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Being convicted of assault can lead to devastating criminal consequences and damage to your personal and professional reputation. If you are facing assault charges, bring in a seasoned criminal defense attorney right away, preferably before you speak to law enforcement officers. A Contra Costa County assault lawyer could put together the most effective defense available, given the unique circumstances of your case.

What is the Definition of Simple Assault?

The definition of simple assault is set forth in California Penal Code §240. Under this statute, assault is defined as the attempt to commit a violent injury on the person of another coupled with a present ability to commit such injury. Actual injury does not need to occur.

For example, throwing something at someone is an assault, even if the object misses its mark. Raising a hand to hit someone could be assault, even if the hand never strikes. The act of raising the hand or throwing an item in a threatening manner is an assault.

Conviction of simple assault is a misdemeanor that carries a potential for a six-month jail sentence. The broad definition of simple assault means that often people with no criminal intent face assault charges because a situation got out of hand, or someone misinterpreted their behavior. It is crucial for someone facing assault allegations in Contra Costa County to secure a competent criminal lawyer right away. If the evidence of criminal intent is weak, an attorney might be able to get the prosecutor to drop the assault charges.

Difference Between Assault and Battery

While assault and battery are often used interchangeably, they are actually completely different criminal offenses. In order for someone to be charged with battery, contact must occur. As discussed above, assault charges can occur by the mere threat of violence. Using the previously mentioned examples, if someone throws an item at someone else and it actually strikes the other person, that would be charged as battery rather than assault. If someone strikes another person, that also would be charged as battery. The person must intentionally make violent, physical contact with another person and possess the ability to inflict actual harm for a battery charge to be issued.

Common Assault Offenses in Contra Costa County

If the alleged victim of an assault was a public servant carrying out his or her duties, California Penal Code §241 imposes harsher penalties than for simple assault. Someone convicted of assaulting a first responder, emergency personnel, law enforcement officer (including animal control and parking control officers), lifeguard, or code enforcement officer could face jail for up to a year and a fine up to $2,000.

If a defendant directs an assault at a court officer, including a judge, bailiff, attorney, or another court employee, with the intent to prevent him or her from carrying out his or her duties, the crime becomes a wobbler offense. A wobbler could be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

Committing an assault while armed with a gun, knife, or another object that could inflict great bodily harm could result in the charge of assault with a deadly weapon according to California Penal Code §245. This charge is also a wobbler. If the prosecutor charges it as a felony, the defendant could face up to four years in prison upon conviction.

Depending on the extent of the threatened harm assault can quickly escalate to a serious felony offense with strike exposure. A crime like simple assault, a misdemeanor with maximum 6 months jail time, can easily change to a serious felony with state prison exposure if a weapon is used.

Potential Defenses Against Assault Allegations

Since a prosecutor must prove that a defendant intentionally attempted to exert physical force against another person, a Contra Costa County defense attorney could raise two specific defenses:

  • The defendant did not have the capacity to exert physical force due to the circumstances, or the defendant’s physical limitations
  • The defendant did not intend to attempt to exert physical force, or his or her action was misinterpreted

Proving self-defense could also defeat assault charges because an assault is not a criminal offense if the defendant acted to protect him or herself or others from imminent physical harm. However, the defendant must establish that his or her belief in the danger was reasonable, that attempting to exert physical force was necessary to prevent the imminent harm, and the defendant used the minimum force necessary.

In all criminal cases, a defendant’s legal representative will investigate whether the police violated the defendant’s rights at any time. If so, the prosecutor cannot use evidence obtained through those violations. Other defenses that might be applicable in a specific case include mistaken identity, false witness, and alibi.

Combat an Assault Charge with a Contra Costa County Defense Attorney

If you face assault charges, take action to protect yourself from the penalties of a conviction. Reach out to a diligent criminal attorney right away.

A Contra Costa County assault attorney could use all the evidence at his or her disposal to get a charge dismissed or at least reduced to a non-violent offense. Call today to speak to a caring legal professional.

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