Battery Causing “Serious Bodily Injury” – Penal Code 243(d)

Penal Code 243(d)

Battery causing serious bodily injury under Penal Code Section 243(d) is defined in the following manner.

When a battery is committed against any person and serious bodily injury is inflicted on the person, the battery is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year or imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for two, three, or four years1.

Below our criminal defense attorneys explain the law for PC 243(d).

What is Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury?

In California, battery causing serious bodiky Injury is also referred to as aggravated battery.

The elements of penal code 243(d) pc are as follows:

  1. You touched someone intentionally or willfully2, in a harmful or offensive manner.
  2. It caused serious bodily injury3 as a result of the force used.

What Is Considered Touching?

To be convicted of aggravated battery, you need to have touched someone or made some kind of contact with them.

It could be in the slightest manner by finger or hand or by using an object like a pole or handbag that is considered an extension of yourself.

Definition of Intentional or Willful

The contact has to be willful and with the intent to touch another person in a harmful or offensive manner4.

You also may not have intended to injure the other person at all.  But, if your intentional contact, however slight, did lead to a serious injury, then you may have committed this offense.

If you unintentionally touched or made contact with someone, then no battery5 has occurred.

What is a Harmful or Offensive Manner?

The contact made must have been harmful or offensive. Harmful contact can be a hard push or shove as well as a punch.

To be offensive contact, the touching must have been unwanted and done in a manner that was:

  • rude
  • violent
  • angry
  • disrespectful

If you were being playful or affectionate and pushed or hugged someone but caused an injury, you should not be found guilty of penal code 243(d) battery causing serious bodily injury since your contact was not angry, violent or disrespectful.

What is a Serious Bodily Injury?

A serious injury is defined as a “serious impairment of a physical condition.”

This can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Concussion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fracture of a bone if it leads to serious impairment of a physical condition (walking or use of hand)
  • Serious disfigurement
  • Protracted loss or impairment of any function of a bodily member or organ
  • A wound requiring extensive sutures6

The injury need not require medical attention to be considered “serious.”7

This list is not all-inclusive, and the determination of whether an injury is a “serious bodily injury” is a question for the jury to decide in each individual case.

What if Someone Just Got a Bruise in a Fight is That Serious?

There is no bright line rule to determine what is “serious”.  There is case law that has found a bruise to be a serious bodily injury, meeting the requirements under the Code.

It’s important to consult an attorney, because a conviction of battery causing serious bodily injury carries a prison sentence.

What Evidence Does A Prosecutor Use To Prove a Violation of Penal Code 243(d) pc

In proving each element of Penal Code 243(d), the prosecutor may provide evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony to prove:

  • Touching, or
  • Making contact with someone in an offensive manner.
For Example

There is testimony from the victim and possibly a neutral witness who observed the defendant making contact with the victim.

Proving The Contact Was Intentional

The victim or third party witness can describe the contact as a hard push or shove if not a punch. The contact could also be from a

  • Knife,
  • Firearm. or
  • other object that was wielded by the defendant in a threatening manner.

The defendant could also be described as looking straight at the victim before the contact was made or that he/she made a threatening comment before contact.

Witness Testimony That Could Prove Harmful or Offensive Manner

A witness could describe the defendant as being angry or shouting just before the contact was made or was laughing in a mocking way before violently brushing against the victim.

How Does A Prosecutor Prove It Was A Serious Bodliy Injury?

The prosecutor will also likely need to offer medical evidence from doctors or medical reports that the injury was serious as defined by the law.

Again, this is a factual determination that in similar cases could lead to different interpretations for the same or similar injury.

Example

A fracture of a bone in your hand might be considered minor since it did not affect you in a substantial way and you were still able to work or perform your usual daily activities.

The identical injury on another person, could result in that person being unable to perform his work. In this case, a jury could conclude the injury was serious.

Defenses To Aggravated Battery

There are a several defenses to aggravated battery which may be relevant depending upon the specific circumstances of each case.

Self Defense

The main defense to aggravated battery is self-defense.

This is an affirmative defense, meaning that the defendant must raise and prove the defense so that a jury would deem the defendant’s actions as reasonable under the factual circumstances.

How do I Prove I Acted in Self Defense?

  • You had a reasonable belief that you or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched in a harmful or offensive manner
  • You had a reasonable belief that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger
  • You used no more than reasonable force that was necessary under the circumstances to defend yourself

You no longer have to retreat once the danger has passed and may even pursue the attacker until the danger of bodily injury has passed.

Accident

You cannot be convicted of penal code 243(d) if the touching was unintended or accidental.

If you were making your way through a crowded room or street and accidentally bumped someone who fell and hit their head, there is no battery.

If You Inteded to Hit Someone Else is this Considered an Accident?

If you intended to hit someone with a pipe or other object but missed them and hit someone else, then this is not considered an accident.

Your intent to strike someone else in a harmful or offensive manner is transferred to the person you actually struck even if you had no intent to hit that individual.

What if I Was Drunk?

If you were intoxicated and stumbled and bumped into someone who fell and broke a leg, there is no intent to contact someone.

However, you could face charges of disorderly conduct or being drunk in public.

The Injury Was Not Serious

Whether an injury is serious so as to warrant a charge of aggravated battery is largely subjective in many cases. Even a broken bone is not necessarily a serious injury if it is not a serious impairment of a physical condition.

A fracture of a bone that does not require a cast or does not interfere with the following may not arise to the level of “serious injury.”

  • person’s mobility,
  • ability to work,
  • drive or perform other household tasks

While it is not required for an injury to be considered “serious” that the victim seek and receive medical treatment, the fact that medical treatment was received does not automatically render the injury “serious” either.

Some victims may exaggerate their symptoms that a medical report or testimony from the treating physician can corroborate or show that the victim was alleging symptoms that were inconsistent with the injury.

If your defense attorney has such evidence, then the prosecutor might be persuaded to reduce the charges to simple battery or assault, a misdemeanor.

Penalties For PC 243(d)

If a prosecutor feels the evidence is sufficient to charge you with aggravated battery, he or she can still charge the offense as a misdemeanor, since this is a “wobbler”offense.

If a prosecutor feels the evidence is sufficient to charge you with aggravated battery, he or she can still charge the offense as a misdemeanor, since this is a “wobbler”offense.

If this is your first offense and the injury is borderline serious, then depending on the assessment of the filing deputy you may be charged with a misdemeanor.

But if you caused someone extensive injuries regardless of your criminal history or past, you are likely to be charged with a felony.

Penalties Misdemeanor Felony
Fine Not to exceed $1,000 Not to exceed $10,0000
Probation Summary or information probation Formal Probation (restrictive conditions imposed)
County Jail Max of 1 year 2,3 or 4 years

Sentencing Enhancements For Penal Code 243(d) pc

If you caused someone to suffer a serious bodily injury, it may or may not rise to the level of “great bodily injury.” This is defined as a significant or substantial physical injury.

If the prosecutor feels that the injury constitutes “great bodily injury,”8 and the trier-of-fact agrees, then you face an additional 3 to 6 years in prison that is to be served consecutively and not concurrently.

Your maximum sentence could be as much as 10 years.

Is This Considered a Strike Under California’s Three Strikes Law?

If you did cause a GBI, this also constitutes a “strike” under California’s three-strikes law.

Are There Penalty Enhancements Based on The Age Of The Victim?

A judge will also consider enhancing your sentence if the victim was at least 70 years of age or under 5 years of age and the injury was severe.

Additional Penalty Enhancement for Domestic Battery or Sex Offense

If the underlying offense was domestic battery or a sex offense, you face possible enhancement of up to 6 years.

Examples Of Great Bodily Injury

For an injury to rise to the level of “great bodily injury” or GBI. A prosecutor as well as the trier-of-fact will look at these factors:

  1. Severity of the injury
  2. Degree of pain
  3. Extent and nature of medical care

In other words, the injury has to be more severe than the type of injury that would normally result from the underlying offense.

Examples of what constitutes great bodily injury include:

  • Permanent paralysis
  • Loss of an eye
  • Loss of hearing
  • Loss of a limb
  • Severe concussion
  • Other brain injury resulting in a coma or brain damage
  • Serious disfigurement
  • Severe pain inflicted by torture
  • Fractured pelvis requiring surgery
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Stab wounds if not superficial
  • Strangulation to the point of nearly passing out
  • Severe discoloration and bruising visible the day after a beating
  • Second degree burns
  • Fractured jaw
  • Broken hand
  • Broken nose
  • Black eye bruising and discoloration visible months after the incident

Not all of these injuries may necessarily constitute a GBI since different juries could determine otherwise based on the same type of injury.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I acted in self-defense?

Self-defense is a valid legal defense to battery causing serious bodily injury.  To assert self-defense it must be shown that you reasonably believed that you were in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury and that you reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger.  Defense of others is also a valid defense.  You should consult an attorney to discuss these defenses if you have been charged with assault inflicting serious bodily injury.

What if I had been drinking and that is why I got in a fight?

Voluntary intoxication can only assist a defendant’s case if he/she is charged with a specific intent crime.  A specific intent crime differs from a general intent crime.  Specific intent crimes require the intent to do a further act or achieve a further consequence than just the particular act.  Generally, assaults are not specific intent crimes as the only intent is that the intended offensive touching occur.  The defense of voluntary intoxication is generally not an applicable defense on an assault charge.  The distinction between specific intent and general intent crimes is confusing, and although there is a legal difference between specific and general intent, the argument may still be made in court.

What if I have no convictions on my record and this is my first offense?

defense attorney can discuss your criminal record with the prosecutor to try and mitigate your sentence.  If you have no prior convictions and this is the first time you have been in trouble, you are likely a good candidate for probation if you are convicted.

Misdemeanor probation is referred to as summary probation in California.  It can include some time in the county jail, however the main focus of probation is to serve your time under court supervision and outside jail.  Misdemeanor probation typically lasts between 1 and 3 years and involves conditions of paying fines and performing community service.  Unlike felony probation, there is no probation officer that you must report to, however you are required to appear in court before a judge to track your progress.

Felony probation in California is referred to as formal probation.  Felony probation has specific conditions and requirements.  You are required to meet with a probation officer, comply with other court ordered conditions, make restitution to a victim, and sometimes serve a jail sentence.  It is up to the judge to determine if you are a good candidate for probation.

What if I was wrongfully accused?

Often assault charges are incurred during a bar fight and it is hard to identify who did what.  Often times the wrong individual may be identified and charged.  The prosecution must prove that the defendant is the one to cause the injury.  Mistaken identity is a viable defense and should be explored with your attorney.

What Is The Difference Between An Assault and a Battery

Assault and battery are used interchangeably but they do have different meanings in the law. An assault is really an attempted battery or an action that could result in a battery or the infliction of physical harm or unwanted touching of another person. You need not actually touch another person to be guilty of an assault.

As assault may consist of making threats of physical harm combined with the present ability or perceived ability to carry them out. Raising your fist or pointing a knife or firearm or any other object at someone in an aggressive or threatening manner is considered assault.

A battery is an unlawful, offensive or harmful touching of another person typically charged under penal code 242.

What Happens If The Battery Was Commited On A "Peace Officer"

There are harsher penalties in California if you knowingly commit a battery against a law enforcement officer.  These offenses are referred to as against a “peace officer” and include specific classes of individuals.  They include law enforcement, police, firefighters, EMT’s, traffic officers, process serves, and many more.

A simple battery committed against a “peace officer” while engaged in the performance of their duties is a misdemeanor, however the potential jail sentences increases to 1 year.  If a peace officer is injured due to the battery, regardless of how serious the injury is, the crime is a wobbler.  You could potentially be charged with a felony offense subjecting you to 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in jail.1

The punishment can become more severe if an assault or battery is committed against a peace officer with the use of a firearm.  The penalty of imprisonment increases up to 4, 6 or 8 years.2

  1. California Penal Code 245(c) PC []
  2. California Penal Code 245(d) PC []

Resources On What To Expect During The Court Process

What You Should Do Now

If you have been arrested and would like to learn more about what attorneys charge.

If you want to understand why its important to have an attorney represent you.

If you are ready to discuss a pending case with an attorney contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

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Footnotes

  1. California Penal Code Section 243(d). []
  2. California Penal Code § 7(1) The word “willfully,” when applied to the intent with which an act is done or omitted, implies simply a purpose or willingness to commit the act, or make the omission referred to.  It does not require any intent to violate law, or to injure another, or to acquire any advantage,.  People v. Lara(1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 102, 107 [51 Cal.Rptr.2d 402], []
  3. California Penal Code 243(f)(4) – “Serious bodily injury” means a serious impairment of physical condition, including, but not limited to, the following: loss of consciousness; concussion; bone fracture; protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ; a wound requiring extensive suturing; and serious disfigurement, available at []
  4. People v. Martinez (1970) 3Cal.App.3d 886, 889 [83 Cal.Rptr. 914] [harmful or offensive touching] []
  5. A battery is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another. []
  6. CALCRIM 925 [Definition of serious bodily injury] A serious bodily injury means a serious impairment of physical condition. Such an injury may include[, but is not limited to]: (loss of consciousness/ concussion/ bone fracture/ protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ/ a wound requiring extensive. []
  7. Medical Treatment is Not an Element. People v. Wade (2012) 204 Cal.App.4th 1142, 1148–1150 [139 Cal.Rptr.3d 529], []
  8. Penal Code 12022.7 PC – (a) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three years. (b) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice in the commission of a felony or attempted felony which causes the victim to become comatose due to brain injury or to suffer paralysis of a permanent nature shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for five years. As used in this subdivision, “paralysis” means a major or complete loss of motor function resulting from injury to the nervous system or to a muscular mechanism. (c) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on a person who is 70 years of age or older, other than an accomplice, in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for five years. (d) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury on a child under the age of five years in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for four, five, or six years.(e) Any person who personally inflicts great bodily injury under circumstances involving domestic violence in the commission of a felony or attempted felony shall be punished by an additional and consecutive term of imprisonment in the state prison for three, four, or five years. As used in this subdivision, “domestic violence” has the meaning provided in subdivision (b) of Section 13700. (f) As used in this section, “great bodily injury” means a significant or substantial physical injury.  (g) This section shall not apply to murder or manslaughter or a violation of Section 451 or 452. Subdivisions (a), (b), (c), and (d) shall not apply if infliction of great bodily injury is an element of the offense. (h) The court shall impose the additional terms of imprisonment under either subdivision (a), (b), (c), or (d), but may not impose more than one of those terms for the same offense. []

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