PC 245(a)(4) | Assault with Force Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury

In California, assault with force likely to produce great bodily harm is charged under penal code 245(a)(4) pc.[1] To constitute a violation, it is not required that the injuries of a serious nature be inflicted by the defendant. Indeed, it is not necessary that the victim be injured at all; it is sufficient if it appears that there existed at the time a likelihood that great bodily injury would result from the particular force employed.

A deadly assault may be made by means other than a deadly weapon, and whether such means are likely to produce great bodily injury is to be determined from the manner in which the assault is made and from the circumstances of each case. The crime can be accomplished with an act done with your hands or fists.

Some common examples of PC 245(a)(4) include:

  • Dave throws a brick at Vic with the intent to harm, but the brick misses Vic.

  • Dan pushes John to the ground where John strikes his head causing a serious laceration that requires 25 staples.

  • Paul repeatedly strikes Sam in the face causing Sam to lose consciousness.

Elements to Assault with Force Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury

To be convicted of Penal Code 245(a)(4), the prosecutor must prove:

  1. You committed an act that by its nature would directly and probably result in the application of force to a person;
  2. You committed the act willfully;
  3. You had the present ability to apply force likely to produce great bodily injury
  4. You were not acting in self-defense or in the defense of another.[2]

What is Great Bodily Injury?

Great bodily injury, within the meaning of the statutory prohibition against assault by force likely to produce great bodily injury, is an injury that is significant or substantial, not insignificant, trivial, or moderate.[3] In other words, it must be more than incidental or offensive.[4] Some common examples of great bodily injury include:

  • Concussion,
  • Broken Bones,
  • Second Degree Burns,
  • Loss of Consciousness,
  • Pregnancy or Abortion,[5]
  • Serious Disfigurement,
  • Wound requiring extensive suturing.

What are the Legal Defenses to PC 245(a)(4)?


You are within your right to act in self-defense to prevent unreasonable risk of injury to yourself or another. This defense is not contingent on the aggressor’s sex or physical size. Additionally, there is no requirement that you retreat when faced with a threat of force. You are legally permitted to stand your ground and defend yourself, or another, from harm.


Assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury requires a purposeful act. Therefore, if you committed an act on accident or by misfortune, then no crime was committed.

Mistaken Identification

There are limitless factors and outside influences that affect a witness’s ability to recall a perpetrator’s physic, clothing, and critical facial features. For instance, poor lighting, stress, cross-racial identification, and police suggestibility are all common factors leading to mistaken identification.

What is the Punishment for PC 245(a)(4)

Penal Code 245(a)(4) is classified as a wobbler offense. It allows the prosecutor to charge someone with either a felony or misdemeanor.

A misdemeanor conviction carries:

  • Up to one year in the county jail, and
  • A fine of up to $10,000.

A felony conviction carries a state prison sentence for:

  • 2 years,
  • 3 years, or
  • 4 years.

If the alleged victim suffers great bodily injury, then the conviction elevates to a violent felony. Consequently, it carries an additional consecutive punishment of 3 to 5 years in state prison.

Related Charges to Assault with Force Likely to Cause Great Bodily Injury

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been charged or are under investigation for PC 245(a)(4), then give us a call to schedule a free confidential consultation with an Orange County criminal defense attorney. Attorney John D. Rogers is a board-certified criminal law specialist – a distinction that only a small group of criminal defense lawyers in California have achieved.

[1] Penal Code 245(a)(4) (“Any person who commits an assault upon the person of another by any means of force likely to produce great bodily injury shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both the fine and imprisonment.”)

[2] CALCRIM No. 875. Assault With Deadly Weapon or Force Likely to Produce Great Bodily Injury.

[3] People v. Quinonez (2020) 46 Cal.App.5th 457.

[4] People v. Escobar (1992) 3 Cal.4th 740, 746.

[5] People v. Cross (2008) 45 Cal.4th 58, 68.

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