Battery with Serious Bodily Injury

California Battery with Serious Bodily Injury under PC 242

A conviction on battery charges might have considerable repercussions impacting you for the remainder of your life.  A criminal record for violence can severely hurt your professional career and personal relationships. A criminal record is much more severe when you inflict bodily injury on the victim. Battery with serious bodily injury is also referred to as aggravated battery and mostly happens inside domestic household disagreements or bar fights with strangers. For you to be charged with battery causing serious bodily injury, you must have first committed simple battery, which is in violation of Penal Code Section 242.

There is one key difference between aggravated battery and simple battery and that is the degree of injury suffered by an alleged victim. For instance, if you punch someone and break their nose, the prosecutor has a likelihood of filing for aggravated battery because the victim suffered great physical harm. On the other hand, if someone is pushed to the floor and received a scraped knee or elbow, the injury might not be serious enough to qualify as a serious bodily injury and should be charged a simple misdemeanor battery instead.  Battery causing serious bodily injury may be filed as a “strike” offense which means any future felony charge can be doubled for future violent felony charges which would effectively add years of prison to any potential sentence.

Proving a Charge of Penal Code 243(d)

Battery causing serious bodily harm, under Penal Code 243 (d), refers to offensive or harmful touching resulting in serious bodily injury. The basic elements of the offense that must be proven by the prosecutor include:

  • You touched somebody willfully or unlawfully in a harmful and offensive manner, and
  • As a result, you caused serious bodily injury upon the person of another

Touching

This is the most important element when it comes to cases involving battery. To be convicted for battery with serious bodily injury, you must have touched someone or made some kind of contact with the alleged victim. Any type of direct or indirect physical contact could qualify as harmful and offensive touching. It could be in the slightest manner by finger or hand or by using an object like a pole or handbag that is considered an extension of you.

Example:

Michael is driving down the road and gets into an argument with someone who is flipping him off and saying racist things to him.  Michael gets out of the next intersection to confront the man.  Feeling angry, Michael throws his phone at the ot­­her persons face and breaks his eye socket.  Michael can be convicted of battery resulting in a serious injury.

 Intentional or willful

If you accidentally made contact or touched somebody, then no battery has happened.  This can take place in a room packed with people or on a crowded street. The contact must be deliberate and with the intention to touch another individual in an offensive and harmful manner.  If you involuntarily came into contact with another individual who then fell and broke her leg, there is no intent. If you merely rubbed against the person who lost their balance and broke a leg or suffered a head injury, but the “rubbing” or minor push was deliberate, you might be charged with battery causing serious bodily injury, regardless of whether you intended to injure the other individual or not. But if your deliberate contact, however slight, did lead to a grave injury, then you might have committed this offense.

Example:

During a birthday party celebration, Cody has been drinking.  Cody begins walking to the bathroom but slips and instinctively grabs onto Rebecca standing next to him.  Rebecca falls onto the floor and breaks her wrist.  Cody should not be charged or convicted with battery because his action was involuntary and unintentional

Offensive or harmful manner

The touching must be offensive and/or harmful. A harmful contact could be a hard shove or punch and or even a hard poke For a contact to be offensive, the touching should have been unwelcome and was executed in a manner that was rude, disrespectful, angry, or violent.

If you were being affectionate or playful and hugged or pushed somebody who suffered an injury, you should not to be convicted of battery with serious injury because your touching was not disrespectful, angry or violent. It might be of great help if the defendant and the victim were friends or knew each other and there was no contentious or angry incident that preceded the contact.

Example:

Maria is celebrating New Years at a club.  She gives a stranger a high five but hits her in the face instead.  Because Maria high five gesture was not unwelcome or done in an angry or violent manner, she should not be charged or convicted with battery.

Serious injury

Any serious impairment of an individual’s physical condition is what constitutes a “serious bodily injury.” Keep in mind that under California law, there is no obligation for the victim to seek medical attention for the injury to be considered serious.  Under California law, there is no clear line or boundary as to what a serious injury is and some incidents are evaluated on a case by case basis.

Examples of bodily injuries that are considered serious may include but are not limited to: bone fracture, loss of consciousness, prolonged impairment or loss of function of a body organ or part, concussions, serious disfigurement, and wounds needing extensive suturing. But under California battery causing serious bodily injury law, whether a given injury is really serious is always an issue for the jury to resolve in every specific case.

To disprove or argue against a claim of serious injury, an expert, usually a medical doctor, can be retained to analyze the injuries suffered by an alleged victim to determine whether the injury is considered serious under California law.

Prosecuting a Charge of Aggravated Battery

Any criminal offense prosecution requires that the prosecution prove every single element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  If even a single element is not met, a conviction should not occur.

The proof must, therefore, be such that if there is a reasonable misgiving about the accused guilt, the verdict must always be an acquittal. For instance, if another individual might have realistically committed the offense or if there is a realistic alternative where it’s just as probable that the accused may not have committed the crime or any of the elements of the crime, then there is reasonable misgiving. In proving every element of Penal Code 243(d), the prosecutor must offer evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony that the respondent touched or made contact with somebody in an offensive manner. The prosecutor will also probably be required to provide medical evidence from doctors or medical reports that the injury was serious as defined by the law.

Legal Defenses Against Aggravated Battery Charges

A conviction for battery with serious injury can damage your reputation and even your future. Most people are unaware that a conviction could occur just because of a minor touching even in a situation where you had no intent to cause the victim any injury, and for the rest of your life your record will show that you’re a violent criminal. This could greatly affect your employment opportunities because any employer who conducts a background check and finds that record will not risk hiring you. Luckily, a knowledgeable, seasoned criminal defense lawyer at Justin Lo Law can assist you. There are several legal defenses that we may apply to your case to help in fighting aggravated battery charges with the aim of getting them reduced or dismissed. These include:

You acted in self-defense

Should you inflict serious bodily injury on another individual in the course of defending yourself or another, you cannot be found guilty of PC 243(d) violation. However, you must prove that:

  • You sensibly believed that you or somebody else was in an impending risk of being unlawfully touched or attacked and
  • You rationally held that the immediate use of force was required to safeguard against that attack and protect yourself, and
  • You used only the force that was sensibly required to defend against that attack.

Self-defense is a usable defense to battery with serious bodily injury charges. For instance, Jill has been in a physically violent and abusive relationship with Jack who is her classmate. One-day Jack meets Jill in the bar and pokes her in the chest with a finger. Jill reacts by pushing Jack who trips and falls hitting his head and getting a concussion in the process. Although all Jack did was poke Jill, Jill can still be able to defend against battery causing serious injury charges using the legal defense of self-defense. Jack’s contact was unlawful and pushing Jack was a sensible reaction to the touching.  However, if Jill decided to repeatedly kick Jack after he fell to the ground, then Jill could be arrested and charged with aggravated battery.

Accidental battery

You could have a legal defense against Penal Code 243(d) if the alleged aggravated battery was accidental. For you to be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor must prove that you acted willfully or intentionally. However, if you had no intention of inflicting force against another person or causing serious physical injury, you cannot be found guilty of this offense. However, regardless of the fact that you did not have the intent, you can still be charged and convicted of simple battery, since there is no need for the force to have been willfully inflicted on another. 

The injury was not serious

From the discussion above, we find that the definition of “serious bodily injury” for the purposes of Penal Code 243 (d) is not clear cut. It’s therefore up to the jury to elect whether a specific injury meets the required threshold. Battery victims may attempt to make their injury look more serious than it really was, for example, by complaining of pain that they do not have or pursuing medical treatment they did not reasonably need.  With a criminal defense lawyer who can make a fact by fact analysis, an accurate assessment of the alleged victim’s injuries can be made. If there is considerable indication the alleged victim’s injury is not to the level of serious bodily injury, then your attorney may be able to convince the prosecutor to have the charges reduced to misdemeanor simple battery under PC 242.

Simple battery is a misdemeanor that carries a lenient sentence of:

  • A maximum of fine of $2,000
  • A maximum of six (6) months in county jail

A simple battery is punished less severely than battery causing serious injury. Because of this, it may make sense to attempt to get the charges reduced to simple battery charges through a plea bargain.

Punishment for Battery Causing Serious Injury

The offense of battery with serious bodily injury is a wobbler; the prosecutor, therefore, holds the choice on whether to charge you with a misdemeanor or a felony. To determine whether to charge a case as a misdemeanor or felony, the prosecutor will look at factors such as the level of injury the victim received and the criminal history of the defendant.

A felony conviction for aggravated battery is punishable by imprisonment in county jail for 2, 3, or 4 years, or a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both imprisonment and fine. Also, the judge could impose a felony probation or parole supervision. A felony conviction also results in a strike on your record as per California’s Three Strikes Law. On the other hand, a misdemeanor conviction of battery only carries the risk of summary probation, time in county jail for up to one year, and/or a fine not exceeding $1,000.

In addition, upon conviction, most defendants convicted of battery may be required to attend anger management classes and compensate the victim for the losses made due to the injuries suffered. The judge may also impose a stay away or protective from the victim. This means that no contact should occur between the defendant and the victim. Plus, if convicted of a felony, you stand to lose the right to purchase, own, or possess a gun in California. Failure to comply can result in new charges under California’s felony with a firearm. As a convicted felony, the ban on owning, purchasing or possession a firearm lasts for 10 years if the conviction is for a misdemeanor aggravated battery. If you are not a United States citizen, you could be deported and or have other immigration benefits such as naturalization denied to you.

Sentence Enhancement for Great Bodily Injury

In certain cases, the sentence could be enhanced if the circumstances of the crime are exceeded, and it would be too lenient to impose the maximum penalty for the crime committed as specified within the Penal Code of concern. Under Penal Code Section 243(d), if the victim suffered great bodily injury and you’re convicted of felony aggravated battery, you may face an additional criminal sentence. In this case, great bodily injury refers to any physical injury that is substantial or significant and results in physical impairment such as bodily paralysis, loss of limbs or loss of sight.

Simply put, serious bodily injury is lesser compared to great bodily injury, and not all cases of aggravated battery will be found to have resulted in great bodily injury. If the jury in your case discovers that the injuries were significant or substantial, the sentenced will be enhanced by an additional three to six years in state prison.

Contact Us for Help

Facing criminal charges of battery with serious bodily injury? Don’t talk to the police without consulting a qualified criminal defense attorney first.  Your freedom depends on it. Even though anyone facing jail or prison time is anxious and wants to tell their side of the story, it is important to never incriminate yourself or assume the police will conduct a objective, fair and complete investigation.

Time is of the essence if you have been arrested or charged with this crime because your rights, freedom and future are on the line and that’s why it’s imperative to seek legal counsel the earliest opportunity possible.

When you retain attorney Justin Lo for your battery with serious injury case, you can rest assured that you’ve engaged skilled, experienced, and winning attorneys. We will examine all the facts of your case, evaluate the elements in the prosecutor’s case to find out its weaknesses, and develop the best possible defense strategy to defend your rights. We will fight nail and tooth to get the charges dropped or at least reduced. You can contact us anytime 24/7 562-999-3682 for a free initial consultation concerning your aggravated battery charges.