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Is Battery Worse Than Assault in California?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Often intertwined with one another, assault and battery are two distinct charges that each carry their own punishments and ramifications for the crimes. Both carry severe penalties for misdemeanor and felony charges. However, the battery charge carries a little more weight. Jail time is similar in the misdemeanor phase, but fines can be higher. Additionally, it is easier to charge battery as a felony with the addition of aggravation to the charge.

Because the two charges are often filed together, it causes confusion about them. However, it is assault that often leads to battery. If facing a charge of assault only, then the charge indicates that there was only the threat of willful intent to cause harm. It also requires that the person against whom it was directed had a genuine belief that the harm would occur. If a person is charged with battery, there is an indication that there was physical harm or offensive or non-consensual touching that occurred. If a person is charged with both, it is an indication that there was an assault committed that led to a physical altercation resulting in battery.


Assault is the threat of violent injury to another person, along with the ability to carry it out. To be convicted, it must be proven that the act was done willfully and that there was a reasonable belief to conclude that a rational person would feel threatened by the act. In addition, there also needs to be proof that there was the ability and access to follow through on the threat, which is what created the fear in the person to whom the threat was directed.

Simple assault is classified as a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail and potential fines of up to $1000. If a deadly weapon was present at the time, then there is potential for the crime to be elevated to a felony under which a conviction carries up to four years in prison or fines up to $10,000.


Battery, on the other hand, is illegally and willfully using violence or force on another individual. By this definition, battery moves the threat of harm to actual harm, although the contact does not have to be significant or violent. Because one is the threat and the other is the actual attack itself, it is understandable why they are often associated with one another and sometimes confused as one charge.

Battery is a misdemeanor charge that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and up to $2000 in fines. One difference between the crimes is whether there is a willful use of violence or force that causes serious bodily harm. When this occurs, it is known as an “aggravated battery” and then qualifies to be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Both assault and battery charges in which the crime is alleged to have happened against public workers who are performing their duties will likely be elevated. Public workers include doctors, nurses, animal control officers, librarians, highway workers, teachers, school employees, and others.

Effective Defenses for Assault and Battery

Both charges, while serious, can be defended, reduced, or dismissed. Criminal attorneys can provide multiple defenses for both crimes to help their clients reach the best possible outcome.

When it comes to assault, common defenses include:

  • You did not attempt to use force.
  • You acted in self-defense.
  • You performed the action unwillingly.
  • You are falsely accused of the offense.

In cases of battery, common defenses include:

  • You did not make physical contact (or you only made an attempt).
  • You unwillingly committed the action.
  • You were defending yourself.
  • You were stopped or charged by the police without probable cause.

In both assault and battery, if the altercation was considered mutual, this could also be used as a valid defense.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What Is the Maximum Sentence for Assault in California?

A: Assault at the misdemeanor level comes with a potential sentence of six months in jail and up to $1000 in fines. If the charges are upgraded to a felony, the punishment could rise to four years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. The circumstances of your case and any prior convictions could impact the sentencing that a person who is convicted may receive.

Q: Is Assault and Battery a Felony in California?

A: Both assault and battery can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Many of the circumstances that surround both charges cause them to be known as “wobblers,” meaning that they could be filed as either. If either charge is associated with the use of a deadly weapon, the charges are generally enhanced to a felony crime.

Q: Which Is Worse, Battery or Assault?

A: Both assault and battery carry heavy penalties and lasting ramifications for those convicted. While the penalties for both are similar, misdemeanor battery may result in slightly higher fines. Additionally, it is easier to upgrade battery charges through the addition of aggravated charges. If a deadly weapon is used, then the charges will be upgraded. The law does not clearly define a deadly weapon, meaning that anything that can cause severe harm or death qualifies.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Assault and Battery in California?

A: Assault is the threat of intent to cause bodily harm to another individual, whereas battery is when the threat turns to physical contact. Charges can be filed separately or in combination. The offense can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime. Both crimes carry potential punishment of time in jail or fines.

Assault and Battery Attorney

Assault and battery are charges with lasting ramifications if convicted. If you are facing one or both charges, your first priority should be to seek legal representation. The lawyers at Exum Law Offices, who have 25 years of criminal defense experience, can immediately go to work for you. Our first priority is to seek an acquittal, but we will review the facts of your case to determine the best defense for you, which could also include a reduction in charges or dismissal. For information on how our attorneys can help you, contact our offices.