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Difference Between Sexual and Simple Battery

Under California Penal Code 243.4 PC, “sexual battery” is described as the touching of someone's intimate body parts, without consent, for sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse.

Under California Penal Code 242 PC, “battery” is described as a willful and unlawful use of force or violence on another person, even if the victim is not injured.

To be charged with a PC 242 battery, the only requirement is that you “touch” another person in an offensive manner, which is why it's commonly called “simple battery.”

Penalties for sexual battery 

Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery is a “wobbler” that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony crime. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by:

  • Up to one year in county jail,
  • A maximum fine of $3,000

If you are convicted of a PC 243.4 felony sexual battery, then it's punishable by:

  • Up to four years in California state prison,
  • A maximum fine of $10,000,
  • Lifetime registration as a tier three sex offender.

If the victim suffered a great bodily injury (GBI), you face up to five years in prison.

Penalties for simple battery

Penal Code 242 battery, on the other hand, is always a misdemeanor crime punishable by only up to six months in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Definition of PC 243.4 Sexual Battery

This sexually related crime is legally defined in Penal Code 342.4 PC as:

  • “Anybody who touches an intimate part of someone while defendant or an accomplice unlawfully restrains them, and the touching is against their will and is for sexual arousal, gratification, or sexual abuse is guilty of the crime of sexual battery.”

Intimate parts 

The “intimate parts” include the female breast, or someone's anus, groin, buttocks, or sexual organ.

California Penal Code 243.4 PC Sexual Battery


The “touching” aspect in the context of a sexual battery crime means you made some contact with the intimate body parts of someone else. The touching can be direct skin-to-skin contact, or it could be through their clothing.

Sexual abuse 

The “sexual abuse” aspect of a sexual battery crime means you had an intent to injure, cause pain to an intimate part, humiliate, or intimidate the victim. This means sexual gratification or pleasure is not required to be convicted of sexual battery.

Sexual Battery Carries More Severe Punishments

As you can see from above, there is a huge difference because, in a sexual battery case, the person is facing registering as a sex offender.

The connotation that comes with Penal Code 243.4 sexual battery, that the person is a sex offender and obviously can't be trusted versus somebody convicted of Penal Code 242 simple battery, is facing much less punishment.

Both crimes are a misdemeanor, but simply battery means that somehow you got into some sort of altercation with somebody, and you used some kind of physical force.

So, there's a massive difference in how people perceive a sexual battery versus a simple battery and the punishment related to the two specific crimes.

Determining “Intent” in Both Battery Related Crimes

We often want a PC 242 simple battery versus a PC 243.4 sexual battery if the person is guilty of something.  The dividing line has to do with the person's intent.

If someone is touching another person in an intimate part of their body and they're doing so with the intent either to arouse themselves or the person, then that will be a sexual battery.

Defenses for sexual battery 

The defense for that, of course, is that the person claims they did it by mistake. So, the prosecutors, police, the judge, and a jury, depending on who is evaluating whether it was a mistake or not, will look at the surrounding facts.

Defenses for California Penal Code 243.4 Sexual Battery

Suppose somebody accidentally touches another person in a crowded location. In that case, that person will certainly have a pretty good argument that they didn't do it on the person, with no intent, and therefore, no sexual battery.

Criminal record 

If that person has no criminal record, never had any problems before, then a lot of times, they're going to be given the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, if the person has sexual crimes in their past and here they are doing the same thing. Then they are trying to claim that it was an accident.

Not only will the prosecutors file against them, but they're also going to try to use the prior sexual activity to prove that in this particular case, the person had the intent to touch the person, and the preceding crime shows the bias and propensity to commit these types of crimes.

That's how they get a lot of people for sex-related offenses; they show they've been involved in other sex-related crimes.

Harmful or Offensive Touching

The Penal Code 242 battery, on the other hand, is what's called harmful or offensive touching.

So, if you push somebody, punch them, slap them, any offensive conduct that involves something physical. You intentionally did it; that's going to put you in the realm of a simple battery.

But again, for a simple battery, you're not going to have to register as a sex offender.

You're typically not going to get any jail time unless there's some severe injury or you have some horrible prior criminal record. But beyond that, we can often get a simple battery dismissed at the end.

We can try to get your arrest record sealed and destroyed.  We can do several different things with that simple battery versus a sexual battery that puts you in the wrong position.

Criminal Defense for California Battery Crimes

If you are charged with sexual battery, and you think it should be a simple battery, or you're charged with any criminal offense, and you need help, you've come to the right place.

Criminal Defense for California Battery Crimes

I've been doing this for almost three decades.  All you need to do is take the first step and contact our top-ranked Los Angeles, criminal defense lawyers.

We might challenge the case through prefiling intervention, which is the process of negotiation with police detectives and a prosecutor to avoid the formal filing of formal charges.

Pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.

Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We offer a free case consultation at (213) 374-3952.

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