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Assault, Law, Sentence, & Defense

(PC 240)

Information on the crime of assault, also called simple assault, can be found at California penal code section 240.

PC 240 Law: An assault is an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.

Essentially, an assault is the intentional act of trying to physically harm another person by placing another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of an immediate battery. If the defendant actually injures the victim (as opposed to just an attempt to injure) then the defendant may be charged with more serious criminal charges, such as battery, aggravated battery, assault injury, etc.

For example, a defendant swinging a fist at another person in an attempt to strike that other person is an assault unless there is some reasonable justification for the defendant actions. The defendant does not have to have the actual ability to strike the other person so long as the defendant believes he or she has the ability and the other person is placed in reasonable fear of the defendant's ability to harm him or her.

PC 240 is commonly charged in fist fight situations, or where the defendant throws an object at the alleged victim with the intent of hitting the alleged victim and the alleged victim reasonably believes that he or she is about to be hit by the object thrown by the defendant.

Note: Whether or not the defendant actually hits the victim is irrelevant in PC 240 assault charges. However, a person is not a victim of assault if he or she does not know of the defendant's assault. For example, if the defendant throws an object at another person in an attempt to hit the other person, but other person does not know that the defendant threw an object at him or her, then the defendant is not guilty of assault. In this situation the defendant could be charged with an attempt assault (PC 664/240). It is an unusual situation as an assault is already an attempt crime; however, the law recognizes that a defendant should not relieved of criminal liability by virtue of the fact that a person is not aware of the defendant's assault.

Sentence for Assault (PC 240)

PC 240 is charged as a misdemeanor in California. If found guilty of PC 240 the defendant could face up to 180 days in jail.

Note: PC 240 is also called simple assault. Simple assault generally means assault without the use of a weapon or vehicle. If a weapon is used in an assault, such as a gun, knife, vehicle, etc., the defendant may be be charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245). There are also felony charges of assault in situations where the alleged victim is working as an officer or a fireman or where the defendant is attempting commit a further felony by way of his or her assault (Assault with intent to commit a felony). Felony charges may be filed against a defendant for assault on an officer or fireman even if the defendant did not otherwise use a deadly weapon or where the defendant is assaulted another person for the purpose of committing a further felony, such as assault to commit rape.

Probation: A sentence of probation, with or without actual jail, is allowed in simple assault cases (PC 240). Whether or not a defendant will be granted probation after a conviction for assault depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history. A term of probation may include actual jail time but usually any jail sentence for simple assault crimes may be alternatively served as work release or house arrest unless the judge denies the defendant those common probation options. Any jail time or work release that the defendant is ordered to serve is reduced by 50% for good conduct while in jail or work release.

Other punishments for PC 240 conviction include a possible loss of a professional license or immigration status (simple assault is not a crime involving moral turpitude), loss of the right to own firearms, restraining orders, fines, denial or revocation of military enlistment, and more.

Bail: The schedule bail amount for simple assault charges in $25,000 in San Bernardino County (2020); however, if the defendant has no criminal history an own recognizance release (OR) is not uncommon.

Defense to PC 240

Common defenses to simple assault charges include: statute of limitations, self defense, defense of others, consent, insanity, intoxication, mistake of fact, insufficient evidence, and more. For more information on defenses, including defenses to simple assault charges filed under PC 240, see Defenses to Crimes.

For more information on the crime of simple assault (Filed as PC240-M in San Bernardino County) contact our criminal defense lawyers today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense lawyers are available everyday to patiently explain your rights and defense options. Call today!

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