A 37-year-old man was recently arrested on charges of misdemeanor battery after having thrown a cup of hot coffee at some clerks at a San Leandro 7-Eleven store. The two clerks accosted the unnamed man as he stood outside of the convenience store allegedly panhandling. When he was asked to stop, the man threw his cup of hot coffee in the face of one of the clerks and supposedly punched the other clerk in the chest. Interestingly, police originally wished to charge the man with felony assault with a deadly weapon, the coffee. Evidently, however, coffee even when hot cannot be considered a deadly weapon.
The crime of ‘battery’ is defined in a very specific way by California law (CA Penal Code 242). Any time that one individual intentionally uses force or violence against another person, this is considered ‘battery.’ Touching another person in an invasive way, even if there is no physical harm done, may still constitute battery. When someone speaks of ‘simple’ battery, they are referring to misdemeanor battery charges, not to assault. Normally, penalties for simple battery include a 6-month stint in county jail and a $2,000 fine. Had the local law enforcement agents involved in the 7-Eleven coffee throwing case decided that coffee is a deadly weapon, then the man would have been subject to much higher fines and incarceration terms. Assault with a deadly weapon is a ‘wobbler’ in California (prosecutors determine whether they will treat a particular case as a misdemeanor or as a felony).