Assault – California PC §240

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Although ‘assault’ and ‘battery’ are typically lumped together (i.e. – ‘assault & battery’), an assault does not necessarily require physical contact (battery). In basic terms an assault is when an act by one person (the suspect) puts another person (the alleged victim) in reasonable fear of unwelcome contact (i.e.- usually, being struck). 

Misdemeanor Assault (PC§240) can be thought of as an attempt by the defendant to commit battery against the/an alleged victim.


Typically, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that:

  1. The defendant acted willfully and intentionally.
  2. Defendant intended there to be physical contact with the victim.
  3. Defendant knew (or should have known) his act would result in physical contact.
  4. Defendant had the ability to cause contact with the victim.

Penalties for Misdemeanor Assault can include:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail;
  • Up to $1,000 fine;
  • Multi-year Probation;
  • Community Service work (“PSP”);
  • Completion of a batterer’s program or anger management program.


Depending on the particular facts of your unique situation/case, either ‘multiple’ (or other) defenses may be available:

  • Self-defense;
  • Defending someone else;
  • Defendant’s intent to batter the alleged victim cannot be proved;
  • It cannot be shown that defendant had the ability to batter the victim;
  • Mutual combat.

Possible Collateral Consequences of an Assault Conviction:

  • Education – Disclosing conviction on applications to Schools or Graduate Programs.
  • Professional License – typical approval for a professional license such as Doctor, Lawyer, Nurse and many other vocations include a background check.
  • Work Background Check – many valuable jobs perform scheduled background checks, and/or perform background checks when you’re being considered for a promotion.
  • Renting an Apartment / House – many landlords run criminal background checks, and getting turned-down from potential landlords can snowball against you.
  • Immigration – being convicted of a crime can have fatal negative effects on a person’s path to citizenship.
  • Voting Rights – many people take their voting rights for granted until that right is taken away by a Felony.  Even if a charge starts out as a Misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances, the prosecuting agency (City Attorney / District Attorney) can change their charge to Felony.

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