California Penal Code Section 242 PC: Battery
In California, someone charged with battery will be charged under 242 PC. Battery is the legal term of using physical force against someone in an unlawful and intentional manner. In order to be charged with battery under 242 PC, the defendant only needs to use physical force, not cause injury. This can include shoving someone as well as hitting, kicking, punching, biting, etc.
A related charge to 242 PC is assault (240 PC), but assault charges are for attempted uses of violence or force, whereas battery charges are for actual uses of violence or force.
For example, if the defendant sees someone they dislike outside of a pub and walk up to them to punch them, they would be charged with assault (240 PC) if they miss and battery (242 PC) if their punch lands.
Battery is often charged as a misdemeanor, but if the defendant causes serious injury to the victim from the battery, then they won’t be charged as 242 PC, which is a misdemeanor. They will be charged instead with a felony 243(d) PC, which is battery causing serious bodily injury. This charge counts as one strike under California’s Three Strike’s Law as it is a violent felony.
242 PC Charges
In order to be convicted under 242 PC, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That the defendant’s body or a part of their body came into contact with someone else
- That the contact was willful (rather than the defendant stumbling into someone else)
- That the manner in which the defendant acted was offensive or harmful
If one of those elements are missing, then the defendant cannot be convicted of 242 PC battery.
Because of the vague nature of the legal elements of 242 PC, any contact with someone else or their clothing can result in battery charges if it is done offensively. Grabbing someone’s shirt in a threatening manner could result in 242 PC charges or even ripping someone’s backpack off their back or hitting something out of their hands. In the past, defendants have been charged with 242 PC for kicking a bike that someone was riding.
If you have been charged with 242 PC, then your best option would be to either disprove or provide enough doubt to one of the legal elements or to claim you acted in self-defense. You can only claim you were acting in self-defense if you reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger. Someone yelling something rude or telling you to watch your back would not satisfy the legal requirements of self-defense and, therefore, would not stop a 242 PC conviction.
If you can prove that the physical contact was an accident and not intentional, then that would be an example of disproving a legal element of 242 PC. The legal elements of 242 PC require that the physical contact be willful. Therefore, if you can show you stumbled into someone or threw something at a bin and it hit someone, you may use that as a legal defense.
Parents who are charged with battery for disciplining their children may face 273(d) PC charges if they cause injury to their children. Parents are only legally permitted to use reasonable methods of discipline and reasonable amounts of force in those methods of discipline. Therefore, spanking a child so hard it leaves bruises or marks would result in 273(d) PC charges.
What Happens If I Am Convicted Under 242 PC?
The penalties for being convicted of 242 PC can be any of the following:
- Court fines
- Up to 6 months in county jail
- Anger management courses
- Counseling or therapy
- Community service
- Community labor
The judge will consider the case when choosing the punishment for a defendant convicted of 242 PC charges. It is worth noting that as battery (242 PC) is a violent crime, it may cause issues finding jobs or housing in the future. Employers and landlords are wary of convictions for violent crimes when doing criminal background checks.