even a short stint in jail. You may have to check in with the judge from time to time, but you won’t have a probation officer for misdemeanor probation. Once you successfully complete your probation, your Alameda County battery lawyer can help you petition the court for an expungement. If granted, your expungement means that your conviction won’t crop up on a background or credit check.
If you’ve been charged with simple battery, the time to act is now. Silver Law Firm has extensive experience representing clients charged with battery, and will work tirelessly to obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Call Silver Law Firm today for a free, no obligation case evaluation. You’ll be glad that you did.