Simple assault is a confusing crime in California. First of all, the crime that most people think of as “assault” is technically called “battery,” while a second crime that usually coincides with battery is known as “assault.” Understanding which charges you face and whether they are accurate is an important part of planning your defense strategy. Bamieh and De Smeth’s Ventura assault defense attorneys explain some examples of assault and battery to help you understand what exactly constitutes “simple assault” in California.

What is the Definition of “Assault” in CA?

The crime commonly called “simple assault” throughout the country is technically titled “battery” in California. CA Penal Code § 242 simply defines this crime as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Broken down to its essential elements, this is a crime of (1) intentionally (2) making contact (3) with another person. In some states, the crime of simple assault adds the element that there must be injury, but CA’s law does not use this element.

In addition to this crime, you can face charges for a crime which is officially titled “assault” under CA Penal Code § 240. This crime is an “unlawful attempt” to injure someone else, along with the “present ability” to do so.

Examples of Assault and Battery under CA Penal Code § 242

The following examples may help you keep straight which crime is which and understand what you were accused of doing if you are facing charges for assault in California:

Striking someone

Punching or kicking another person, or otherwise striking them, is a common example of assault. When you throw a punch, the attempt to hit them constitutes the crime of “assault” under § 240, and the actual forceful contact constitutes “battery” under § 242. Usually, this crime would just be referred to as “assault,” even though you can face two separate charges for the incident.

Commonly, you would face charges for both assault and battery in a situation like this. This is because hitting someone requires both an attempt to harm them (assault under § 240) and the actual use of force on them (battery under § 242). However, if you missed with your strike, you should only face charges for assault, not battery.

Grabbing someone forcefully

The main element of assault under § 242’s battery statute is the use of force or violence. This does not mean that the attack must be a strike or a punch, and you can also be charged for harmful or violent grabs. If you forcibly grab someone by the wrist or come up behind them and grab them, you could be charged with battery. On top of this, the attempt to grab them could also constitute assault under § 240.


Grabbing someone by the throat is commonly charged as simple assault. This act would usually be enough to charge battery, and when you reach in to choke them, you may also commit an assault offense. However, this crime could be upgraded to “aggravated assault,” which carries more severe penalties.

When you choke someone for a second or simply grab their throat, it may not cause severe injury. This kind of interaction is clearly something that would be illegal, but it should not be charged as a severe crime. However, many people underestimate the harm that choking someone can cause.

If you choke someone for a prolonged period, you could cause serious damage. If they fall unconscious, their brain may not get the oxygen it needs. Additionally, their eyes could begin to bulge and blood vessels on their face and neck could burst from the lack of circulation. Ultimately, strangulation like this could be considered “serious bodily injury” that upgrades simple assault to aggravated assault. You should talk to a criminal defense attorney about any charges for choking or strangulation.

Throwing something

If you throw something hard at someone else, like a rock or a brick, you may be arrested for assault. The contact required to charge you with battery does not have to be person-to-person contact, and throwing something at someone else is enough to get you a battery charge. On top of this, the attempt to throw the item at someone would constitute assault under § 240, which has its own penalties.

If you use something more dangerous or hit someone hard enough, the weapon used could actually be considered a “deadly weapon.” Assault and battery with a deadly weapon is a much more severe offense under Penal Code § 245.

Striking with a weapon

As mentioned, hitting someone with a thrown object would constitute assault and battery. In addition, hitting them with a weapon would certainly qualify as use of force and violence in violation of § 242. Again, however, the crime is upgraded to a more severe penalty if the assault involves a deadly weapon. The definition of a “deadly weapon or instrument,” as used in the statute, is quite broad. In some cases, even something that seems “non-lethal” like a taser or a baseball bat could be considered a deadly weapon, upgrading the offense. A severe enough attack could even be considered attempted murder.

Ventura Assault Defense Lawyer Offering Free Legal Consultations

If you or a loved one was arrested for assault in California, talk to the Ventura criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today. Our attorneys offer free consultations to help you understand your charges and your options for defending your case. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at (805) 643-5555.