Battery in California is defined under Penal Code section 242 as "any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another." (Pen. Code, ? 242.) This means that to find someone guilty of a "simple battery," the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant "willfully and unlawfully" touched someone in a harmful or offensive manner, and the defendant did not act in self-defense, or defense of someone else.
What does this mean? According to the California jury instruction for "simple battery," this means that someone acts "willfully" when he or she does it "willingly or on purpose." It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage. (Calcrim 960.) Even the slightest touching can be enough to find someone guilty of simple battery, if done in a "rude or angry way." The jury instruction provides that contact with another person, including through his or her clothing, constitutes the offense.
Does the touching have to cause pain or injury?
The touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind. Even indirect touching, by using an object or someone else to touch the other person, is enough. In fact, it is no defense in California that the defendant responded to a provocative act that was not a "threat" or an attempt to inflict physical injury. Words alone, no matter how offensive or exasperating, are not an excuse for this crime.
If you have been accused of battery, please contact Oakland battery attorney Eloy I. Trujillo to discuss your case, and any possible defenses.
Note: This article is not intended to be legal advice. The specific facts of your case should be discussed with legal counsel.