What is Considered Assault in California?

There are thousands of crimes and corresponding penal codes that describe them across the country. Punishments run the entire gamut of punitive actions, and can range from minor fines to capital punishment. Unfortunately, there is no overreaching definition of any crime throughout the nation. What one state considers murder, another may consider manslaughter.

California is no different than any other state in the Union, in that it has its own penal codes and definitions of crimes. Assault is one crime that varies wildly across the states, but anyone accused of this crime in California should know its exact definition to properly prepare their defense.

Assault in California Defined

In most states, California included, assault is defined as a battery attempt. Battery is an attack on someone that results in physical contact; therefore assault is an attempt to attack another person. California’s legal definition of assault is any unlawful attempt that is coupled with the present ability to commit violence on another person. For example, if a person attempts to punch another and has the present ability to do so, they have committed an assault even if they did not make physical contact.

Assault is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanor, although in some areas it may be considered a felony; i.e. if it is committed towards police officers. There are, of course, other types of assaults that can incur a felony charge. One of the most notable examples is an assault with a deadly weapon charge, which is sometimes referred to as aggravated assault. A person can be charged with this crime if they used a deadly weapon during the commission of an assault, or if they used force that would’ve likely caused great bodily harm to another person. Not all assaults of this nature are automatically charged as felonies. Prosecutors will consider several factors, including the type of weapon used, when deciding how to charge a person.

A Variety of Defenses

Like any other penal charge, there are legitimate defenses against an assault charge. The most obvious defense is that the crime never occurred. Unfortunately, due to the definition of assault in California, a person can be arrested based completely on the testimony of the alleged victim. Since assault requires no physical contact, there doesn’t have to be any evidence that an alleged victim sustained harm from the accused.

Another possible defense is the tried and true “self-defense” argument. If an alleged victim attempted to attack the accused during the altercation, the defendant will have a strong case to have the charges against him dismissed. A person can fight these charges on their own, but it is often prudent for them to enlist the services of a lawyer to inform them of the best strategy for their particular case.

Due to the nature of assault charges, it is important that a person get out of jail as soon as possible so that they can begin preparing their defense. It often is not a good idea to wait for a judge to set bail, as this can take two to three days. Assault is listed on a county’s bail schedule, so a phone call to Bail Hotline can get the accused out of jail in only a few hours in most cases. Quick release from confinement is important to prepare a person’s defense. Defending oneself against an assault charge is no easy task, and one not easily done from a jail cell.

Assault is a very serious crime in California. Unlike some other areas, a person can be charged with an assault in California even if there was no physical contact. It is important that a person contact a bail bond agent and a lawyer as soon as possible after being arrested to begin preparing their defense. Assault is one of the few crimes where a person can face serious consequences even though no one was actually harmed during its commission. There are several legitimate defenses against an assault charge, and if properly handled, a person may get by with no harsh legal ramifications. 

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