The domestic battery offense, as delineated in California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC, pertains to intentional and unlawful physical contact against an intimate partner or family member, leading to harmful or offensive touching. This misdemeanor offense encompasses penalties like fines, probation, mandatory counseling programs, and potential incarceration.
If you face charges of domestic battery in Long Beach, California, consider enlisting the services of the California Criminal Lawyer Group. Our skilled attorneys provide personalized attention, vigorous advocacy, and a profound understanding of the California legal system.
Domestic Battery as Outlined in California Law
California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC describes domestic battery as the act of employing force or violence against intimate partners.
In a domestic battery case, prosecutors must prove certain elements to secure a conviction against you, the defendant. Here is what they must establish:
- Intentional physical contact — Prosecutors must show that you intentionally made physical contact with the alleged victim.
- Harmful or offensive touching — The state must demonstrate that the contact caused harm or was offensive, resulting in pain or injury to the victim.
- Relationship requirement — Prosecutors need to establish that the victim has a specific relationship with you, for example, being a cohabitant, the other parent of your child, or a current/former spouse, fiancé, fiancée, or dating partner.
- Lack of consent — Prosecutors must prove that the physical contact was non-consensual, indicating that the victim did not agree to it willingly or voluntarily.
- No self-defense — It must also be clear that you did not act in self-defense.
Let us examine the elements in detail.
Willful touching refers to intentional physical contact made by the perpetrator toward the victim. It signifies that the touching was done purposefully, not by accident or mistake. The term "willful" indicates that you engaged in physical contact knowingly and deliberately, intending to cause harm or offense to the victim.
The element of willfulness in domestic battery does not necessarily require proof of an intent to cause harm or a conscious intention to violate the law. Instead, it focuses on whether you intentionally engaged in physical contact with the alleged victim, knowing that your actions could potentially result in harm or offense.
Harmful or Offensive Touching
Harmful or offensive touching involves physical contact causing harm, injury, pain, or offense to the victim beyond what's acceptable in a domestic relationship.
The contact can be direct or indirect, including using objects or substances or through another person.
Physical injury or significant harm is not required to establish domestic battery. The law recognizes that harmful or offensive touching encompasses actions causing pain, discomfort, or offense. Additionally, a visible injury is not necessary for the prosecution to pursue charges.
In a domestic battery case, an intimate partner can refer to individuals involved in a close relationship with the defendant. This includes:
- Spouses or former spouses
- Cohabiting partners,
- Engaged couples (current or former),
- The other parent of the defendant's child, and
- Individuals in a current or previous dating, sexual, or intimate relationship, regardless of their sexual orientation.
A cohabitant generally refers to two unrelated individuals who live together for a significant time, demonstrating a sense of permanence in their relationship.
Note: Cohabitation can also involve living with two or more individuals simultaneously, as long as the criteria of living together and having some level of permanence are met.
People are said to be dating if they engage frequently in an intimate manner. It involves an expectation of affection or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations. A dating relationship can include current and former partners who engage in a romantic or intimate relationship, regardless of whether they are currently dating or no longer together.
Examples of Domestic Battery
Domestic battery can take various forms and occur in different types of relationships. Here are some examples that could result in charges under PC 243(e)(1):
- John and Sarah, a married couple, engage in a heated argument that escalates into a physical altercation. John pushes Sarah forcefully, causing her to fall and sustain visible injuries.
- Mark and Lisa have been in a dating relationship for several months. Mark monitors Lisa's activities, isolates her from friends and family, and uses emotional manipulation to maintain control. On one occasion, Mark forcefully grabs Lisa's arm during an argument, leaving bruises.
- Alex and Chris are co-parents of their child. During a heated custody dispute, Alex becomes enraged and strikes Chris in front of the child, resulting in visible injuries and emotional distress.
What Happens if An Accuser Does Not Want to Press Charges?
Regardless of the accuser's stance, the prosecution has the ultimate authority to decide whether to drop charges. However, the accuser's cooperation significantly influences the prosecutor's decision-making process. If the accuser does not want to press charges or refuses to cooperate, it creates difficulties for the case to proceed.
Prosecutors carefully consider factors, including evidence, offense severity, and past domestic violence incidents, when determining whether to drop charges. Even if the accuser does not want to press charges, the prosecutor could pursue the case if they have enough evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Penalties For Domestic Battery
Domestic battery is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, you could face:
- Up to 1 year in county jail.
- Fines of up to $2,000.
- Mandatory completion of a batterer's treatment program. These programs aim to address and modify violent behavior patterns.
- Probation for a specified period.
Judges impose specific conditions when placing you on probation after a domestic battery conviction. While the exact terms vary based on the circumstances of the case and the court's discretion, here are some common probation conditions:
- No contact order — You could be ordered to have no contact with the victim or other individuals involved in the case. This includes direct or indirect contact, including in-person, phone calls, text messages, emails, or through third parties.
- Restraining order — A protective or restraining order provides additional protection to the victim. This can restrict your proximity to the victim and includes other provisions, for example, staying away from their residence, workplace, or children's school.
- Regular check-ins — The courts could require you to report regularly to a probation officer. This ensures compliance with the terms of probation and addresses any concerns or questions.
- Substance abuse or anger management counseling — Depending on the circumstances, the court could order you to participate in counseling or treatment programs related to substance abuse or anger management.
- Weapons restriction — You could be prohibited from owning or possessing firearms or other dangerous weapons during probation.
- Compliance with laws — It is a standard condition to comply with all local, state, and federal laws during probation.
These conditions also include making payments to a domestic violence shelter-based program, up to a maximum of $5,000, or reimbursing the victim for reasonable counseling costs and other expenses resulting from the offense. The court must assess your ability to pay and should not order payments to the shelter-based program if it would hinder your ability to provide direct restitution to the victim or court-ordered child support.
Additionally, if the offense is committed by one spouse against another, the community property cannot be utilized to discharge the liability for restitution until the offending spouse's separate property is exhausted. Furthermore, in cases where a defendant has prior convictions for domestic battery or corporal injury to a spouse (PC 273.5), a minimum imprisonment of 48 hours could be required. However, the court has the discretion to waive this requirement under certain circumstances.
Note: These conditions can be tailored to individual cases and could include additional provisions deemed necessary by the court.
Challenging Domestic Battery Charges
When confronted with a domestic battery charge, you have various defenses you can potentially raise, contingent upon the specifics of your case. Seeking guidance from a criminal defense attorney is advisable to determine the most suitable defense strategy for your circumstances. Here are a few typical defenses:
a) You Acted in Self Defense
Self-defense is an appropriate defense strategy in a domestic battery case. It involves asserting that you acted to protect yourself from immediate harm or danger. When presenting self-defense as a defense in a domestic battery case, the following elements generally need to be proven:
- Imminent threat — You should demonstrate that you held a reasonable belief that you were facing an immediate threat of bodily harm or danger.
- Proportional response — It is essential to show that your response was necessary and proportionate to the perceived threat. Considering the surrounding circumstances, this entails using a reasonable amount of force to protect yourself.
- Reasonable belief — It must be established that your belief in the necessity of self-defense was reasonable considering the circumstances. This means an objective person in a similar situation would also have believed they were in danger.
Evidence that can help establish self-defense in a domestic battery case includes:
- Statements from you and any witnesses present during the incident can provide crucial information regarding the threat you faced and your actions in response.
- Any physical evidence, including photographs, medical records, or objects at the scene, that support your claim of self-defense can be significant in demonstrating the nature and severity of the threat.
- If there is a documented history of threats, violence, or abuse from the alleged victim towards you, it can contribute to your claim of self-defense by establishing a pattern of behavior.
- Expert witnesses, for example, medical professionals or self-defense experts, can provide specialized knowledge and opinions regarding the reasonableness of your actions and the level of threat you faced.
- Any audio or video recordings capturing the incident or the events leading up to it can serve as valuable evidence to support your self-defense claim.
- Your injuries and any injuries sustained by the alleged victim can provide evidence of a physical altercation and support your argument that you acted in self-defense to protect yourself from harm.
Consulting with a criminal defense attorney will provide valuable insights into the legal requirements and implications of asserting self-defense in your domestic battery case. Our attorneys will assist in evaluating the viability of your self-defense argument based on the evidence at hand.
b) Lack of Willfulness in Your Actions
The defense of lacking willfulness in your actions involves demonstrating that your acts were not intentional. You must establish that you did not purposely engage in harmful or offensive touching. This defense focuses on proving that the contact was accidental, unintentional, or a result of circumstances beyond your control. You make your case by:
- Demonstrating that the contact was unintentional and occurred due to an accident without the intention to cause harm.
- Showing that you were not provoked or that any aggravation you experienced would not reasonably lead to a reaction involving harmful or offensive touching.
- Presenting evidence that you have not displayed aggressive behavior or have a history of violence that would indicate an intent to cause harm.
- Providing evidence or circumstances that support the absence of intent, for example, an unforeseen event, self-defense, or an accidental loss of balance.
- Offering testimonies from witnesses corroborating your assertion of accidental or unintentional contact.
c) You Were Falsely Accused
Claiming you were falsely accused involves asserting that the allegations against you are untrue and that you have been wrongly accused. To support this defense, you can present evidence and arguments that cast doubt on the credibility or reliability of the accuser's claims. You can consider the following evidence for your case:
- Inconsistencies in the accuser's statements — Point out any discrepancies, contradictions, or changes in the accuser's statements regarding the alleged incident.
- Lack of corroborating evidence — Highlight the absence of supporting evidence, for example, witnesses, surveillance footage, or physical evidence, that would substantiate the accuser's claims.
- Motive or bias — Exploring whether the accuser has any reason or prejudice that could influence their accusation, for example, personal animosity, ulterior motives, or a history of making false accusations.
- Witness testimonies — Presenting testimonies from witnesses who can provide an alternative version of events or contradict the accuser's allegations.
- Prior false accusations — Demonstrating any history or pattern of the accuser making false accusations in the past, if applicable.
d) Consent from the Victim
The consent defense can be raised in a domestic battery case, asserting that the alleged victim gave voluntary and informed consent to the physical contact in question. You must provide evidence demonstrating that the alleged victim willingly and knowingly agreed to engage in the specific actions that resulted in the alleged battery.
When presenting a consent defense in a domestic battery case, consider the following:
- Providing evidence that there was clear and explicit communication between both parties regarding the nature and extent of the physical contact. This can include written or verbal agreements, text messages, or witness testimonies.
- Demonstrating that the alleged victim had the mental and legal capacity to consent during the incident. Factors, for example, age, intoxication, or any other impairment that affect the alleged victim's ability to make informed decisions, should be considered.
- Showing that the alleged victim's consent was voluntary and not obtained through coercion, threats, or manipulation. It is essential to establish that consent was freely given and could have been withdrawn at any time.
- Presenting evidence of a pre-existing relationship or agreement between the parties that establishes a context where consent for physical contact could reasonably be implied or inferred.
- Using testimonies from witnesses who support your claim that the alleged victim provided consent or exhibited behavior consistent with a consensual relationship.
Impact of a Domestic Battery Conviction on Gun Rights
A domestic battery conviction can have consequences for gun rights. Under federal law, individuals convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence are generally prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition. This prohibition applies to both current and future gun ownership.
Under a federal law known as the 1968 Lautenberg Amendment, individuals convicted of a specific type of misdemeanor crime will be subject to restrictions on possessing firearms and ammunition. This law applies to those who have been convicted of a misdemeanor involving physical force against:
- A current or former spouse.
- Parent or guardian of the victim.
- Someone with whom the offender shares a child.
- A person they have or had a domestic relationship with or
- Someone similarly situated under domestic or family violence laws.
In California, state law, Penal Code 29805, also imposes restrictions on gun ownership for individuals with domestic violence convictions. Specifically, California prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence from owning, purchasing, or possessing firearms for 10 years from the date of conviction. This restriction applies to misdemeanor domestic battery convictions and other misdemeanor offenses involving domestic violence.
Impact of a Domestic Battery Conviction on Non-citizens
Convictions for domestic battery can have immigration consequences for non-citizens in certain circumstances. Under U.S. immigration law, certain criminal convictions, including domestic violence offenses, can result in immigration consequences, including deportation, inadmissibility, or the denial of immigration benefits.
The specific immigration consequences will depend on various factors, including the nature and severity of the offense, the individual's immigration status, and any prior criminal history. Domestic battery is considered a crime of moral turpitude, which can have profound immigration implications.
Non-citizens who are convicted of domestic battery could face:
- Removal or deportation — A conviction for domestic battery can make a non-citizen removable from the United States. Immigration authorities can initiate removal proceedings and seek the individual's deportation.
- Inadmissibility — A domestic battery conviction can render a non-citizen inadmissible, meaning they could be barred from reentering the United States or obtaining certain immigration benefits, such as visas or green cards.
- Limited immigration relief — Non-citizens with domestic battery convictions could be ineligible for certain forms of immigration relief, including cancellation of removal or adjustment of status.
Non-citizens facing domestic battery charges should seek legal advice from an immigration attorney who can assess their situation and provide guidance on the potential immigration consequences. An experienced attorney can help navigate the complex intersection of criminal law and immigration law to minimize the impact on immigration status.
Expunging a Domestic Battery Conviction
It is possible to expunge a domestic battery conviction in California successfully. However, it is not guaranteed. Expungement allows for the dismissal of a sentence from an individual's criminal record.
To be eligible for expungement of a domestic battery conviction, specific criteria must typically be met, including:
- Completion of probation — You must have completed your probationary period.
- You must have complied with all court orders, including the payment of fines, restitution, or any other obligations the court imposes.
Keep in mind that even with an expunged conviction, specific agencies and employers have access to the conviction information, particularly for sensitive positions or government-related matters. However, an expungement can provide some relief by allowing you to honestly state on most job applications that you have not been convicted of the expunged offense.
Aggravated battery (Penal Code section 243(d)) involves intentionally causing severe physical harm to someone. The specific elements and consequences vary depending on the circumstances.
The prosecution must prove that you deliberately caused significant bodily injury to be charged. "Significant bodily injury" means more than minor or moderate harm, for example, fractures or disfigurement.
Aggravated battery causing serious bodily injury is a wobbler offense. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the specific facts of the case. If charged as a misdemeanor, the punishment can include up to one year of custody in the county jail. On the other hand, if charged as a felony, the possible jail term can be up to four years.
Contact an Experienced Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you have been arrested for domestic battery in Long Beach, California, it is crucial to secure the assistance of a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Avoid navigating the legal process on your own. Schedule a consultation with the California Criminal Lawyer Group today at 562-966-8120 to discuss your case. Our experienced attorneys will diligently work to safeguard your rights, develop a robust defense strategy, and pursue the most favorable outcome for your case.