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Difference Between Sexual Battery and Regular Battery

PC 242 Regular Battery is Misdemeanor Harmful Touching

What is the Difference Between Sexual Battery Under California Penal Code 243.4 PC and Regular Battery Under Penal Code 242 PC? There is a distinction between these two, and it's a crucial distinction, both with what the charge is and the punishment that comes with it.

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.”

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. 

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. 

A sexual battery is going to bring a whole host of problems.  Number one, you will have to register as a sex offender.  You're probably going to be on Megan's Law.

People can find and determine that you are a sex offender, and your punishment will probably be much greater than if you were charged with a regular battery.

When we talk about a regular misdemeanor battery, the definition of that is harmful or offensive touching:

California Penal Code 242 Battery
  • you can hit somebody,
  • slap them,
  • push them,
  • smack something out of their hand.

Technically, whatever the case may be, that is a battery — Penal Code Section 242 — it's a misdemeanor.

Punishment-wise, you're usually not going to get any jail time unless you have a terrible criminal record and somebody gets hurt. They'd probably charge something much more severe than a regular battery in this case.

So, I would characterize a regular battery as a low-grade misdemeanor.  You'll probably be put on probation for a couple of years, and there will be other potential punishments. An exemplary community service, maybe a stay-away from whoever you supposedly battered.  You'd have to come in and sit down with me and talk about that.

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.”

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

PC 243.4 Sexual Battery Includes Sex Registration

Whereas, with a Penal Code 243.4 PC sexual battery:

Sexual Battery - California Penal Code 243.4
  • you're looking at jail time;
  • You're looking at sex registration.
  • You'll probably get a complete protective order related to whatever person you purportedly sexually battered.

And as far as a little standard definition of a sexual battery, is you're touching somebody typically in an intimate part of their body against their will.

Obviously, and then there also has to be the circumstances or evidence that supports the fact that you did so in a sexual manner.

For example, if you walk by a beautiful woman and graze her butt from behind, you may argue that that was accidental. Still, depending on the circumstances, the prosecutors and police may say it wasn't random.

You're trying to pretend it was accidental, but you did it intentionally, and they could pursue that. They bring witnesses to testify about the circumstances of that particular touching, and the jury ultimately decides.

They would decide whether or not it was an accident, which would be no crime, or whether it was a sexual battery.  They're going to need to prove knowledge.

If somebody accidentally touches another person — maybe they graze an intimate part of that person's body — it's not necessarily a crime if the person did it by accident. Accidents are not crimes unless you're talking about a DUI, for example.  So, they need intent. They need to show a mid-set.

Avoiding Sex Offender Registration

But, there's a vast difference between a sexual battery and a regular battery. Often, the possibilities are suitable in a questionable sexual battery circumstance in LA where the person has no criminal record.

Then the defense attorney can try to get a regular battery instead of a sexual battery, and that would be a massive victory because of:

  • not having to register as a sex offender,
  • not having the stigma of having a sexual battery on your record, and
  • not getting the punishment that typically comes with a sexual battery case.

Criminal Defense for California Sex Crimes

I've been doing this now for almost 30 years.  I worked for the DA's office in 1992 in East Los Angeles, and then I worked for a Superior Court judge as his research attorney in 1993.

Then, in 1994, I put up my shingle and decided that I would be a criminal defense attorney, defending people just like you or your loved one. I've handled many sexual and regular battery cases over the years.  I know what it takes to be successful.

I know when to plea bargain and when it's time to fight.  I have a good relationship with the prosecutors and judges in Los Angeles county. If you need help, pick up the phone.  Make the call.  Take the first step.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I'm happy to help you get this matter behind you.

Contact Us Today

Hedding Law Firm is committed to answering your questions about state or federal sex crime issues in California and throughout the United States.

I'll privately discuss your case with you at your convenience. All consultations are free, discreet, and confidential. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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