When Touching Crosses the Line
Battery is a common California criminal charge. One of the reasons it is so common is the statutory language covering battery law casts a wide net. The law is not written to cover just acts of violence such as punching someone and giving them a black eye. In fact, California battery law prohibits any type of harmful or offensive touching of another person.
Offensive touching is an important legal term due to the ramifications of a battery conviction, but what does it mean? Who determines whether or not a touch is offensive? And what constitutes touching? These are important questions to answer when facing California battery charges. And the better you understand this concept, the better able you will be to fight your charges.
Harmful or Offensive Touching
The concept of “offensive” may be in the eyes of the beholder, but offensive means something very specific under California law. Offensive touching is generally defined as any unwanted physical contact that is done in an offensive or harmful way. Some examples of offensive touching include:
- A woman pushes a man out of the way when he tries to make an advance
- A man forcefully brushes past his partner when he tries to leave in an argument
- A man roughly bumps into a man at a bar when he won't move out of his way
These are examples of unwanted physical contact done in an offensive or potentially harmful way and thus could constitute offensive touching. Seemingly insignificant on their own, these instances could be considered acts of battery in the eyes of the law.
The requirement for offensive touching is surprisingly easily met. The touch does not need to have caused pain or injury. It does not even need to be forceful. You do not need to even have touched the accuser. As long as you touched something connected to him or her—such as clothing—it could constitute offensive touching. An example of this is grabbing someone's shirt as they try to walk away from an argument.
Even the slightest touch—whether harmful or not—could be grounds for a battery charge if it was done in an aggressive or rude way and was unwanted. Unfortunately, this broad-reaching view of battery results in numerous charges being filed over very minor instances. Furthermore, it can be hard to raise a defense against a battery charge without skilled legal guidance. Provocation alone is not a solid defense unless you were responding to a direct threat of injury, and you acted in self-defense. This is unfortunate considering many battery charges are the result of simple arguments or misunderstandings. If the alleged victim is particularly spiteful, however, you could find yourself facing arrest and battery charges for little more than a touch.
Acting in genuine self-defense or in defense of others at risk of harm are good defenses, so speak with an attorney if self-defense was a factor in your case.
As you can see, offensive touching—while often harmless—is all that is needed for the prosecuting attorney to file charges against you. Whether the touch was harmful or even had the potential to cause harm does not matter. For this reason, battery charges are some of the toughest to face in court because the standards are so easy to meet. At the same time, it is also difficult to prove a touch was offensive without witnesses, medical records, or proof the touch took place.
You should be working with an attorney whenever facing battery or domestic battery charges in California. These types of cases can be complex given the subtlety of the statutory language and other factors such as a common lack of witnesses. An attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and advise you on a potential defense strategy. Sometimes a good defense requires arguing whether or not what you did was offensive touching. A good attorney can present a compelling argument in your favor.
If you are facing charges for assault or domestic violence offense, we can help. California attorney Christopher Martens knows California criminal defense and will help you fight for your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians fight their charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.