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Assault vs. Aggravated Assault in California


What is Simple Assault? 

According to California Penal Code 240 PC, “assault” is defined as an unlawful attempt to touch or harm someone else. Remember, you do not need to actually harm or even touch another person in order to be guilty of assault. 

Common examples of assault include: 

  • Throwing an object at another individual 

  • Swinging and missing in an attempt to punch someone 

Although many states use assault and battery interchangeably, they are two separate offenses in California. While assault is an attempt to harm someone, battery means the actual use of force or violence. 

Assault in California is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a jail term of up to six months and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. However, if the alleged victim is a police or traffic officer, firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician (EMT), or lifeguard engaging in his/her professional duties, then a conviction can result in a maximum jail sentence of one year and/or a fine of up to $2,000. 

What is Aggravated Assault? 

Even though state law does not specifically address “aggravated assault,” this violent crime is considered more serious than simple assault. 

The following are the different types of aggravated assault charges in California: 

  • Assault with a deadly weapon – A deadly weapon is defined as an object used to either substantially harm or kill someone. Common examples include guns, knives, baseball bats, metal pipes, a rock, a brick, etc. 

  • Assault with a deadly weapon on a school employee – Committing assault against a school employee using any of the deadly weapons mentioned above. 

  • Assault with a firearm – You could be charged with assault with a firearm by either pointing a loaded gun or shooting at another person (even if you miss). 

  • Assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury – Committing assault and doing so by using force that will likely result in “great bodily injury,” such as broken or fractured bones, long-term or permanent disability, and even gunshot wounds. 

  • Assault with caustic chemicals – Pouring or throwing caustic or flammable chemicals on another person with the intent to disfigure or harm that individual. Caustic chemicals are substances that burn or corrode living tissue, such as acid or gasoline. 

Aggravated assault is a wobbler offense, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor aggravated assault carries a maximum jail sentence of one year and/or a fine of up to $2,000, while felony aggravated assault is punishable by imprisonment for up to four years and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. 

If you have been accused of committing simple or aggravated assault in Santa Barbara, call Appel & Morse at (805) 467-6060 or fill out our online contact form today to request a free case evaluation. Our legal team of former prosecutors has more than four decades of combined legal experience! 

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