Cases of domestic battery are common in our relationships. However, we at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm understand that some accusations of domestic violence are false, out of revenge, greed, among others. Therefore, our team of criminal defense attorneys has dedicated itself to defending people who are facing such charges. Get in touch with us so that we can review your case and help defend you.
What is Domestic Battery in California?
Under California Penal Code 243(e)(1), domestic battery is the unlawful and willful touching of an intimate person to inflict force or violence. For a prosecutor to charge you with domestic battery, there are factors that he or she must prove. These factors are considered as elements of the crime. They are as follows:
You Willfully Touched Someone
To do something willfully, it means that you did it on purpose. Therefore, you do not necessarily have to break the law of inflicting injury on someone else to prove this fact. The fact that one was injured or you broke the law only results from your willful action.
Touched Someone Else Offensively or Harmfully
Interestingly, a defendant does not have to hurt the victim to be convicted of domestic violence. Doing something disrespectfully or angrily is enough to convict you under Penal Code 243(e)(1). There is no clear point on the extent of touching that makes one guilty under this penal code. One can be convicted even by touching something close to the alleged victim.
An Intimate Partner
For Penal Code 243(e) (1), you have to commit a domestic battery on someone that you have an intimate relationship with. Therefore, the penal code considers the following as intimate partners:
- A spouse whether current or former
- Someone whom you have been cohabiting with
- A fiancee or fiance
- Someone who has birthed your children
- Someone whom you had a previous intimate relationship with
Please note, it is hard to establish whether one had an intimate relationship with someone that they were cohabiting with. This is unlike relationships with spouses, fiancee, and fiance. Therefore, one can be accused of domestic battery if he or she has been cohabiting with more than one person.
Comparison Between Domestic Battery and Domestic Violence (as a Charge)
There is much confusion between domestic violence and battery. It is easy to confuse both terms since a domestic battery is defined as part of domestic violence. This brings several similarities and differences, as well.
When it comes to the similarity, both domestic violence and battery consider it unlawful to touch an intimate person. Therefore, you expect close people, such as spouses, cohabitants, and previous partners, to be regarded as intimate people. Also, under both offenses, it is unlawful to use any form of violence, such as threats and physical force. These two considerations count as an unlawful touching, as defined above.
On the other hand, there are differences when it comes to both types of offenses. For instance, domestic violence is not as specific as a domestic battery when it comes to the people considered as intimate people. In domestic violence, other people are regarded as intimate people under the Family Family Code. This includes:
- The defendant’s kids
- Half brothers and sisters
- Brothers and sisters
- Nephews and nieces
- Uncles and nieces
Other differences that come between the two are the kind of penalties that apply in both offenses, as described below. Also, under Penal Code 273.5, the victim must suffer some injuries in domestic violence, which is contrary to the definition of domestic battery.
Penalties for Domestic Battery in California
Domestic battery is considered as a misdemeanor under California laws. The kind of penalties that apply in this kind of offense include:
- Imprisonment up to a year in a county jail
- Fines that amount to a maximum of $ 2,000
- Misdemeanor probation
If you have a prior history of domestic battery in your criminal records, the court will order a forty-eight hours sentence in county jail. You can go around this requirement if you convince the court that there is a good cause not to serve the forty hours of jail time.
Although domestic battery is considered as a minor case, it is regarded as a deportable crime. This means that one can face immigration consequences besides the penalties provided above. Deportable crimes are usually based on moral turpitude crimes, where domestic violence falls in place. This makes it vital to seek a criminal defense attorney who is familiar with immigration laws while seeking legal representation.
Conditions for Summary or Misdemeanor Probation
The court can grant anyone who is facing domestic battery conviction probation. However, there are terms that one must fulfill to serve summary probation. These conditions include:
- Attending a batterer’s program for a minimum of one year
- Reimbursement of the victim for the expenses made in seeking counsel and any other reasonable expenses that the court might find worth paying for.
Legal Defense for Domestic Battery
Once you hire an attorney, he or she will try as much as possible to disprove the kind of allegations or evidence that has been put against you. Such considerations require one to come with relevant legal defense strategies that can help in winning the case.
Please note that legal defenses can help you reduce the penalties that are provided by the law. In a domestic battery, the judge and prosecutor have a wide discretion to seek the highest penalties that can apply as a way to protect the victim and send a strong message against a domestic battery. Therefore, your attorney can explore the possibility of reducing your penalties through the legal defenses at hand. Let’s have a look at the common legal defenses that an attorney can use.
This is a common defense that can work in any case. In this case, you need to confirm that you reasonably believed to be in danger or about to suffer bodily injury, which made you touch the other person unlawfully. Also, you should prove that you used more than necessary force while defending yourself from the danger.
Innocence represents one of the most straightforward defenses that you can use against your criminal charges. In this case, you need to disprove the fact that you committed any domestic battery. You can offer testimonies from other people who were at the scene of the incident, which is purported to be a domestic battery. Generally, you need to prove beyond doubt that the kind of allegations brought against you are false to make this kind of legal defense relevant enough.
Defense for Others
Other than self-defense, you can end up touching your partner unlawfully while protecting other people. For instance, if you reasonably believed that your partner would hurt your kids through violent action, and you ended up touching him or her unlawfully, then you were doing so in defense for others. Your attorney can use such a situation as your legal defense.
Lack of Will
Under Penal Code 243(e)(1), you must touch an intimate person willfully to be considered innocent for the accusation. This kind of legal defense is part of using accidents as a legal defense. For instance, if you throw an object to the wall in anger and have part of the object hit your partner, such actions do not act as a willful act to hurt your partner. The court might acquit you from your allegations since the circumstances of the action do not count as a willful act.
Your spouse or partner might decide to file a domestic battery accusation out of a false accusation. For instance, if the allegations are initiated from jealousy, desire for revenge, or anger, then the charges might be considered as false accusations. A professional attorney should be in a position of evaluating the circumstances surrounding a case and determining whether the accusations made are false accusations before settling on this legal defense.
This legal defense works when you are forced to commit a crime out of coercion, threats, or harassment from a third party. In most cases, an investigating officer might coerce you into doing something such as touching your partner unlawfully if he or she is pursuing a romantic relationship with your partner. Before your attorney settles on entrapment as a legal defense, he or she must use a preponderance of evidence to make it valid. This means that he or she must prove that the only reason behind your actions was to overreach the police conduct, and you had no otherwise but to do the unlawful act.
This legal defense is close to the lack of willful intent. However, in this case, you probably touched someone else, but it was mistaken to be unlawful. This is common in instances where you have similar kinds of gestures with your partner but, at this particular instance, was mistaken to be a criminal act.
Your attorney can raise this legal defense when you had the intention of touching your partner unlawfully but had a change of heart before you executed the action. Your attorney should help you establish the fact that you successfully abandoned or withdrew your intention of committing the crime.
For instance, if you concluded that it is not right to proceed with the action and successfully managed to avoid the crime, then you have a reasonable legal defense to present to the court. Also, if your partner did something that contributed to your restraint, you can still rely on this aspect as your legal defense.
Use of statute of Limitation as Defense
Although this is a procedure defense, it can still help you win your case. There is a specific timeline that a victim should consider while filing a lawsuit to court. If the victim does not file the lawsuit within this timeline, then the court might dismiss the court. However, you should not play a part in delaying your partner in filing a lawsuit if you want this legal defense to be successful.
Voluntary and Involuntary Intoxication
Using voluntary intoxication does not bear any valid defense in your case. It can issue that you had no sober mental state to touch your partner unlawfully intentionally.
On the other hand, involuntary intoxication can be an ideal legal defense for your conviction. In this case, you were not aware of your intoxication since someone probably slipped a drug into your drink, which prompted your unlawful touching. Also, if you happened to take a sedative that disrupted your judgment, you can consider such a reasonable legal defense as well. However, your attorney must come up with relevant evidence to prove that your action was a result of involuntary intoxication.
Since domestic violence falls under offenses that are considered domestic violence, other offenses are related to it. This means that the court might easily prosecute you with these offenses or charge them together with domestic battery. Here are offenses that are related to domestic battery in California.
Inflicting Corporal Injuries Involuntarily- Penal Code 273.5
Under Penal Code 273.5, it is unlawful to inflict injuries on an intimate partner. The main difference between this offense and domestic violence is the fact that the accuser must have suffered some injuries that were inflicted voluntarily by the defendant.
Inflicting corporal injuries on the accuser is considered a wobbler offense, meaning that one can face a minor offense or felony charges based on the circumstances surrounding the case and the criminal history of the perpetrator.
Since there are quite severe penalties that follow under this offense, it is recommended to plead guilty to a domestic violence charge to avoid the penalties that might follow.
Aggravated Battery – Penal Code 243(d)
Under Penal Code 243(d), touching someone else unlawfully to the extent of causing severe bodily injury to the respective person is considered as a criminal offense. In this case, the accuser is not restricted to an intimate person but can consider any other person.
Aggravated battery is considered a wobbler offense. In a felony charge, one might face imprisonment for two, three, or four years. In most cases, the prosecutor usually tries to charge an accused person with an aggravated battery since it attracts harsher penalties than a domestic battery. However, there must be evidence of injuries to use these charges successfully.
Elder Abuse – Penal Code 368
Under Penal Code 368, willfully inflicting any unjustifiable physical pain on someone who’s 65 years or older is considered as a criminal offense. Therefore, if alleged to have committed a domestic battery, but to someone who is sixty-five years or older, the prosecutor will charge you with this offense rather than a domestic battery.
Elder abuse is considered a wobbler offense in California. This means that you can be convicted as a minor offense or a felony. This depends on the details of the lawsuit and your criminal history. If you face a misdemeanor, the kind of penalties that apply are:
- Summary of informal probation
- Imprisonment for a maximum of one year in a county jail
- A fine that can reach up to $ 6,000 or $ 10,000 if you have a subsequent offense
- Restitution to the alleged victim
If you have a felony elderly abuse accusation, the kind of penalties that might happen are:
- Formal probation
- Imprisonment in the California state prison for two or four years. You might also face additional jail time for three to seven years if the victim suffered severe bodily injuries and a possibility of strike under the California Three Strike Law.
- Fines that amount up to $ 10,000
Disturbing Peace - Penal Code 415
Under Penal Code 415, it is unlawful to fight in public, using loud music to disturb other people and using offensive words in public. This offense is related to a domestic battery when one fights in public or uses offensive words in public.
Any violation under this penal code is considered as a wobbler. This means that it can be charged as an infraction or as a misdemeanor. This depends on your criminal history and the facts related to the case. The maximum penalties that apply in this kind of offense include:
- Staying in police custody for a maximum of ninety days
- Fine that can reach up to $ 400
- Imprisonment and paying up the fines
If one completes probation or jail time, one can be expunged from the respective crimes. This means that the court will do away with your criminal history from your records.
Damaging a Telephone Wire – Penal Code 591
It might sound weird when you consider this kind of offense with domestic violence. However, it plays a part in the charges if you intentionally disabled phone equipment as a result of domestic battery.
Under Penal Code 591, it is unlawful to take down, disconnect, injure or obstruct a telephone, an electrical line, cable TV, or telegraph maliciously or unlawfully. Such a crime is considered a wobbler, and one can be convicted with a misdemeanor or felony. This depends on the nature of the offense and your criminal history.
If the prosecutor charges you with a misdemeanor, you put yourself at risk of the following penalties:
- Summary or misdemeanor probation
- Imprisonment in a county jail for a maximum of a year
- Fines that can amount to $ 1,000
If you face felony charges, the kind of penalties that follow are:
- Felony or formal probation
- Imprisonment in a county jail for sixteen months, two years or three years under the California Realignment program
- Fine that can reach to a maximum of $ 10,000
Aggravated Trespass – Penal Code 601
Under Penal Code 601, it is unlawful to threaten that you will physically injure someone else and enter his or her workplace or home without any permission. Although aggravated trespass might seem to be a felony, it is considered as a wobbler offense in California.
If the court charges you with a misdemeanor, the kind of penalties that apply include:
- Summary or misdemeanor probation
- Imprisonment in a county jail for a maximum of a year
- Fines that can amount to $ 2,000
If the court charges you with a felony, the offense attracts penalties such as:
- Formal or felony probation
- Imprisonment in a county jail for a maximum of three years
- Fines that amount to $ 10,000
Based on the circumstances of the case, the trespass charges may rise to an aggravated felony. This can lead to severe immigration effects on an immigrant. This means that one might be deported from the United States or considered inadmissible.
Statute of Limitations for Domestic Battery
It is essential to understand the statute of limitations for a domestic battery to understand whether your accuser stands to file a case over this kind of allegation. A statute of limitations is a timeline provided by the court, in which accusers should file a lawsuit. If one fails to honor this timeline, there are risks of having the case dismissed by the court.
Under California law, an accuser has three years to file a case that is related to domestic violence. Since a domestic battery is classified as domestic violence, your accuser has three years to file the court under the current law. However, there is a proposal under Senate Bill 273 to extend the timeline to a maximum of eight years. If it goes through, then an accuser will have an addition of five years to file a domestic battery case against his or her intimate partner.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Law Firm Near Me
Anyone who faces accusations of domestic battery can end up facing severe penalties. This does not only impose fines or imprisonment on you, but it might also damage your reputation. That’s why it is recommended to seek professional legal representation. There are many criminal defense attorneys to choose from, but you will need a criminal defense lawyer who is well versed in domestic battery cases. You can get in touch with our Los Angeles criminal lawyer at 310-935-1675 if you are seeking representation from an experienced Los Angeles domestic violence lawyer.