Will I Go to Jail for A First-Time Assault and Battery Charge in California?

It’s natural to worry about going to jail after being arrested on an assault and battery charge. However, the outcomes for first-time offenses almost always carry more leniency than repeat violations. 

By working closely with an experienced California criminal defense firm from the start, many initial assault or battery offenders can avoid excessive fines, years behind bars, or permanent blots on their records following a conviction.

Defining Assault vs. Battery Under California Law

In the state of California, assault and battery fall under the penal code section 242 – battery and section 240 – assault. 

Additionally, California law classifies more extreme versions of these offenses under “Aggravated Assault” charges involving deadly weapons, serious bodily harm inflicted, or assault against protected classes like police officers, minors, or domestic relationships. The penalties quickly escalate for aggravated cases versus standard misdemeanor convictions.

What Kind of Penalties Are Common for First-Time Offenders?

The outcome of assault and battery allegations depends heavily on the severity. Existing evidence can also factor into how the charges are laid out. How badly was the victim injured? Was there a weapon used? Does the attacker have a criminal background? 

 As a result, standard sentences fall across a broad spectrum – ranging from community service or rehabilitation for minor offenses to multi-year prison terms for violent felonies resulting in lasting bodily damage or attempted murder.

Simple Assault:

  • Charge: Misdemeanor offense.
  • Penalty: Up to 6 months in county jail, fines, probation, community service, and/or counseling.

Aggravated Assault:

  • Charge: Felony or misdemeanor.
  • Penalty: Misdemeanor may result in up to 1 year in county jail. Felony penalties can range from 2 to 4 years in state prison, with longer sentences for certain circumstances.


  • Charge: Misdemeanor or felony.
  • Penalty: Misdemeanor may lead to up to 6 months in county jail. Felony penalties can range from 16 months to 4 years in state prison.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon:

  • Charge: Wobbler offense (can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor).
  • Penalty: Misdemeanor may lead to up to 1 year in county jail. Felony penalties can range from 2 to 4 years or more in state prison, depending on the circumstances.

Criminal Threats:

  • Charge: Felony or misdemeanor.
  • Penalty: Misdemeanor may lead to up to 1 year in county jail. Felony penalties can range from 16 months to 3 years or more in state prison.

However, most initial assault and battery violations qualify as misdemeanors, not felonies. While clearly unlawful, misdemeanors represent less severe infractions versus felony-level breaches of the peace carrying over a year behind bars.

With California misdemeanors, judges frequently assign community supervision or probationary sentences alongside other components like:

  • Community labor (CALTRANS road work)
  • Mandatory counseling or treatment programs
  • Restraining orders for victims/witnesses
  • Fines and fees often start around $400

Although rare as a penalty for first-timers, judges may hand down sentences between 10 days to around one year in county jail for more aggressive cases despite their misdemeanor status.

Steps to Take if You Have Been Charged With Assault

If you have been charged with assault, it is important to act quickly. Below, we have outlined a few simple steps that will increase your odds of successfully navigating this situation.

  1. Contact an Attorney

Seek legal representation immediately. Contact a criminal justice attorney with experience in assault cases to understand your rights, potential defenses, and the legal process.

  1. Stay Silent and Avoid Self-Incrimination

Refrain from discussing the details of the case with anyone, especially law enforcement, without your attorney present. Anything you say can be used against you, so it’s essential to exercise your right to remain silent.

  1. Gather Information

 Compile any relevant information, such as witness statements, evidence, or documents that may support your defense. Share this information with your attorney to help build a robust defense strategy.

  1. Appear in Court and Follow Legal Advice

Attend all court hearings as required. Follow your attorney’s guidance regarding court proceedings, plea negotiations, and any other legal actions. Cooperation and compliance with legal advice are crucial throughout the process.

Why Retaining a Criminal Defense Lawyer Matters

The Nieves Law Firm, a CA criminal defense law firm, carries years of collective experience negotiating California criminal complaints like assault and battery misdemeanors on behalf of clients in cities across the state.

After accepting a case, they develop insights based on the evidence. Then, they work on negotiating amended charges or pre-trial diversion opportunities. 

In situations where charges remain warranted, their firm vigorously defends clients. 

If you or a loved one now faces California assault or battery allegations, please contact The Nieves Law Firm for more information. 

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