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Simple Assault in California: 240 PC

Posted in California Law on May 12, 2021

It is illegal to assault somebody in California. However, adequately defining assault can be difficult. There are various laws on the books that pertain to assault, but here we want to focus on Penal Code 240 PC. Even though this law does not specifically say simple assault, that is generally what this law is referred to as – the simple assault law in California.

What does California define as simple assault?

When we look specifically at Penal Code 240 PC, we can see how assault is defined: “An assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.”

When analyzing this definition, we can see that it does not necessarily say that a person has to be struck in order for the charge of assault to apply. Simply taking a swing at somebody and missing during a heated argument is enough for a person to be charged with assault, so long as the intended victim was within striking distance at the time the incident occurred.

We do not want to construe this to mean that words alone are enough for assault, but threatening to strike a person with an object could be considered assault if the threat is accompanied by an action that shows intent to carry out the specific action.

Additionally, the identity of the intended assault victim is important when determining the severity of the charges and the possible punishment. For example, an assault against health care professionals who are providing emergency treatment outside of a hospital or emergency facility or an assault against various public workers engaged in their official duties carries more severe penalties.

What an Assault Could Look Like

Suppose two people are at a baseball game and get into an argument about a call that was made. Suppose one person is intoxicated, gets angry, and begins to throw punches at the other person. For this scenario, let’s none of the punches hit the intended target because of the assaulter’s intoxication. However, this person could still be charged with simple assault because their actions constituted an attempt to use harmful force on another person, and they were certainly capable of landing a punch at the time the incident occurs.

However, suppose a person calls another individual on the phone and tells them that they are going to punch them. Even though this is a threat, it has been made over the phone. The person making the threat could not be prosecuted for assault because they lacked the present ability to commit the action.

Penalties for a simple assault conviction

Any person charged with 240 PC in California will face a misdemeanor offense. If a person is convicted of simple assault in California, they could face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in county jail.

The penalties for simple assault in this state are more severe if the victim of the assault was a health care professional or another public official performing their job-related duties at the time the incident occurred. In these instances, a person could face up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Contact a skilled Riverside assault attorney to discuss your case and start working on your defense.

Differences between assault and battery

Two words that are regularly used interchangeably are “assault” and “battery.” However, these two words actually have different meanings when it comes to the legal system. Battery is defined under California law as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”

To differentiate this between assault, we can see that battery is the violent act itself, while assault is an attempted act of violence that does not necessarily cause any harm to the victim. Assault and battery are often charged together if a person attempts to injure somebody and actually succeeds in doing so.