Domestic Battery

Couples or people in an intimate relationship at times disagree on specific issues. In case one of the partners loses their temper, it can lead to a physical confrontation that leads to a domestic battery offense. In California, it is a crime to rudely or offensively touch someone you are in an intimate relationship with. The penalties in a conviction for this crime include twelve months in jail and informal probation of up to three years. To avoid such consequences, get help from The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney today.

Overview of Battery

According to Penal Code 242, if you willfully and unlawfully use force or violence on another person, you are guilty of California battery. Whether the victim gets injured/feels pain or not, what the prosecution needs to prove is that you offensively touched the victim. People often confuse assault with battery. However, these two are very different since assault is defined by PC 240 as attempting to touch someone offensively while the battery is defined as the actual touching of someone offensively.

Legal Definition of Domestic Battery

PC243 (e) (1) defines domestic battery as willfully or illegally touching of an intimate partner harmfully or offensively. An intimate partner in this situation is:

  • The offender’s former husband or wife
  • The accused’s fiancé or former fiancé
  • The mother or father of the offender’s children
  • The offender’s cohabitant or former cohabitant
  • A person, the defendant, is dating or was in a dating relationship in the past

Keep in mind to be found guilty of this crime; it is not a must that the victim sustains injuries. Unlawful bodily touching rudely or angrily is enough for the prosecution to find you guilty. After a spouse battery offense, the accuser or the victim might decide to drop the charges against the offender. However despite this, the government still goes ahead to pursue the prosecution of the offender.

Difference Between Domestic Violence and Domestic Battery

PC 242 (e) (1) defines domestic battery as a misdemeanor while Penal Code 273.5 defines domestic violence as a wobbler. By wobbler, it means domestic violence charges against the accused can be filed either as a felony or misdemeanor based on the scope of the injuries and the circumstances surrounding the offense.

Again, domestic battery differs from domestic violence in that Penal Code 242 (e) (1) does not require the victim to suffer physical injuries. Instead, what is needed is to show the victim was touched rudely or offensively while in Penal Code 273.5, the victim must have sustained some injuries.

Elements the Prosecution Must Prove in Domestic Battery

For one to be found guilty, the prosecution must prove individual facts beyond a reasonable doubt. The aspects that must be tested include:

  1. You willfully and unlawfully touched another person

If the defendant acted on purpose when touching the victim, it is enough to show he or she did it willfully to another person. The prosecution will not need to prove that the defendant broke the law or caused harm to someone else.

For instance, if you are living with your girlfriend in the same house and it happens that you get into a disagreement and one of you tries to storm out of the house, but in the process, you can use physical force to stop her from leaving. In case he or she is injured in the process, you might be found guilty of domestic battery though you had no plan of inflicting injuries.

What the prosecutor needs to show is that you used physical force to restrain your partner from leaving the house, and you did so in purpose or willfully.

  1. The touching was rude, angry, harmful, or offensive

Offensive touching described in domestic battery doesn’t necessarily need to cause pain or harm. All that is necessary is to show it was done rudely or angrily. For example, if you are arguing with your fiancé and out of anger, you happen to push her against the wall. Even if the pushing doesn’t cause pain or injuries, you can still be charged with domestic battery as long as you acted angrily or rudely.

The California law is, however, not very clear on whether there is a need for physical contact or not. Even if you touch something that is firmly attached or connected to another person, you can still be found guilty of domestic battery.

For instance, if you are having a drink with your wife or husband and then you find yourself in a heated argument. Out of temper, you knock the glass he or she is holding in their hand. If charges are pressed against you, you might be found guilty of domestic battery because the glass you knocked was firmly attached to the victim’s body.

  1. The victim is your Intimate or former intimate partner

The other person that was touched must be your partner, former partner or husband or wife, fiancé or fiancée, parent of your kids, an adult who is not related to you but you’re living together, or dating partner. Proving this element isn’t easy because the prosecution must show how the victim and the defendant were cohabiting or the kind of dating relationship they had. However, for a spouse, parent, or someone you were engaged to, it will be a walk in the park to prove the kind of dating relationship that was involved.

According to domestic battery law, one can cohabit with more than one person at the same time. For instance, John leases an apartment with his girlfriend Joy. However, after some time, Joy breaks up with John and moves out of the house. Joy gets another boyfriend by the name Peter. Despite spending most of her time at Peter’s apartment, she still maintains a romantic relationship with John and spends nights in the apartment they leased together.

In the event of domestic battery, John will still be considered cohabiting with Joy because they still have the apartment they leased together, and Joy uses the same address as John.

Penalties for Domestic Battery

If found guilty under Penal Code 243 (e)(1), the penalties are:

  • A maximum of 12 months in prison
  • Up to $2,000 in penalties
  • Thirty-six months of informal probation

Conditions for Probation

At times the court might grant the defendant a suspended sentence, but with certain conditions, these conditions include:

  • A batterer’s program for not less than twelve months
  • Reimbursement to the victim for all the reasonable expenses like counseling that resulted from the battery
  • A fine of up to $5,000 to the victim’s shelter

Note that, for the second and subsequent domestic battery offenders, although you might be granted summary probation, you will still be required to spend a minimum of two days in county jail.

Immigration Consequences

For individuals who are noncitizens of the United States, if you are convicted of a deportable crime, the consequences are severe, especially on your immigration status. Although domestic battery is a misdemeanor, for noncitizens, this crime is serious, and it is considered a crime of moral turpitude with severe consequences. After a conviction for this crime, even if you are in the country legally, you will face deportation proceedings.

Legal Defenses for Domestic Battery

The most common defenses a reliable criminal defense attorney can use include:

  1. The accused was acting in self-defense

Self-defense applies in specific circumstances; some of these situations include:

  • If you were reasonably convinced that you or another person will suffer bodily harm if you don’t defend yourself or the other person
  • If you used proportionate or reasonable force to repel the threat
  • If once you resisted the power and the danger was over, you stopped using force

If you use excessive force to repel a threat or continued to use force even after the danger has subsided, you will not be in a position to use self-defense to fight your charges. 

There are many places self-defense can apply. For instance, Peter is married to Jane, and they have a son. One day Jane starts beating the son for sneaking out of school, and in the process, Peter grabs Jane and pushes her as he tries to restrain her from battering the son. Unfortunately, Jane falls on the floor and hits her head.

If Jane decides to sue Peter for domestic battery, Peter’s lawyer can argue that the defendant was acting in defense of others, because he had a reasonable belief that the wife Jane could inflict physical pain or injury to their son.

  1. The domestic battery was accidental

If there was a lack of purpose or willfulness when domestic battery occurred, then you are not guilty. The offense will be lacking the intent or purpose to use force. By arguing that the battery was an accident, then the prosecution will be missing a critical element that is willful use of physical force.

For example, if Peter is arguing with his wife Jane and out of anger throws a cup with hot tea against the wall, and unfortunately the tea splashes on the wife’s face causing pain and injuries. If the wife decides to file charges for domestic battery, Peter can use his lawyer to argue that he did not willfully splash the hot tea on the face of the wife.

  1. No dating relationship

The prosecution must prove that the accuser and the defendant were in an intimate relationship. A dating relationship is a regular private association with the expectations of sexual or affectional involvement. If you were only close friends and you were not dating, you can only be convicted of domestic battery if the prosecution can show there was an expectation of the relationship to have affections or sexual involvement.

  1. Not cohabitants

The defendant must be a cohabitant of the accuser to be guilty of domestic battery. Cohabiting means that two adults that are not related have lived together for a considerable time leading to a permanent relationship. The court will put into considerations the following factors to determine if the accuser and accused were cohabiting:

  • The sexual relationship between the parties that were sharing the same apartment
  • Sharing of revenue and costs
  • Own and use property together
  • The ongoing of the romantic or sexual friendship
  • The span of the association
  1. False accusation

Someone can easily file a report with the police alleging you have committed a crime against them, whereas it didn’t occur. Keeping this in mind, you can be arrested for domestic battery, whereas you are not aware of such an incident. The majority of false accusation cases involve partners who are seeking revenge or spouses who want full custody of the kids. Anger and jealousy are some of the other things that can lead to a false allegation of Penal Code 243 (e) (1).

To defend yourself against false accusations, you will need a competent counsel from the beginning who will know what evidence to gather and the kind of questions to ask so that the truth can come out before the court. 

Other Crimes That Can be Charged Instead of, or Along with Domestic Battery

  1. Corporal Injury to Spouse or Cohabitant

PC 273.5 makes it an offense for the defendant to willfully inflict bodily harm to his or her intimate partner an injury that leads to a traumatic condition. Intentional infliction of corporal injury cannot be filed against an individual you were or are engaged with. Instead, it can be filed against:

  • The offender’s previous husband or wife
  • Former or current cohabitant
  • The biological parent of the offender’s kids

The victim can only file this charge if he or she suffered a traumatic condition, which is a wound or any other physical harm, whether simple or major caused by the use of physical force. A traumatic condition will be deemed to have stemmed from the physical force if:

  • The traumatic situation was a natural and probable cause of injury
  • The harm was the immediate cause of the traumatic condition
  • The traumatic state could not have happened, was it not for the injury

Corporal injury on a partner can be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction include:

  • Up to twelve months in jail
  • A fine not exceeding $6,000

For a felony corporal injury conviction, the penalties are:

  • Twelve months, thirty-six months, or forty-eight months in state prison
  • A fine not more than $6,000
  1. Aggravated battery


Penal Code 243 (d) is very similar or closely related to PC 243 (e) (1). The only differences are:

  • Aggravated battery charge will stick only if the victim sustained severe physical injuries
  • You can be charged with aggravated battery even if the victim or accuse isn’t your intimate partner

A serious bodily injury means impairment of physical condition like a broken bone, loss of consciousness, concussion, or disfigurement. Many people might confuse serious bodily injury with great bodily injury. However, these two are distinct because the great bodily injury is specified by PC 12022.7 as:

  • Lengthy loss of consciousness
  • Severe concussion
  • Severe disfigurement
  • Physical severe pain resulting from torture
  • Protracted loss of a bodily member/organ
  • Prolonged impairment of a function of any bodily organ or part
  • Wounds that need extensive suturing to recover

PC 243 (d) is also a wobbler. When charged with a misdemeanor in this case, if convicted, the sentence is up to 365 days in county jail while for a felony battery that results in serious bodily injuries is punishable by twenty-four months, thirty-six months, or forty-eight months imprisonment.

If the prosecutor is convinced you caused severe injuries to the accuser and can prove it, instead of charging you with simple domestic battery, they can charge you with aggravated battery

  1. Disturbing the peace

It is defined under Penal Code 415 as unlawfully fighting or challenging someone to fight in public, maliciously or purposely making unreasonable noise to worry other people, or provoking another person in public by use of rude or offensive words.  You will violate PC 415 if you are involved in a fight in a bar, or playing loud music in your house to disturb your neighbor after you have been engaged in an argument.

Because this crime is charged as a misdemeanor or infraction, the penalties are nor very severe. They include:

  • Three months in jail
  • A fine not exceeding $400
  • Both fine and a prison sentence

To avoid these penalties, you can argue before the jury that you didn’t have any criminal plans or purpose, your conduct was constitutional, or you were falsely accused.

In a domestic battery case, your attorney can have this charge reduced to disturbing the peace in a plea deal so has to reduce the penalties. The good thing with having a domestic battery charge lowered to PC 415 is that there are no immigration repercussions. Also, you will not have to carry the stigma after a conviction or have a criminal history or record.

  1. Elder abuse

Elder abuse is codified under Penal Code 368, and it prohibits purposeful or negligent impose of unjustifiable bodily pain or mental suffering on an individual who is 65 years and above. In the event of a domestic battery, the prosecution might choose to file an elder abuse charge instead of a domestic battery charge if the defendant has violated PC 368.

Examples of elder abuse scenarios include:

  • An elderly home worker sexually harassing an elder living at the elderly home, and
  • When an adult person refuses to give an elder medication meant for them.

The prosecution might decide to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor based on your criminal history and circumstances of the case. The penalties for a misdemeanor elder abuse conviction include:

  • Informal probation
  • Three hundred and sixty-five days in prison
  • A fine up to $6,000 or $10,000 for a second and subsequent offense
  • Restitution

At times the penalties might also involve counseling. If you are charged with a felony elder abuse and convicted, the penalties are:

  • Formal probation
  • Restitution
  • Counseling
  • Ten thousand dollars in fine
  • Two to four years sentence in jail

Twenty-four to forty-eight months sentence in state prison would increase to five to seven years in jail if the older adult suffered great or significant bodily injury or death.

  1. Aggravated trespass

Aggravated trespass is in some scenarios charged together with domestic battery. According to California PC 601, if you threaten bodily harm to an individual and then within thirty days you enter their home or workplace with the purpose to make the threats real, you will be committing an aggravated trespass offense. If the property you are entering belongs to you, it will not count as trespassing.

PC 601 is a wobbler, which means it can either be a felony or a misdemeanor. In a misdemeanor aggravated trespass, the penalties are:

  • Misdemeanor probation
  • 365 days in county jail
  • Two thousand dollars fine

If you were charged with a felony, the penalties are:

  • Felony probation
  • One and a half years, two years, or three years in county jail
  • Up to $10,000 in fine

Although these penalties might appear harsh, you can plead with the prosecution to lower your charges from domestic battery to aggravated trespass. That way, you can avoid the stigma the domestic battery conviction carries plus prevent a criminal record.

To defend yourself against aggravated trespass, you can argue that:

  • The threat in question wasn’t credible
  • you were joking
  • When you entered the accuser’s property, you planned to apologize for the threat
  • You were not aware you were entering the victim’s place of work

Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

A simple argument in your home or apartment with your intimate partner that leads to an offensive touch can get you in jail or leave you with a criminal record if convicted of domestic battery. That is why it is critical whenever you are facing these charges or if you have questions regarding Penal Code 243 (e) (1) you should contact The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney at 310-564-2605. We will discuss your case and offer the best guidance and defense to avoid a PC 243 (e) (1) conviction.

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