Domestic Battery Charges in California
- Penal Code §243(e)(1) -
Domestic Battery - PC 243(e)(1)
Domestic battery is the most common domestic violence charge in California. Domestic battery is like any other simple battery, except that it’s committed against a protected person listed in penal code section 243(e)(1).
Domestic battery is classified as a misdemeanor offense, which is a mid-tier crime in California. Although similar to simple battery, domestic battery carries harsher penalties and can negatively affect your right to own a firearm.
Domestic violence charges should never be taken lightly. The following information is only intended to provide a general understanding of domestic battery charges in California.
However, it is always recommended that someone charged with domestic violence contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. as soon as possible.
1. What is domestic battery?
Battery is the willful and unlawful use of force against another. A battery is considered domestic battery when it is committed against one of the following:
A person with whom the defendant is cohabiting,
A person who is the parent of the defendant’s child,
A former spouse, fiancé, or fiancée, or
A person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship.
2. What are the elements of domestic battery?
In order to be found guilty of a crime, the prosecutor must prove all of the required components of that crime. Those components are called the elements of the crime.
The prosecutor is responsible for proving all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. If even a single juror has doubt about one of the elements, then the defendant cannot be convicted of the crime.
To convict someone of domestic battery, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant willfully touched the alleged victim in a harmful or offensive manner;
In doing so, the defendant was not acting in self-defense or defense of someone else; AND
The alleged victim was one of the following:
- The defendant’s spouse,
- A person with whom the defendant was cohabiting,
- A parent of the defendant’s child,
- A former spouse or fiancé, OR
- A person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship.
It is not a defense to domestic battery that you did not intend to cause harm to the alleged victim. The slightest touching can be considered a battery if it is done in a rude or angry way. Domestic battery does not even require proof that the alleged victim suffered pain or injury as a result of the unlawful touching.
Cohabitant – For the purposes of the crime of domestic battery, a cohabitant means two people living together for a substantial period of time who are not related to one another.
Dating Relationship – A dating relationship is one characterized by frequent, intimate associations between the parties with expectations of affection or sexual involvement.
3. What are the penalties for domestic battery?
As mentioned earlier, domestic battery is a misdemeanor crime in California. The maximum penalty for the crime of domestic battery in violation of penal code section 243(e)(1) is:
A fine up to $2,000;
Up to 1-year in county jail;
Both that fine and imprisonment.
A person convicted of domestic battery is also eligible for probation. Probation is a form a conditional supervision that can be monitored formally by the probation department or informally through the court.
If granted probation, the defendant is expected to comply with the terms of probation. Failure to comply with the terms of probation can result in the revocation of probation. If probation is revoked, then the judge is permitted to sentence the defendant up to the maximum penalty for domestic battery, listed above.
A judge can also order that the defendant be imprisoned in jail as a condition of the defendant's probation.
Pursuant to penal code section 1203.097, the court is required to impose the following terms as conditions of probation for domestic battery:
A minimum term of 36-month of probation;
Successful completion of a 52-week batterer’s treatment program;
An order to abide by a criminal protective order protecting the victim;
A minimum fee of $500; AND
An order to pay restitution to the victim.
IMPORTANT: Any person convicted of domestic battery will be prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm in California for 10 years, regardless of whether the defendant was sentenced to jail or granted probation. One way to avoid the 10-year firearm ban is to negotiate a plea deal that allows you to plead guilty to another charge like simple battery or disturbing the peace.
4. What are some common defenses to domestic battery charges?
There are many defenses a good criminal defense lawyer can use to defend someone charged with domestic violence for allegedly violating PC 243(e)(1).
Self-defense is one of the most effective defenses to domestic battery charges. Domestic battery requires an unlawful touching. Since you are legally permitted to use reasonable force to defend yourself, it is not unlawful if you were acting in self-defense.
The defendant has the burden of producing evidence that they acted in self-defense. Self-defense applies whenever the person reasonably believed it is necessary to use force to protect themselves from bodily injury.
False Accusations –
Another possible defense is that the other party is falsely accusing you of domestic battery. An alleged victim will sometimes make a false accusation so that law enforcement doesn’t think they were the person who initiated an altercation.
False accusations can also stem from feelings of jealousy or anger toward a former spouse or partner. A proper investigation into the underlying accusations can usually shed light on what actually happened.
Unintentional Act –
To be convicted of domestic battery, the prosecution must prove that the defendant willfully touched the alleged victim. In other words, the defendant must have purposely made contact with the alleged victim.
If you never intended to make contact with the other party, then you could not be convicted of domestic battery. It is up to the jury to determine whether you acted willfully or not.
It is important to remember that every situation is different. If you or someone you love has been charged with with domestic battery for allegedly violating PC 243(e)(1), it is imperative that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. as soon as possible.
5. Will a conviction for domestic battery go on my record?
Yes, a conviction for domestic battery will go on your record. Even just an arrest or citation for domestic battery can create a criminal record that lists the date of the incident and the charges that were alleged.
While the law provides that access to criminal records maintained by the DOJ is limited to legitimate law enforcement purposes and authorized applicants, criminal records can have far greater consequences. A criminal record can prevent or limit your ability to find housing or employment depending on the circumstances of the record.
It is always best to avoid a criminal conviction, if possible. However, a conviction for domestic battery is eligible for expungement after successful completion of probation. Click the link to learn more about how to clear your criminal record.
Contact An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you love has been charged with domestic battery for allegedly violating penal code section 243(e)(1), contact a local Orange County domestic violence lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. to schedule your FREE consultation.
John-Patrick Mullen-Lujan is a trusted Orange County criminal defense lawyer that prides himself on his ability to communicate with clients as he helps navigate them through the complex criminal justice system.
Attorney Mullen-Lujan was named one of the Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Orange and Newport Beach. Hire an attorney you can trust and who can provide the zealous advocacy you need.