Though often used interchangeably, assault and battery are two different crimes with different possible punishments. Roughly speaking, an assault is an attempt to hit someone while a battery is a successful attempt to hit someone.
Under California Penal Code §240, an assault is an intentional attempt to apply of force another person coupled with the present ability to carry out that intent. The prosecution must prove all of the following elements to convict a defendant of assault.
- Taking an action likely to cause an application of force to another person
- With the present ability to cause an application of such force
A battery is defined in CPC §243 and includes all the elements of an assault coupled with an injury. Specifically a battery conviction requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant:
- Used force or violence
- Upon another person
Both charges have several possible defenses depending on the circumstances including self-defense and you should seek immediate legal assistance if you have been charged with an assault.