If you find yourself in a situation where you will be charged with battery with serious bodily injury, it is essential to consult the San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm. A conviction will affect your entitlement to own a firearm, future employment opportunities, and have a criminal record. You don't have to face the charge alone; our legal team can fight zealously for the best possible outcome.
What is Battery with Serious Bodily Injury?
Also known as aggravated battery, this form of battery can be defined as committing a California battery and then causing serious bodily injury to another person.
To be found guilty of PC 243d, the prosecution team must establish the following elements of the offense:
- You touched another person
- In an offensive or harmful way
To understand the legal definition above better, here is a closer look at legal phrases:
Touched Another Person
A defendant commits battery when they make physical contact with somebody else. It might be in the least way like using a substance like a handbag or a pole, which is well-thought-out to be your extension or your hand or finger. Contact through the victim's clothing also counts.
As far as PC 243d is concerned, a defendant touches an individual willfully if they do so on purpose or deliberately. You do not require to plan to gain an advantage, injure the victim, or violate the law.
In other words, you do not require to have planned to hurt the victim to be convicted of PC 243d. You only need to have purposed to touch the alleged victim in an offensive or harmful way.
In an Offensive or Harmful Way
A touch is considered to be done in an offensive or harmful way if it is angry, disrespectful, rude, or violent. Perfect examples of harmful contact include a shove, punch, or hard push.
If the defendant was being affectionate or playful and hugged another person but inflicted an injury on them, they cannot be sentenced for violation of California Penal Code Section 243 (d). The contact wasn't disrespectful, angry, or violent.
Serious Body Injury
One of the facts of the aggravated battery is the fact that the alleged victim sustains a severe bodily injury. The element is any severe impairment of another person's physical condition. It's not necessarily the alleged victim visits a doctor because of the injury.
Common physical injuries considered severe include:
- Severe disfigurement
- A wound that needs extensive suturing
- Impaired or protracted loss of a body part, organ, or function
The above isn't all-inclusive. The decision of whether the injury suffered is serious is an issue determined by the jury in every case. Therefore, it is essential to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. A conviction is punishable by severe penalties.
Also, it is a factual determination that related cases could result in different interpretations for a similar or same injury. For instance, a bone fracture in a victim's hand could be considered minor if it does not affect the victim in a significant way, and they can perform their everyday activities. The same injury on somebody else could lead to that individual being unable to perform their duty.
The prosecutor will most likely offer medical proof from medical reports or physicians that the injury was severe.
Understanding the Difference Between Assault and Battery
Most people believe that battery and assault have the same meaning hence used interchangeably. Well, in California, these are two different offenses that are charged differently.
Battery is the interaction when you touch somebody else using violence or force. The interaction also goes beyond violent situations. It also applies to non-consensual touching done in an aggressive or harmful manner. The penalties vary depending on the case circumstances.
According to California Penal Code 240 PC, an assault is when you try to use force or violence on another person. It could be trying to injure another person and missing or making threats.
Normally, an assault takes place before a battery. In other words, an assault is an attempted battery, while a battery is a completed assault. For instance, if you threaten a person that you will hit them with a stone, you've violated PC 240. And if you actually hit them with the stone, then you have violated the battery laws.
Penalties, Sentencing, and Consequences of Aggravated Battery
Violation of California Penal Code section 243(d) PC is a wobbler and can be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor. The decision on how to charge the offense is left at the prosecution team's discretion, depending on your criminal history and case's circumstances.
If found guilty of a California misdemeanor, you will face:
- $1,000 in fines
- Misdemeanor probation
- A one-year jail sentence
A felony, on the other hand, carries the penalties below:
- A two, or three or four-year jail sentence
- A maximum of $1,000 in fines
- A formal probation
Moreover, if charged with a California felony, you lose the entitlement to own a firearm. In case you own, possess, or buy a firearm, you will face a felony under Penal Code 29800 PC (felon with a firearm law). You will be required to sell off your firearm and present proof of sale to law enforcers or surrender the gun to the police.
Great Bodily Injury Enhancement
You could face a consecutive and additional sentence for a California felony battery with serious bodily injury if the judge decides the alleged victim sustained a great bodily injury.
It is worth noting that great bodily injury is different from severe bodily injury. The former is a significant physical injury. It is a higher standard compared to serious bodily injury. However, not all battery with severe bodily harm will cause a great bodily injury.
In case the jury decides that the injury was a great bodily injury, you will spend an additional three (3) to six (6) years in the state prison, not forgetting the penalties attracted by California Penal Code Section 243(d) PC. The decision on whether you receive three, four, five, or six years sentence enhancement depends on the circumstances of the crime, age of the alleged victim, and the seriousness of the injury.
Usually, cases that involve an alleged victim who is below five years or above seventy years of age receive more severe sentence enhancement.
Great bodily injury is also a strike under California's Three Strikes law.
How to Fight Penal Code Section 243(d) PC Charges
A Penal Code Section 243(d) PC conviction not only looks awful on your criminal record but can also affect the ability to secure an employment or school vacancy in California. Most people don't know that you could be found guilty of this offense for just a minor touch where you did not plan to hurt the alleged victim. They will also conclude that you're a violent person.
Luckily, there are various valid legal defenses that an experienced criminal defense attorney can use to fight the charges or have them reduced or dismissed altogether. They include:
The Battery was an Accident
The law holds that a person who caused an injury through misfortune or accidentally has not committed an offense. To use an accident as a defense, you should prove that you acted with no evil design, culpable negligence, or criminal intent.
For instance, you can't be charged with this offense if you accidentally tripped and fell into a person in a crowd or shoved them.
Nonetheless, if a defendant made contact planning to injure a person slightly, but it ended up, resulting in a severe bodily injury, the court won't take that as an accident.
Additionally, it is not an accident if the defendant planned to injure a person with a rod but missed the target and hit another person. It is because they intended to attack another person aggressively.
Usually, this defense requires the prosecutor and your experienced defense lawyer to analyze the crime's circumstances thoroughly. Note that a battery causing severe bodily harm charge doesn't put into consideration whether you have the intention to cause an injury. If a defendant did not have the intent to touch, the lawyer might present evidence that the alleged victim misunderstood the conduct or was accidental.
The Injury was not Serious
As previously mentioned, there is no standard definition of severe bodily injury as far as PC section 243(d) is concerned. Instead, it is within the judge's discretion to determine if a particular injury is a severe bodily injury or not.
Most alleged victims are resentful and will attempt to make the injury look more severe. They can seek medical care they do not require or complain of pain they do not experience.
Therefore, it is your attorney's responsibility to investigate and reveal the correct degree of the injuries. If there is evidence that the injuries do not amount to severe bodily injury, then you can persuade the prosecution to charge you with a lesser offense like a simple battery (PC 242) or assault.
You Acted in Defense of Self or Others
This legal defense applies to California Penal Code Section 243(d) PC if all the following statements are true:
- The accused thought that they or another person was in danger of sustaining bodily hurt or being touched in an illegal manner
- The accused thought that using force was essential to protect against the danger
- The accused used only the necessary force to defend against the danger
A perfect example could be when a victim pokes you in your chest, and as an abrupt response to it, you push the alleged victim back. As a result, the victim trips and falls, hitting their head on a chair and suffering a head injury. In this scenario, your counsel can use this defense because you pushed the person as a reasonable reaction to their illegal touch.
A person cannot be found guilty of battery with severe bodily injury if they were drunk, stumbled, and then bumped into another person who fell and broke their leg. It is because the defendant did not purpose to make physical contact with the victim. Nevertheless, you will be charged with either being drunk in public (Penal Code 647d PC) or disorderly conduct.
Reasonable Doubt and Insufficient Evidence
The prosecution should establish all facts of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt. Nonetheless, the lack of evidence will not stop the prosecutor from filing charges. Sometimes, the injury isn't severe enough to allow a charge being filed. Also, in cases where the law enforcement investigation isn't thorough or both the defendant and the victim suffered an injury, a charge can be filed with insufficient evidence. It will be founded only on the police officer's opinion or the victim's word.
It is tempting to think that no one will believe you when law enforcers have built a battery with severe bodily injury charge against you. Fortunately, your proficient defense lawyer has handled similar cases in the past and will review your case and quickly highlight any gaps in the prosecution's evidence. As a result, they will not allow a baseless charge stand. They will insist that the prosecutor meets the burden of proving the elements of the charge beyond any reasonable doubt.
Discussed below are offenses that are related to Penal Code Section 243(d) because they are charged alongside or in place of aggravated battery. They include:
Elder Abuse (Penal Code Section 368 PC)
According to the elder abuse law, it is illegal to negligently or willfully inflict unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain on a victim above 65 years.
If found guilty of PC 368, you will be convicted of both elder abuse law and aggravated battery. It's a wobbler. A felony carries:
- A maximum of $6,000 in fines, and
- Two, three or four years in state prison
Corporal Injury on a Victim (PC 273.5)
California Penal Code Section 273.5 is one of the most common domestic violence charges in San Jose. The offense is committed if the defendant imposes a bodily injury causing a distressing condition on a person who is the defendant's:
- Former or current partner
- Former or current cohabitant
- A parent to their baby
PC 273.5 is a California wobbler that carries a two, three, or four-year felony sentence in jail.
If charged with Penal Code Section 273.5 PC, it is wise to get your charges reduced to PC 243d. Like all domestic violence offenses, Penal Code 243d is a deportable offense. Deportation can result in losing your job, family breaking up, and losing the opportunity to stay in the United States. If you are a legal non-resident, you need to hire a knowledgeable attorney immediately.
Battery on a Peace Officer (Penal Code Section 243 PC)
A defendant is likely to face more severe consequences if they commit a battery against a member of specific classes of persons. Under PC 243, the protected person must be engaged in their duties. They include:
- Peace officers and police
- Custodial officers
- Security officers
- Custody assistants
- Traffic officers
- Code enforcement officers
- Probation department employees
- Nurses or doctors offering emergency medical care
Simple battery against one of these individuals is a California misdemeanor. However, your sentence will be enhanced by a year.
If you commit a battery against a protected individual irrespective of whether the injury is severe, the crime is a California wobbler. A felony is punished by sixteen months, two years, or three years in jail.
Simple Battery (PC 242)
If a defendant commits a battery that does not lead to a severe bodily injury, they will be charged with simple battery.
Violation of Penal Code Section 242 PC is a California misdemeanor. In most cases, you will spend six months in jail and pay a fine of two thousand dollars.
Bearing that in mind, any experienced lawyer will have the aggravated battery charge reduced to a Penal Code 242 PC charge through plea bargain negotiations.
Under PC 243.4 PC, it is illegal to touch an intimate part of somebody else against their will with an intent of sexual gratification, abuse, or arousal. An intimate part is any person's buttocks, groin, anus, sexual organ, or a female's breast.
Violation of sexual battery law is a California wobbler. If charged with a misdemeanor, you will face five-year summary probation, six months in jail, and $2,000 in fines. A felony carries formal probation, time in California state prison, registration as a tier three sex offender for life, and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars.
How a 243d PC Charge is Established: What Evidence Should Your Attorney Gather
In your Penal Code Section 243d PC charge, your attorney will search for the following evidence of the offense:
- Physical proof- Physical proof is collected through evidence that can assist recreate the incident scene. It can be marks of the victim's belongings, DNA proof, or any other thing that can prove a pattern of events.
- Alleged Victim's Statement- Sometimes a victim's statement can prove your innocence by demonstrating elements of the crime.
- Witness Testimony- A witness testimony can offer valuable answers in court. It is collected through both verbal and written statements of witnesses who give an insight into how the incident unfolded. The offense in question is proved by facts like who was provoked or hit first.
- Medical Report- Another way a prosecutor uses to prove you violated aggravated battery laws is through medical expert testimonies and medical reports. The reports can show if you used a weapon and the degree of the injury. As previously discussed, the question of whether an injury is a severe bodily injury is within the jury's discretion. As a result, the importance of a criminal defense attorney cannot be overlooked.
- A Police Report- A police report is another essential document that is written at the crime scene. The report gives an account of how the incident occurred. Also, it is not subject to shifting storylines.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Happens if You've Been Drinking Alcohol and That's Why You Got into a Fight?
Voluntary intoxication will only help in your case if you are charged with a specific intent offense. A specific intent offense is different from a general intent offense. It requires the intention to do further conduct or realize an additional consequence other than the specific act.
Usually, a battery is a general intent offense since the prosecutor should prove that the defendant deliberately touched the victim in an offensive or harmful way. Therefore, voluntary intoxication is not a valid legal defense.
2. What Happens if This is Your First Offense on Your Criminal Record?
Your skilled criminal defense lawyer can discuss the record with the prosecution to attempt and mitigate the sentence. If this is your first conviction, you could be an ideal candidate for probation. It is up to the court to determine if you qualify for probation as well as the type.
Summary probation will include time in jail. Nevertheless, the focus is serving time out of police custody under supervision. Although there is no probation officer whom you should report to, you should appear before the judge who tracks your progress. Typically, this probation lasts between one and three years and comes with conditions like community service.
Felony probation comes with terms and conditions like meeting with a probation officer, making restitution to the victim, and serving a sentence.
3. What If You Were Wrongly Accused in a Bar Fight?
It is hard to identify the perpetrator if the aggravated battery was committed in a bar fight. In most cases, the wrong person is identified and charged. Fortunately, mistaken identity is a valid defense that your attorney can explore.
Find San Jose Criminal Attorney Near Me
If facing battery with severe bodily injury in San Jose, you're likely to be confused about the nature of the offense and the next step to take. Is aggravated battery different from assault? What defenses could be used to mitigate the charge? All these questions do not have easy answers, particularly if you don't have experience in law. As a result, contact San Jose Criminal Attorney Law Firm today at 408-622-0204. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the legal system as well as make informed decisions.