Assault and Battery charges in California – The Kanye West Example: It appears Kanye West may be facing misdemeanor and perhaps criminal charges in Los Angeles County for punching an 18 year old man who provoked Kim Kardashian by using extremely volatile racial language aimed at Kim and Kanye: http://www.tmz.com/2014/01/13/kanye-west-fight-n-word-n-lover-beverly-hills-chiropractor/. Sources indicate that Kanye located the man in a waiting room after being told what the man said to Kim Kardashian and punched the man in the face. Media outlets indicate that the alleged victim is “pressing” charges against Kanye West. Technically, only the District Attorney can choose whether or not to press charges for assault whether it be a misdemeanor or a felony. Moreover, the District Attorney will wait to review a report from the law enforcement agency who investigated the crime and take into consideration the police officers recommendation as to whether charges should be filed. In this instance, it is unclear whether the alleged victim in the Kanye assault matter was actually injured, but it is clear that Mr. West and his wife, Kim Kardashian, were provoked by the alleged victim’s highly insensitive and inexcusable racial slurs/comments.
Misdemeanor Assault in California
California Penal Code section 240 makes it a crime to “assault” another person. The crime of assault does not require that you actually touch another person but in fact a crime is committed when a person performs an act that is likely to result in the application of force to another (i.e does an act that places the alleged victim in apprehension or fear that force will be used). To be guilty of such a crime, a prosecutor must show that a person committed or attempted to commit an act and had the ability to carry it out.
The crime of simple assault is different than the crime of battery. Often times, if a person is actually a victim of force and is touched or more commonly the victim of physical violence beyond touching, they will be charged with assault and a separate charge of battery under Penal Code section 242. To be guilty of battery, a person must actually use force on another. When the force used on another person results in a serious injury, a prosecutor will often times charge a person with felony assault and battery.
The penalty for a simple assault is up to 6 months in jail as opposed to a more severe prison sentence that can result in a charge of felony assault.
Felony Assault in California
As described above, most persons who are arrested for assault as well as battery do not face felony charges unless serious injury results and/or a weapon is used in the assault. The most common charge a person faces in a felony assault case is Assault with a Deadly Weapon under CA Penal Code section 245.
Under California Penal Code section 245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon or “ADW” occurs when a person assaults another with a deadly weapon which can include a person’s fists (often charged when serious injury occurs), a motor vehicle, or more common types of weapons such as a gun or a knife. As person can also be found guilty of a charge under Penal Code section 245(a)(1) even if they cause no injury to another but complete the assault by means of force that is likely to cause great bodily injury to another. Clearly, a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon (“ADW”) can be very serious as the conviction in many instances will count as a “Strike” on a person’s record under the California “Three Strikes Law.”
The crime of assault can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor which makes the charge a “Wobbler.” In cases involving “Wobbler” penal code sections such as assault, a prosecutor will look at different factors to determine whether to file the charge as a felony including whether a person suffers a serious as opposed to minor injury, whether a weapon beyond a person’s fists are used and whether a the person is a public employee such as a police officer, firefighter or even traffic officer.
If a person is convicted of a felony assault charge, they will face a state prison term of up to 4 years. Moreover, if a person uses a certain weapon in the commission of an ADW such as a machine gun or assault rifle, they can face up to an additional 12 years in state prison pursuant to Penal Code section 245(a)(3). It appears from the media reports thus far, that Kanye West only used his fists as a weapon and the alleged victim did not suffer serious injury most likely only exposing Mr. West to misdemeanor assault and most likely battery charges in Los Angeles Superior Court. It will be up to the prosecutor to determine whether there are enough facts to justify not filing and/or dismissing the charges against Kanye. Since the investigation is ongoing and Mr. West has not been officially charged, it is very helpful for Mr. West (as it would be with any person arrested for assault or battery) to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can investigate the case early and attempt to convince the prosecutor handling the matter to dismiss the case and/or not file charges based on the defense the attorney can present to the prosecuting agency.
Definition of Self Defense and Defense of Others Under CA Law
Whether you are arrested for assault and/or battery in California as a misdemeanor or felony, you may be able to use the absolute defense of self-defense or defense of others. Under California Law, if you have a reasonable and true belief that you or another person is about to be seriously hurt by another, you are allowed to “reasonably” defend yourself which includes fighting back. In the case of Kanye West, it is unclear whether the alleged victim was about to seriously hurt Kanye or his wife, Kim Kardashian.
Importance of Hiring a Los Angeles, California Criminal Lawyer to Defend You Against Assault and Battery Charges
Kanye can and should seek the advice of a criminal lawyer in this matter. As with Kanye, if a person is arrested for assault in California whether it be in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego or Riverside County, they should first seek the consultation of an experienced criminal Southern California defense attorney to get the best outcome in their criminal case.