Many people are surprised to learn that they don't even need to touch another person to be charged with assault. Under California law, assault is an unlawful attempt to injure someone, along with a present ability to hurt that person. Because an assault charge doesn't require actually touching the other person, you can be charged with assault for actions you never considered violent. For example, simply leaning forward can be interpreted as a threat in some cases. Assault is usually, but by no means always, charged along with a battery, which is defined as actually touching someone against his or her will. At HOWARD LAW, PC, our Orange County assault defense attorneys defend assault cases as well as battery and all related charges.
Like battery, assault is a simple misdemeanor in its basic form. It's punishable with up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both. But as with battery, an assault charge can be more serious and the penalties higher if certain people are the victims. State law defines greater penalties for an assault on categories of people including:
- A police officer
- A school employee, highway worker, paramedic and certain other professionals
- A doctor or nurse giving emergency medical care
- A custodial officer (jailer)
- A member of the armed forces
- A juror deciding a case in which the accused is involved
Many of these circumstances double the fine to $2,000, double the penalty to up to a year in jail, or both. Some of them are "wobblers" that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. There are also much higher penalties for the separate crime of assault with a deadly weapon. For more, please see our assault with a deadly weapon page.
Our San Bernardino assault criminal defense lawyers have multiple ways to defend an assault charge. Assault requires a "present ability" to carry out harm on another person as well as an attempt. That means it matters whether the crime was realistically possible. If you were too small, too intoxicated or restrained at the time of the alleged crime, your charges should be dismissed. Intentions are also important, because the crime is an attempt to harm another person. And we can also mount strong defenses in cases of self-defense and misunderstandings. We find that in many assault cases, both people share some of the fault for the incident.
If you or someone you love is charged with assault, don't wait to contact Howard Law for help. To set up a consultation and learn more about your rights, please contact us through the Internet or call 1-800-872-5925 today.