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Penal Code Section 242 California Battery Laws at a Glance

Battery Defined under Penal Code 242

California Penal Code Section 242 defines battery as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” In contrast to PC240 “assault” (where no physical contact need be made so long as the force or threat of force is intended), you can be convicted as long as you make some sort of physical contact that is unwanted.

The physical contact necessary to be found guilty of a violation Penal Code Section 242, battery may be any physical contact, no matter how small, if it is done in an offensive or aggressive way.

If the person battered is seriously hurt, Penal Code 243(d), battery causing serious bodily injury (“aggravated battery”) may be charged.

If the battered person is not seriously injured, and the victim was not a police officer (or other protected person), then the case is generally charged as a misdemeanor.

The Difference Between Assault and Battery

Assault under Penal Code 240 only requires the threat of force, while battery (Penal code section 242) requires that actual contact be made.  To put it simpler, a battery is often a completed assault.

For more information on Penal Code Section 240 (“Assault”) please click here.

How is PC 242 “Battery” Proven in Court?

In order for the District Attorney’s Office to prove that a defendant is guilty of a violation of Penal Code 242 “battery,” they must prove:

  1. That you willfully, or unlawfully,
  2. Used force or violence,
  3. Upon another person.

Willful Act

Under California Law a willful act is an intentional act.  It is not an act that is an accident.  It does not mean that you intended to injure the victim, or intended to commit a crime.

Force or violence

Under California law, force or violence have the same legal meaning.  Any illegal use of force, no matter how slight, is enough.  The force or violence does not need to cause any pain to the victim.

For example, if a person were to spit on another person they could be charged with battery because the action was an unwarranted and unjustified touch.

Upon Another

Simply put, the law requires that the force or violence be against another person, no matter how slight the touch.  This includes the person’s clothing, or something “closely connected” to that person (such as slapping a cell phone out of someone’s hand).

Related Offenses

Penal Code 243(d) “Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury”

As discussed above, Penal Code 243(d) is charged when a person commits a battery and causes a serious bodily injury.  Examples of serious bodily injuries include concussion, loss of consciousness, and broken bones.

This charge is what is known as a wobbler, meaning it can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the case and the defendant’s criminal history.  If charged as a felony, it is considered a violent felony and a “strike” under the California Three Strikes Law.”

Penal Code 243(e)(1) “Battery on a Spouse or Cohabitant”

Penal code 242 and 243(e)(1) (commonly charged in domestic violence cases) are very similar.  The only added requirement for a violation of section 243(e)(1) is that the battery be committed on someone who is your intimate partner.  For the purposes of California law examples of an intimate partner are:

  1. Your current or former spouse,
  2. Your fiancé or fiancée,
  3. The parent of your child, or
  4. Anyone you are dating.

For more information on Domestic Violence cases click here.


The possible penalties, if convicted of a violation of Penal Code 242 (simple battery) are:

  1. Up to 6 months in jail
  2. Up to a $1000 in fines plus penalties and assessments (upwards of $3500.00 in some counties)
  3. Informal Probation
  4. Batterer’s treatment program as ordered by the court

If convicted of a violation of Penal Code 243(d) (aggravated battery) you may be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.  If you are charged with a misdemeanor all the same penalties above apply, except you could be subject to up to one year in county jail.

If you are convicted of a felony violation of Penal Code section 243(d), the possibility penalties are:

  1. 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison,
  2. Up to a $10,000 fine,
  3. Possible strike on your record.

Not all these penalties need be enforced.  Many defendants’ walk into court and accept the first offer the District Attorney’s Office gives.  A defendant should ALWAYS consult counsel before taking any plea deal.  We will negotiate a plea deal only when appropriate for the case.


Not all cases end with the Defendant taking a plea deal.  There are specific defenses to battery crimes.  Some defenses that may be presented are:

Self Defense

Under California Law, if a person has a reasonable fear of imminent danger, they may act in self-defense, as long as their actions are reasonable.

For example, if being attacked, a person may defend themself using reasonable force.

If you believe you have been wrongfully charged and acted in self-defense, contact us directly at 915-542-8052 for a free consultation.


Not all “touches” are considered battery under California law.  Many times a person may consent to a physical activity that absent the consent would be considered a battery.  For example, if a person walking down the street tackles a stranger, that person can be charged with battery.  However, if that person tackles someone in the middle of a football game, the person tackled consented and no battery has occurred.

It is important to note that even if consent is given, the scope of that consent cannot be exceeded, meaning the touching cannot go beyond whatever agreement two people had.


A person cannot be convicted of battery if a simple accident occurs that causes a violent or forceful action against another person.  For example, if someone rear ends another vehicle because they were not paying attention, they are not guilty of battery (although they are likely to be charged with a vehicle code violation.  Click here (link to traffic) for more information).

Contact Us

If you or your loved one has been arrested for any battery charge, do not hesitate to contact us at 916-546-8052 immediately to discuss your case.  Protect your rights and get the best possible outcome available.  Our firm handles these cases all over California, including in Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, El Dorado, Sutter, San Joaquin, and Nevada Counties.

Additional Resources

California Battery Laws