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Transit Brawl: Assault and Battery on a Bus, Taxi Driver, Ride Share Driver

Anyone who has ever had to take public transit in Los Angeles county knows what its like to be frustrated. Sometimes hostilities can rise, and people can take actions they later come to regret. The California Legislature therefore provided specific protections for both government and private driver’s who are subjected to violent attack while serving in their professional capacity.

Penal Code sections 241.3(a) and 243.3(a) criminalize an assault or battery on the person of any bus driver, taxi driver, or ride-share driver while that person is working in that capacity. To understand what these laws prohibit, you must first understand what both assault and battery are.

What is Assault?

Assault, as defined in Penal Code section 240, is the “unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another.” The California definition of assault therefore contemplates attempts to do physical harm but where no physical harm occurs. This “swing and miss” comes in wide variety of more specific charges, (the consequences of which are discussed in the “What’s the Worst that Could Happen?” section.)

To be convicted of this crime the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The accused did an act that by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to a person;
  2. The accused did the act willfully
  3. When the accused acted, she was aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that her act by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to someone
  4. When the accused acted, she had the present ability to apply force to a person; and
  5. The accused did not act in self-defense.

A person does an act willfully when they do it of their own free will. It doesn’t matter if they “intended to hit or harm.” It is enough that they intended to do the act (throwing a bottle across the room, e.g.)

What is Battery?

Battery, as defined in Penal Code section 242, is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” California case law expands this definition to include not only harmful, but offensive touching. (See People v. Martinez (1970) 3 Cal.App.3d 886, 889). Therefore, conduct which causes no injury but which offends (like spitting on another person) is sufficient.

Both Assault and Battery are unusual crimes in that one of the essential elements of the crime is that something did not happen. The prosecutor must prove that the accused did not act in self-defense. Any person who commits a harmful, violent, or offensive touching or who attempts to do so in reasonable self-defense is not guilty of a crime.

What’s the Worst that could happen?

Both Penal Code sections 243.3 and 241.3 are wobblers, meaning they can be prosecuted as either misdemeanors or felonies. The punishments are the same for both crimes

Penal Code section 241.3 and 243.3 – misdemeanor – 1 year county jail maximum and $10,000 fine

Penal Code section 241.3 and 243.3 – felony – 16 months or 2 or 3 years in state prison and $10,000 fine

What defenses are available?

Self-defense is a complete defense to all the charges listed above.

Self Defense requires that:

  1. The accused reasonably believed that he or she or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury
  2. The accused reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; and
  3. The accused used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against the danger.

The prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that one of these three elements is not present in order to disprove self-defense. Proving a negative is very difficult so self-defense tends to be one of the strongest affirmative defenses available to the criminally accused.

What should I do if I am charged with Assault and Battery on a Driver?

You should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at Manshoory Law Group, APC to assist you in analyzing the specific facts of your case, preparing and presenting defenses before and during trial, and making sure you understand your rights and helping you enforce them. The risks of an assault or battery conviction on a bus driver, taxi driver, or ride-share driver are too great to go-it alone. Call now for a free consultation with LA’s best Criminal Defense attorney, Shaheen Manshoory (877) 977-7750.