Domestic Battery is defined under Penal Code 243(e)(1) as the willful and illegal touching of an intimate partner that is harmful or offensive. While domestic battery is often referred to in common terms as spousal battery, battery does not need to be committed against a spouse to qualify under PC 243(e)(1). Instead, violence can qualify as domestic battery if it occurs between any two people who have/had an intimate relationship. An intimate partner can be a person’s current spouse or former spouse, current cohabitant or former cohabitant, current fiancée or former fiancée, current dating partner or former dating partner, or someone with whom a person has a child. It is possible for a defendant to be declared guilty of domestic battery even if the alleged victim does not sustain a visible injury of any kind, as the law only requires the use of force against an intimate partner for an action to be deemed domestic battery. This factor is what makes domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1) distinct from PC 273.5, which involves domestic violence that results in a serious injury.
Domestic battery is never an easy crime to deal with, as it involves harm between people who are or were involved in intimate relationships, and all of the tension that comes with that sort of situation. Sadly, it is not uncommon for people in fractured relationships to falsely accuse their current/former partner of domestic battery as a method of retaliation, as domestic battery is a type of crime that is often committed without any witnesses. If one finds oneself in this kind of situation, don’t hesitate to reach out to Domestic Violence Attorney at 619-393-8588. Our skilled attorneys are experts at handling domestic battery cases in the San Diego area, and will provide you with the best representation possible in order to make sure your civil rights are respected.
While the best thing you can do if you are dealing with a situation involving domestic battery is to pick up the phone and contact an attorney, it is also probably advisable to learn about domestic battery. Continue reading below to gain a basic understanding of domestic battery in California.
Related Offenses to Domestic Battery
In many ways, PC 273.5 is similar to PC 243(e)(1), as both involve domestic violence between people currently or formerly engaged in an intimate relationship. The main difference between the two crimes is that PC 273.5 necessarily involves the victim sustaining a corporal injury that results in a traumatic condition. A corporal injury that results in a traumatic condition is defined as any kind of physical injury, whether it be a minor injury or a more serious one. It can be anything from bruising to a concussion to broken bones. Also, unlike 243(e)(1), which is only ever charged as a misdemeanor, domestic violence involving corporal injury is a wobbler, meaning it can be charged either as a misdemeanor or as a felony, depending on the perpetrator’s criminal history and the severity of the injury.
Aggravated battery is also relatively similar to domestic battery, with a few key differences that should be noted. First, aggravated battery does not need to occur between intimate partners in order to be charged. Aggravated battery can occur between any class of people, whether they be workplace associates, friends, or strangers. Additionally, aggravated battery must necessarily involve a serious bodily injury, minor injuries don’t qualify. For an injury to be considered a serious bodily injury, it must be the type of injury that prevents the operation of a key bodily function. This generally includes broken bones, serious concussions, or substantial lacerations. PC 243(d) is also a wobbler, as it can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Those charged with felony aggravated battery can face up to four years in state prison for their crimes.
Elements of Proof for Domestic Battery
For a person to be declared guilty of domestic battery, it has to be confirmed that the action taken actually constitutes as domestic battery under California law. Not all acts of violence against an intimate partner necessarily qualify as domestic battery. In order to qualify as domestic battery, the following conditions must be met.
- The touching being claimed must have been harmful and/or offensive in some distinguishable manner.
- The person who engaged in the allegedly illicit touching must have done so with willful intent.
- The person accused of engaging in the allegedly illicit touching is an intimate partner as defined in the first paragraph of this article.
For a person to be declared guilty of domestic battery in a California courtroom, it must be revealed that the touching was indeed harmful and/or offensive. For touching to be considered harmful in the eyes of the law, it must be done in a manner that is rude, violent, angry, or disrespectful. This means that not all forms of unwanted touching constitute as domestic battery, only touching that is harmful/offensive counts as domestic battery according to the legal definition.
Touching in legal terms doesn’t necessarily mean one person placed part of their body onto the body of another person. Touching can involve indirect contact, as long as it involves the willful use of force against another person, even if this use of force is not particularly dangerous or harmful. Spitting onto another person can qualify as touching and be charged as domestic battery so long as it was offensive/harmful and meets the other criteria below. Additionally, using an object to strike an intimate partner, or throwing an object an intimate partner can qualify as touching. Even if the object used in either of these scenarios is not menacing or does not cause the victim any physical harm, domestic battery can still be charged if the use of the object was harmful and/or offensive.
Example: Say you and your dating partner get into a heated argument in the kitchen. As a result of this argument, you angrily throw a plastic serving spoon at your dating partner and hit them in the back. Even though you didn’t directly touch your dating partner, or throw something particularly dangerous, you could still be charged with domestic battery in this situation, so long as it meets all the other criteria outlined in this section.
For a suspect to be declared guilty of domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1), it has to be confirmed that the touching was done willfully. Generally, for an action to be considered willful, it must be revealed that the person intended to carry out the act. This means that if the touching came about completely by accident, and the person being charged clearly did not mean to carry out the alleged touching, then domestic battery cannot be charged in this scenario. However, it does not need to be proven that the alleged perpetrator meant to break the law, or intended to harm to alleged victim for a suspect to be declared guilty of domestic battery. As long as you willfully carried out the action resulting in the illegal touching, then domestic battery can be successfully charged. For example, if a husband willfully threw a glass bottle against a wall, and the exploding shards of glass causes his wife to sustain minor lacerations, he can be found guilty of domestic battery, for while he didn’t necessarily mean to harm his wife, he did willfully carry out the action that resulted in the illegal touching.
Evidence for willful intent can come in a number of different forms. This includes statements from witnesses, transcripts of verbal or written communication, or picture/video evidence of the domestic battery. If the domestic battery involved injuries of any kind, then medical records of those injuries can also be used as evidence.
It has to be confirmed that the alleged perpetrator and victim are currently or were formerly engaged in an intimate partnership in order for domestic battery to be charged. For certain types of intimate relationship, this fact can be more easily proven. A spousal relationship can be proven via a marriage certificate. A parental relationship can be proven via a birth certificate, so long as both parents’ names are present on the document. However, it is harder to prove that two people were engaged in a dating relationship, or cohabitated a residence together. To prove the existence of these kinds of relationships, communications records indicating the nature of the relationship are used, as are housing records, if they are able to prove two people spent time living together.
Legal Defenses for Charges of Domestic Battery
Lack of Willful Intent
If you genuinely believe that you didn’t take intentional willful action in order to effect the domestic battery you are being accused of, you can attempt to fight off the charge by claiming a lack of willful intent. A lack of willful intent does not mean that you did not mean to break the law or cause the victim harm of any kind, as someone can carry out a use of force with willful intent while simultaneously not intending to break the law or cause anybody harm, as mentioned above in the paragraph about willful intent. Lack of willful intent will only work as a legal defense if you can show that you didn’t at all mean to take the action that resulted in the alleged battery. It must be confirmed that the very action itself was only carried out completely by accident, and was not the fault of the person carrying out the action.
Example: Say you and your spouse were at a crowded party. At the party, someone shoved you from behind, causing you to bump into your spouse and knock her onto the ground. She then charges you with domestic battery. In this case, you would be able to successfully argue a lack of willful intent, as you clearly didn’t willfully take the action to bump into her, but rather only bumped into her as the result of a complete accident.
To right an accusation of domestic battery, you and your legal team can argue that you only engaged in forceful action as a measure of self-defense. To claim self-defense, you must prove more than just that your domestic partner was inflicting harm upon you at the time when you decided to act in self-defense. First, you are required to prove that you felt you had no other option but to use self-defense in order to prevent yourself from suffering immediate harm. If you can show that you could have employed other methods to avoid harm, such as leaving the scene, or using verbal communication to defuse the situation, then self-defense cannot be successfully claimed. Also, you must be able to show that you didn’t use more might than was necessary to defend yourself from bodily harm. If it is shown that you continued to use physical force even after a threat to your safety no longer existed, then a claim of self-defense will be rejected. A self-defense claim will also be rejected if it is shown that you responded to a threat disproportionately, such as by responding to a shove with a gun.
A charge of domestic battery can be rebuffed by claiming that the two intimate partners agreed to engage in an activity that might bring about some form of harm through harmful/offensive touching. Some couples choose to consensually participate in activities that take place in the bedroom, in which the members of the intimate relationship choose to inflict harm upon one another. This behavior is called sadomasochism, and often involves partners hurting each other for pleasure. If you are being charged with domestic battery, and strongly believe that the harm you inflicted was fully agreed to by your accuser, then you can argue in court that the battery was a result of mutual consent, and that the charges should therefore be dropped.
Unfortunately, it isn’t unheard of for a suspect to be dishonestly accused of domestic battery. An individual may accuse an intimate partner of domestic battery out anger, or in order to gain an upper hand in a divorce settlement. A record of domestic violence may make it easier for an ex-spouse to gain custody of children, or be awarded a larger alimony payment. While it is often difficult to prove that somebody is not telling the truth about an accusation, our attorneys are experts at poking holes in people’s stories in an effort to unveil the truth. They understand how to question witnesses and present evidence in a manner that can convince a jury that an accuser is not being truthful.
Penalties Associated with Domestic Battery
Under PC 243(e)(1), a person found guilty of domestic battery will be charged with a misdemeanor crime. PC 243(e)(1) can only be charged as a misdemeanor, more serious forms of battery may be charged as felonies under other penal codes. Depending on the severity of the crime, you can be fined up to $2,000 and/or be sentenced to county jail for a period of up to 1 year.
However, it should be noted that defendants that are convicted of domestic battery often receive a suspended sentence and probation. Probation typically involves regular scheduled meetings with a probation officer, as well as other conditions that the perpetrator must follow. As part of probation for domestic battery, a likely condition is that you will have to participate in and complete a batterer’s counseling service lasting one year. Additionally, as a replacement for the maximum $2,000 fine you avoided paying, the judge may require you to make a donation of up to $5,000 to a center for abused women or other organization supporting victims of domestic abuse. The judge may also require you to cover any expenses the victim of your domestic battery has incurred as a result of the battery, such as medical fees and/or payments for trauma counseling services or other forms of therapy. If you are found guilty of domestic battery for a second time, and you receive probation once again, the law requires that you spend at least 48 hours in county jail, unless the judge is convinced that a “good cause” exists for avoiding jail time.
Also, even though domestic battery is only considered a misdemeanor crime, it is defined under federal law as a “deportable crime,” meaning that non-citizens can be deported from the United States based solely on a domestic battery conviction. If you are a non-citizen who has recently been found guilty of domestic battery, you could face deportation proceedings in the near future.