Can You Go to Jail for Slapping Someone in California?

  • Post last modified:December 28, 2023

Is It Illegal to Slap Another Person?

Technically, slapping someone is a form of battery. Assault and battery, in general, can be confusing. These terms are used together often in legal dramas and other entertainment as if they are one thing, but they are actually two separate charges in California. Other states treat these terms differently, however, which only adds to the confusion.

Can a Slap Count as Assault or Battery?

To understand how a single slap might be enough for you to be charged with a crime, you first have to understand how California criminal law defines assault and battery.

What Is Assault in California?

Assault involves the threat or intent of violence against another person. In seeking an assault conviction, prosecutors must demonstrate that a few things are true. First, there must be an immediate threat against someone. An assault can’t, then, occur via the telephone, because even if someone is threatening another person on the phone, there is not an imminent physical threat. (Threatening someone on the phone could result in a completely different type of charge, however.)

Next, the prosecutor must demonstrate that a person did something to cause fear in the other person. Finally, prosecutors must show that the person acted knowingly and understood that their actions could possibly lead to harm or coerce the other person via threats.

Note that no actual physical contact has to occur for an assault charge.

What Is Battery in California?

Battery occurs when someone actually commits an act of violence against another person. That includes slapping, which could result in a battery charge.

The severity of the battery charge depends on a variety of factors. If someone slaps another person with so much force that they cause an injury to the face or knock the person down, which leads to them hitting their head on something, that might lead to a more serious charge than a slap that simply leaves a bit of a sting and a red mark.

Battery charges can be misdemeanors or felonies, and the difference tends to involve factors such as what type of force was used, whether a weapon was involved, and whether someone misused authority during the commission of the battery.

Slapping in the Context of Domestic Violence or Other Crimes

In some cases, slapping may be part of abuse and harassment in a domestic violence situation. Slapping someone could result in domestic violence charges if there is a relationship between the parties involved.

Typically, domestic violence occurs when the action involved is between current or former spouses, unmarried romantic partners, people who are related via marriage or blood, or people who currently live together or previously lived together. If one of these relationships is present and you slap the other person, you could end up facing domestic violence charges.

What Type of Consequences Might You Face if You Slap Someone?

The least severe forms of assault and battery charges are simple assault and simple battery. Both are typically considered misdemeanors, and misdemeanor battery could come with a fine up to $2,000 and up to six months in jail. However, if your criminal defense attorney can make a case that the slapping incident was less serious or occurred under mitigating circumstances, you may be able to access alternative sentencing if you are convicted.

However, if the person you slap is seriously injured due to the incident, you may not be dealing with simple battery charges. When serious injuries are present, the charge may be upgraded to aggravated battery. This can be charged as a felony, and the potential consequences can include up to four years in prison.

Getting Help From a Criminal Defense Attorney

Is a slap really that serious, and do you need to call a criminal defense attorney if you lost your temper and planted your palm on another person? It really depends on the situation, but if you are facing battery charges, you may want to reach out to a lawyer to discuss your defense options.

There are a number of options for defending yourself against battery charges in California. You can claim self-defense, for example. The law in the state allows you to use a reasonable amount of force to defend yourself or someone else if you are under an immediate threat of harm. You might also claim that the slap was an accident — for example, if you were playing a sports game that involved close contact, you might slap someone without meaning to.

Other potential defense strategies include claiming that someone is accusing you of something you didn’t do or claiming an error in identification. With the latter defense, you must demonstrate that you were not, in fact, at the scene of the alleged battery and you have been misidentified as the person who did the slapping.

The best way to understand what your defense options are so you can make an educated decision about your strategy is to talk to an experienced criminal law team. Contact the Law Offices of Jerry Nicholson at 562-205-8499 if you’re being charged with battery or believe you may be charged with this crime soon — even if you think the entire thing is blown out of context and the slap was no big deal.