Assault and battery charges are the same in the eyes of many people, but they are actually different. Battery involves the illegal use of force on another person, but assault merely involves the attempt, intent or threat of causing physical injury to another person coupled with the ability to carry that threat out. People can commit an assault without committing battery.
Despite beliefs to the contrary, the state could absolutely charge you with assault even if you don’t leave someone with serious injuries. In fact, you don’t actually have to touch someone to face assault charges.
Two reasons the state could charge you with assault without physical contact
Although serious bodily injuries can make an assault charge much easier to prove in court, they aren’t necessary either for the charges or for a conviction. California defines assault as the unlawful attempt and the perceived ability to cause physical harm to another person. There only needs to be evidence that you tried to hurt someone or intimidate them with a credible threat.
Making threats against another person that make them fear for their own safety could lead to assault charges. Threatening to throw someone in a volcano at a lunch table might not constitute assault because it isn’t something you can reasonably do. However, pulling back your fist like you want to punch someone during an argument could be an act of assault.
Additionally, moving items in your environment to intentionally cause harm to someone else, such as pushing something in someone’s path so that they trip and fall down the stairs, could lead to assault charges even though you never had direct bodily contact with that person.
What to do when you’re facing assault charges
When you understand when California prosecutors may charge you with assault, it becomes a little bit easier to respond to the charges against you. Talk your situation over with an experienced advocate in detail so that you can best plan your defense.