Simple Assault Under California Penal Code 240

Being accused of assault can lead to devastating personal and legal consequences, even if the charges are misdemeanors rather than more serious felonies. In California, most basic assault allegations fall under Penal Code Section 240 – the state’s law against simple assault.

If you were recently arrested and charged with simple assault under California Penal Code 240, you likely have many questions about what this entails and how to protect yourself in court. A PC 240 conviction can mean heavy fines, probation requirements, and even jail time, in addition to a permanent criminal record.

In this guide, we’ll dig into the specifics of California’s simple assault law by outlining the key elements prosecutors must prove, along with viable defense strategies. 

Defining Simple Assault Under California Law

The legal definition of assault can seem confusing, even to lawyers. But in everyday language, simple assault under California Penal Code Section 240 involves words or actions that attempt to violently injure someone else when it appears you have the ability to complete the attack. 

To convict you of a simple assault charge, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you: 

  • Willfully did an act that would directly and probably result in the application of force to a person AND 
  • When you acted you were aware that a reasonable person could be touched by the act.

Penalties for Simple Assault Convictions in California

​​Simple assault is charged as a misdemeanor offense in California. This means convictions carry less severe sentences than felony charges but can still include meaningful penalties. 

If convicted under Penal Code 240, you may face the following penalties:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail, which would be served at a local detention facility rather than state prison. 
  • Misdemeanor simple assault can also potentially lead to fines of up to $1,000
  • Other common penalties include formal probation, community service hours, and mandated anger management classes. 
  • Probation may include conditions like staying away from the victim, undergoing drug tests, or avoiding further arrests.

While a simple PC 240 conviction avoids longer incarceration sentences, it still creates a permanent criminal record and possible jail time if convicted. The ramifications can include difficulty finding housing or jobs and an inability to own firearms. That’s why legal help fighting simple assault charges is so crucial. 

Our experienced California criminal defense lawyers may get charges reduced or dismissed to avoid conviction.

When Simple Assault Crosses the Line into Felony Territory

While simple assault involves threats or attempts to injure, aggravated assault charges under California Penal Code 245 are for assaults involving a deadly weapon or “force likely to produce great bodily injury.”

For example, aggravated assault charges may result from:

  • Assault with a deadly weapon like a knife, bat, crowbar, etc.
  • Intentionally driving a car into someone
  • Assault leading to serious injuries like broken bones, stab wounds, loss of consciousness, etc.

Unlike simple assault, aggravated assault is a much more serious wobbler offense in California. This means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. But most aggravated assaults lead to felony charges, which are punishable by up to 4 years in state prison.

Common Defenses Against Simple Assault Charges

The good news is that there are a variety of legal defenses that a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer may use to contest assault charges on your behalf, such as:

  • Self-Defense: This means arguing that any threats or force used were solely intended to protect yourself or others from harm. The law allows reasonable use of force when faced with an imminent threat.
  • False Accusations: Were you wrongly accused of assault out of anger or confusion in an argument? Your attorney can probe for holes in the other side’s story and cast doubt on supposed “evidence.”
  • Misidentification: Eyewitness misidentification plays a role in over 70% of overturned convictions. An assault defense lawyer can challenge if the prosecution has the right person.
  • Mental Health Issues: At times, assault charges stem from a mental health episode or disorder rather than malicious intent. Raising health issues may lead to reduced charges and sentencing.

The key is developing a tailored, multifaceted defense asserting your innocence and aligned with the precise charges you face. An adept criminal defense lawyer with experience defending assault charges can make all the difference here.

Frequently Asked Questions About California Assault Charges

What are the penalties for simple assault in California?

Simple assault is a misdemeanor in California, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. The court may also order informal probation or issue a restraining order.

What is the sentence for aggravated assault?

Aggravated assault is usually a felony in California, punishable by 16 months to 4 years in state prison. Actual sentencing will depend on the severity of injury, use of weapons, and the defendant’s criminal history. Enhancements can add additional years if the assault causes great bodily injury.

What are common defenses against assault charges?

Common legal defenses against assault charges in California include self-defense (arguing reasonable use of force against imminent danger), false accusations/mistaken identity, and mental health defenses relating to episodes or disorders showing no malicious intent. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate defenses best suited to the specifics of your case.

Take the First Step and Regain Peace of Mind

Being accused of assault can turn your whole world upside down in an instant. These charges threaten your reputation, freedom, and future. What you need right now is strong, compassionate counsel in your corner to advise you on your legal options and defend your rights.

At Kolacia Law Firm, we’ve spent years establishing a proven track record of favorable verdicts in complex assault cases. We’ve seen firsthand how determined advocacy makes all the difference for clients and families. Our firm offers an initial case assessment so you can make informed decisions on how to fight these charges.

Take action now to regain peace of mind, knowing exactly where you stand and the options available. You don’t have to navigate this alone when dedicated legal counsel is here to answer your questions, devise a game plan, and stand up for your rights every step of the way. We’re invested in obtaining the best possible outcome for each of our clients facing assault allegations. 

The experienced attorneys at the Kolacia Law Firm in Rancho Cucamonga can defend you in this process and work to get your charges dismissed or reduced.  

Author Bio

Daniel Kolacia is the CEO and Managing Partner of Kolacia Law Firm, a Rancho Cucamonga, CA, criminal defense law firm. As a former prosecutor with more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he is knowledgeable about both sides of the courtroom, an advantage he uses to help defend his clients. He has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including white-collar crimes, misdemeanors, felonies, traffic cases, and other criminal charges.

Daniel received his Juris Doctor from the Southwestern University School of Law and is a member of the California Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work and has worked on several high-profile cases featured on Dateline, CNBC, Los Angeles Times, and various local publications.

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