When people think of an assault, they usually imagine an incident involving physical violence. In the context of California law, however, assault charges apply to altercations or attacks that do not result in physical violence or injuries. When an assault results in violent contact or injury, a prosecutor will charge you with the related crime of battery. Despite the absence of injury or physical violence, assault charges are taken very seriously in California and carry harsh penalties.
If you’ve been charged with assault, a skilled San Diego assault lawyer working by your side can make all the difference. At McElfresh Law, we help our clients overcome their criminal charges by taking an aggressive and creative approach to their cases.
What is an Assault?
A person commits an assault under California Penal Code Section 240 when he or she willfully attempts to hurt another person. For example, if you throw a punch and miss, you may be charged with assault. For you to be found guilty of assault, the prosecutor will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- You did something that was likely to result in violent contact with another person
- Your actions were willful
- You knew that a reasonable person would believe your actions would directly and likely result in violent physical contact
- At the time you acted, you had the ability to make violent physical contact with the other person
The Penalties for Assault
Assault is a misdemeanor in California. If you make an assault against a citizen, you may face up to 6 months of imprisonment and an optional fine of up to $1,000. If you assault a parking enforcement officer, you may face a higher fine of $2,000. When the victim is a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or other person engaged in official public health and safety duties, you may face up to 1 year of imprisonment and an optional fine of $2,000.
Assault With a Deadly Weapon
If you commit the assault while in possession of a deadly weapon such as a firearm or a knife, or with a means of force likely to result in severe bodily injury, California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1) applies. Assault with a deadly weapon may be treated as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor charge would be one year in county jail. But if you receive a conviction for the felony version of assault with a deadly weapon, you may be sentenced to jail for 2 to 4 years.
Defending Against Your Assault Charges
To defeat your assault charges, your attorney will gather the facts necessary to demonstrate that there is a reasonable doubt as to whether you committed the acts of which you are charged. For example, he or she may be able to demonstrate that your actions were unintended or non-threatening. Just because someone felt threatened by a gesture does not mean that gesture was ill-intentioned or violent.
It may also be possible to claim self-defense in your case. This is possible when there’s evidence showing that:
- You reasonably believed that you or someone else was about to be injured or unlawfully touched
- You reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to stop the injury from happening
- You only used the amount of force required to defend against the danger
The sooner you call a San Diego assault lawyer after learning of your assault charges, the better. Your attorney can begin working on your defense and advise you on giving testimony to law enforcement and the prosecution. At McElfresh Law, our goal is to give every one of our clients the best chances possible before the criminal justice system. If you’re facing assault charges, you can call attorney Jessica McElfresh today for a free and confidential consultation of your case at (858) 756-7107.