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Simple Battery is codified at California Penal Code section 242, which specifies that this offense entails “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
This is a fairly benign crime that involves you offending or harming the accuser, even if you barely touched him/her/them. In other words, unlike with the crime of Simple Assault (California Penal Code section 240), you actually must make some kind of contact – even indirectly or through clothing.
As with Simple Assault, people often confuse that crime with Simple Battery, or conflate the two offenses by mistakenly and collectively referring to them as “Assault and Battery”. But they are, in fact, two distinct crimes with, of course, separate criminal statutes and criminal elements. If you think of Assault as Attempted Battery – i.e., an unsuccessful attempt to make harmful or offensive contact without justification – then you’ll be on the right track. (There is no crime of attempted battery.)
Simple Battery is always charged as a misdemeanor with a maximum incarceration term of 180 days.
Keep in mind, however, that if you do cause significant physical injury to the accuser, the battery involves a sexual act, or if the accuser is a specially protected individual, then the Simple Battery charge can be elevated to include felonies or at least more serious misdemeanors. See for example:
California Penal Code section 242 (Simple Battery)
This statute criminalizes the intentional and illegal (i.e., not justified by law, such as self-defense or an accident – see below) application of force/violence on somebody else.
According to CALCRIM number 960 (“Simple Battery — Pen. Code § 242”), to be convicted of this misdemeanor, in addition to willfully and illegally touching the victim, he/she/them must have been hurt or at least offended by the contact.
In other words, you don’t need to actually injure the purported victim, and even make the least bit of physical contact will suffice for conviction hereunder so long as it was done out of anger or in an offensive/rude/disrespectful way.
Nor is it necessary for you to have intended to harm them, or even to commit an illegal act. The touching can even have occurred through the victim’s clothes (i.e., the contact need not be skin-to-skin). It can also have occurred indirectly, such as where you used an object.
The following are all variations of this particular offense:
California Penal Code section 243.3 (Battery Against Transportation Personnel or Passenger);
California Penal Code section 243.6 (Battery Against School Employee);
California Penal Code section 243.7 (Battery Against a Juror); and
California Penal Code section 243.2 (Battery Committed on School, Park, or Hospital Property).
Again, since Simple Battery (Pen. Code sec. 242) is only a misdemeanor, and a comparatively benign one at that, so at most you’ll get a half-year in the county jail – that is, assuming the judge actually requires you to serve time therein. (This differs from most misdemeanor offenses, which typically allow for a maximum county jail term of one year.)
Otherwise, he/she will order you to complete a term of summary (i.e., informal) probation, do community service, take anger-management classes, pay a fine, etc.
However, you will lose your firearms rights for a minimum of a decade.
The Judicial Council of California’s Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”) allow for the following defenses to Simple Battery (P.C. section 242):
Los Angles Fireman Gets Six Months in the Clink for Beating Up Female Neighbor
In mid-September 2014, then-off-duty Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter Ian Eulian (age thirty-nine at the time) beat up a woman named Rebecca Stafford (age forty-eight) near his Los Angeles residence. Unfortunately for him, the attack was filmed by a nearby CCTV camera. It remains unclear what Eulian’s motive for the vicious attack was, but he was apparently so infuriated by her – perhaps it was her habit of feeding stray felines? – that he literally beat her unconscious.
Not surprisingly, Stafford was emotionally traumatized by the incident and thereafter suffered from significant neck pain. Since she lived near him, she was constantly terrified of running into him on the street. Even less surprisingly, LAFD fired Eulian after he was arrested by LAPD and charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for the assault.
Despite the video footage, Eulian recklessly took his chances at trial in 2014. But maybe he wasn’t so reckless – the jury hung! And so the DA’s Office took him to trial a second time. And that’s when Eulian rolled snake eyes.
Specifically, in May 2015, the jury returned its verdict in almost record time: guilty on misdemeanor Simple Battery (P.C. sec. 242). Because of the lack of visible injuries on Stafford, he was not charged with a felony, such as:
At his DTLA sentencing hearing in late June 2015, the prosecutor asked the judge to sentence Eulian to the maximum: 180 days in the county lock-up. His attorney asked for probation, but the judge went for the max: six months behind bars. In addition, Eulian also received almost a month of full-time CALTRANS work, informal/summary probation, plus mandatory mental-health counseling.
Rap Star “The Game” Gets a Slap on the Wrist for Several Assaults and Criminal Threats
At the end of March 2015, rap superstar and successful actor The Game (born Jayceon Taylor, then age thirty-five) volunteered to play in a for-charity basketball game in Hollywood. Unfortunately, he got a wee bit carried away during the game, resulting in him pushing, threatening to murder(!), and punching an off-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer on the other team. Taylor was enraged by the fact that the cop had stolen the ball from him then charged in for two points. The referee immediately tossed him out of the game.
Only two weeks later, Taylor found himself in another violent incident – this time he accosted, physically shook up, and – once again – threatened a process server. (It remains unclear the nature of the legal papers the man was serving.) Taylor then absconded with the man’s smart phone (which he was using to film proof of the service of process on Taylor).
As a result of these incidents, Taylor was arrested, charged, and prosecuted for a number of offenses, including several felonies. Not wanting to risk trial, in early February 2017, he pled nolo contendere to the following offenses:
Felony Grand Theft (California Penal Code section 487);
Misdemeanor Making a Criminal Threat (California Penal Code section 422), which, if he was convicted of a felony for that same offense, would have resulted in him having a Strike Offense (California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b); California Penal Code section 667.5(c) (“Violent Felonies”); California Penal Code section 1192.7(c) (“Serious Felonies”) on his record; and
Misdemeanor Simple Battery (Penal Code section 242).
The judge’s sentence: zero jail, 36 months of formal probation (formal because of the felony plea), three weeks of full-time volunteer work, and more than two dozen one-hour sessions of mental-health counseling.
In mid-June 2020, during the Covid lockdown, now-disgraced former A-list actor Shia LaBeouf allegedly attacked one Tyler Murphy (age unknown) after initially screaming at each other. LaBeouf then allegedly stole the man’s hat and took off running! The motive for the incident remains unclear, but perhaps LaBeouf is a Yankees fan and Tyler loves the Red Sox?
In any event, in late September 2020, LaBeouf was finally arrested and prosecuted by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office for the following misdemeanors:
Simple Battery (Pen. Code section 242); and
As with most celebrity criminal cases in LA County, LaBeouf got a nice break from the judge – he was ordered to complete Judicial Diversion (Court Initiated Diversion) (California Penal Code section 1001.95), which includes weekly mental-health counseling and AA meetings for a year, random drug testing, wearing an alcohol-monitoring bracelet on his ankle, having nothing to do with firearms, adhere to a hundred-yard stay-away order, and otherwise stay out of trouble. Once that program is completed, the charges will be dropped.
Ryan X. Facing Four Years in a Penitentiary for ADW; Pled to Misdemeanor – No Jail
People v. Ryan X. (Compton Courthouse – 10/20):
Ryan’s case is a prime example of how a few moments of road rage could easily land you in prison for years and effectively ruin your life. One sunny day, he was cruising in his muscle car, grooving along to satellite radio, and not paying particular attention to a cyclist on his right. Ryan came within a few inches of accidentally hitting the guy with his car. The cyclist cursed at him, then foolishly banged an open palm on the vehicle’s hood.
Even more foolishly, and even more pissed off, Ryan then did bump the cyclist with his car – intentionally, of course. The cyclist fell over with the bike since his cycling shoes were locked into the pedals. Although he landed on the cement sidewalk, he fortunately only suffered scrapes, cuts, and bruises. But that certainly didn’t stop him from calling “9-1-1” on his cell phone.
Minutes later, Ryan found himself in handcuffs, sitting in the back of an LAPD cruiser. The DA’s Office prosecuted him for Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW) (California Penal Code section 245(a)(1)), which entails a maximum forty-eight-month prison term.
Equally bad, this crime was being prosecuted as a Strike Offense (California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b)).
In addition to having to serve at least 4/5th’s of the max-four-year term, if he ever was convicted of another felony, then whatever sentence he received would be enhanced by at least five years. And if he ever was convicted of a Second Strike, then that underlying sentence would be automatically doubled. In other words, Ryan was looking at serious time – a ghastly prospect for anyone, but particularly for an otherwise peaceful, law-abiding person like him.
Ryan was no dummy – he hired LADALF’s Ninaz Saffari. Although she was able to get the Deputy DA to drop the charge down to misdemeanor Simple Battery (P.C. sec. 242), Ryan was still looking at a half-year max stint in the Los Angeles County Men’s Jail.
Result: Ryan happily accepted a no-jail nolo contendere plea with summary probation and volunteer work (which, because of the Covid lock-down, he never even had to perform). Once he successfully completed his probation, the conviction would be permanently removed from his record.
People v. G.S. (Downtown Los Angeles — Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center –– 04/14):
“Giovanni” was facing some serious prison time after being charged with several counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon (ADW) (Penal Code section 245(a)(1)), which, again, carries a 48-mo. max prison term.
But he was also charged with a Special Allegation of Personal Using a Firearm During a Felony (California Penal Code section 12022.5). This could mean an automatic ten-year sentencing enhancement.
See also Personal Use of a Firearm (California Penal Code section 12022.53(b)).
So now Giovanni was facing 14 years in a state penitentiary. Plus, since the ADW charge is a Strike (Pen. Code section 667(a)&(b)), and because of his previous criminal record, he was now facing a whopping twenty-seven years in the can.
But keep in mind that on October 11, 2017, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 620 (2017–2018 Reg. Sess.), which amended Penal Code sections 12022.5 and 12022.53, to provide superior court judges with the discretion to strike a firearm enhancement or jury finding. See: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
As a result, courts may now “strike or dismiss” an enhancement under these Penal Code sections in the interests of justice under California Penal Code section 1385.
See also People v. McDaniels (2018) 22 Cal.App.5th 420, 423 (SB 620 effective January 1, 2017; amended Penal Code sections 12022.53, subd. (h) and 12022.5 subd. (c) to allow striking firearm enhancements).
Despite looking at the possibility of spending much of his remaining life behind bars, Giovanni refused to consider ever taking a plea deal with a reduced sentence because he insisted he was innocent. So Ninaz tried the case before a jury.
Result: Not guilty on every single count.