When is an Assault Case a Misdemeanor, and When is the Assault a Felony


Assault in California is a complicated legal issue. There are so many different types of assault. One of the first things that come up in assault cases is whether the accused should be charged with misdemeanor assault or felony assault.

California has three different types of assault cases people can be convicted of.

  • Simple assault.
  • Aggravated assault.
  • Assault with the intent to commit a felony

When it comes to formally charging the defendant, two things are considered.

  • How much force was used during the alleged assault
  • Does it appear that the defendant used a weapon during the alleged assault?

Simple assault in California is always treated as a misdemeanor. When a person is charged with simple assault, they are accused of attempting to touch the victim in a way that could have caused physical harm. The act is usually spontaneous. Examples of this include:

  • Throwing a readily available object at the alleged victim
  • Elbowing someone out of your way
  • Impulsively tripping someone as they walk past
  • Catching someone’s hand in a slammed door
  • Impulsively slapping someone
  • Jumping into a bar fight
  • Etc.

It’s important to note that even if you don’t fully carry through on the simple assault or if you are interrupted, you can still be charged with simple assault, provided the police and prosecutor are convinced that they can prove intent.

If you’re convicted of simple assault, you can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and also issued court-ordered fines.

Aggravated assault is one of California’s wobbler laws. That means the exact circumstances of the incident determine whether you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. There are several different types of aggravated assault in California.

  • Assault with caustic chemicals
  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Assault a school employee with a deadly weapon
  • Assault with a firearm
  • Assault with the intent to cause great bodily injury

All types of assaults can be punished with jail time as well as fines. In California, the maximum amount of time you can be sentenced to prison for an assault charge is four years. However, sentence enhancements and additional charges could mean a significantly longer sentence.

When you’re the defendant in an assault case, it’s probable that the criminal charges will only be one of your worries. It’s highly likely that the victim will decide to file a civil case against you, during which they will seek payment for actual and punitive damages.