What is Assault?

In California, assault is defined as an intentional attempt to injure another individual physically. It could also mean a threatening or menacing statement or act that results in another individual believing that they’re about to be harmed. While assault and battery are usually lumped together, they’re very different offenses. Put simply, assault does not entail actual physical contact, while battery involves the unlawful and intentional use of actual violence or force against another individual. 


Common examples of assault could include:


  • A group of teens throwing objects at a neighbor while he is mowing the lawn.
  • While two strangers were arguing about who gets a parking spot, one of them swings at the other individual to try and hit them or scare them into thinking that they’re going to be hit, but the other individual manages to duck and avoids getting punched.
  • After a person propositions a woman in a bar in a manner that she finds lewd and offensive, the woman throws her drink at the person. 


The Elements of Assault


The elements of assault, which are specific things that the prosecution needs to prove for a person to be found guilty of the crime, include: 


  • The offender performed the act willfully.
  • The suspect did the act, which by its particular nature would most likely cause the direct use of force on another individual.
  • When the offender acted, they knew of the facts that would cause a reasonable individual to believe that it would probably and directly lead to the use of force against the other individual.
  • When the offender acted, they presently had the ability to use force on the other individual.


Penalties for Assault in California


As with most criminal offenses, an assault could be a felony or misdemeanor depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the charge. The potential penalties for assault include six months up to 12 years in prison and/or a fine of $1,000 up to $10,000. 


Likewise, the penalties are much steeper in cases where the victim is of a certain professional category, and the suspect knew or should have reasonably known the victim’s profession. Specifically, you could face more severe penalties if the assault was on a person who was doing their duties or job as a: 


  • Law enforcement officer
  • Nurse or doctor giving emergency care
  • Paramedic or EMT/emergency medical technician
  • Firefighter
  • Lifeguard 
  • Traffic officer
  • Process server
  • Search and rescue person
  • Animal control officer 
  • Code enforcement officer


Learn How a Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help


In most states, including California, judges have discretion when imposing sentences for different criminal offenses such as assault. Factors like actual or lack of injury to a victim, the ages of the suspect and the victim, the strength of the evidence against the suspect, and whether the suspect has previous convictions or charges would all impact the final sentence. 


Here at Bamieh& De Smeth, our skilled Santa Barbara criminal defense attorneys know how to use evidence to support a lesser charge and sentence and have ample experience in protecting the rights of alleged offenders. To arrange your free consultation, write to us online or call 805-643-5555. 

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