Assault California Penal Code 240

An assault charge in California is a serious offense that is punishable by a period of incarceration. In addition, if you are found guilty, you will have a criminal conviction on your record that may prevent you, for example, from getting the job you desire or getting accepted into the university of your choice.  

So, no matter how trivial the incident from which the assault charge arose, the situation should not be taken lightly. An experienced Southern California Criminal Defense Attorney can work with you to protect your rights and defend your freedom by getting the charge dismissed or reduced.

Call The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian today at 855-918-4253 to discuss your case and to learn more about how we can help.

What Is Assault Under California Penal Code 240? 

In California, the crime of assault involves intentionally attempting to injure a person or to place them in imminent fear of bodily harm. (CPC 240)

Assault charges are extremely serious in California and can be punished severely, even when no injury was suffered. In fact, actual physical contact between you and the alleged victim does not even have to take place. Only the threat of contact and/or a mere attempt to inflict an injury or touch another person is enough to be found guilty of assault under CPC 240.

Simple assault in California is usually charged as a misdemeanor. However, some types of assaults, such as an assault against a corrections officer, school district police officer, or a juror, are considered "wobblers" and can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. (CPC 241.1, 241.4, 241.7, 1170)

Furthermore, an assault perpetrated against a healthcare provider or public servant during the course of performing their duties will receive a more severe punishment than a simple assault––if you knew or should have known that the victim was a public servant, such as:

  • A parking control officer; 

  • Healthcare provider; 

  • Peace officer;

  • Firefighter;

  • Emergency medical technician or paramedic; 

  • Lifeguard;

  • Process server; 

  • Traffic officer;

  • Code enforcement officer; 

  • Animal control officer; or 

  • Search and rescue member

(CPC 241, 241.1, 241.3, 241.5, 241.6, 241.8)

The Penalties For Assault in California

If convicted of simple assault, you can face up to 6 months in jail, a fine of up to $1000, up to 36 months of probation, and a misdemeanor conviction on your criminal record. (CPC 241).

If convicted of simple assault against a healthcare provider or public servant, you can face up to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $2,000, and a term of probation, and a misdemeanor conviction on your criminal record. (CPC 241, 241.5, 241.6).


If convicted of a “wobbler” assault, you will be looking at 12 months, 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in a county jail or state prison, a fine up to $2000, 1 to 3 years of probation, and a criminal conviction on your record. (CPC 241.1, 241.2, 241.4, 241.7, 241.8).

Potential Defenses to Assault Charges In California

Self-defense is the most frequently used defense to an assault charge in California. This is because, in many cases, the person who has been accused of assault, claims that he or she was assaulted first. 

When you are being attacked in California, you have the right to use force to defend yourself. But, only an amount of force that is reasonable and adequate to successfully defend the attack. 

For example, if someone tries to push you down, you have the right to resist and even to push back. However, you don't have the right to pull out a gun and shoot the person. This would be considered excessive force and would very likely result in you being charged with a crime. 

Other defenses to assault include:

  • Lack of intent - to convict you of assault, the prosecutor has to prove that you attempted to injure someone intentionally. If you did something by accident, this does not count as an assault. For example, if someone pushes you into someone else, and the person you were pushed into is injured, this is not an assault because you did not do anything intentionally. 

  • Likewise, if you tripped when walking down the street and as you were falling, you grabbed on to someone else and that person was injured, the prosecutor would have a difficult time proving that you intentionally meant to injure this person.

  • Mistaken identity - they may have charged the wrong person with the crime. Perhaps you weren't even in the area when the alleged assault occurred.

When presented to the prosecutor or jury by a skilled criminal defense attorney, either of these defenses can be enough to have the charge against you dismissed or reduced to a lesser crime or sentence. 

Contact The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian: California Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you or someone you know has been charged with assault in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, or San Diego Counties of Southern California, we can work with you to devise a defense strategy that may enable you to avoid a conviction or, at the very least, minimize the possible consequences of a conviction. Call The Law Offices of Bryan R. Kazarian today at 855-918-4253 or contact us here online to request a free consultation.