Blog

What does “domestic battery” mean?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 25, 2020 | 0 Comments

domestic violence

The legal definition of domestic battery is (1) any willful and unlawful touching, (2) that is harmful or offensive and (3) is committed against an intimate partner.

Examples of this include:

  • Lisa pushes her boyfriend during a fight.
  • Marcos, feeling frustrated with his ex-wife, grabs her shirt and rips it.
  • Candice is angry with her boyfriend for cheating on her, so she slaps him and scratches his face.

Domestic battery is a crime in California per Penal Code 243e1.

A defendant can be convicted of domestic battery (sometimes known as “spousal battery”) even if the “victim” is not injured in any way. All that is required is that the defendant used “force” or “violence” against him/her.

A violation of PC 243e1 is charged as a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or
  • a maximum fine of $2,000.

Luckily, a person accused of this crime can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. Three common defenses to a charge of domestic battery are:

  1. the defendant did not act willfully,
  2. the incident did not involve an “intimate partner,” and
  3. self-defense.

What is domestic battery per California Penal Code 243e1?

A prosecutor must successfully prove three things in order to convict a person of domestic battery. These are:

  1. the defendant willfully touched another person,
  2. that touching was harmful or offensive, and
  3. the person the defendant touched was as intimate partner or former intimate partner.

What does it mean to touch someone “willfully?”

For purposes of the offense of domestic battery, “willfully" means that an accused acted on purpose or acted willingly. It is not necessary that he intended to

  • break the law, or
  • inflict injury on someone else.

What is “harmful” or “offensive” touching?

Harmful or offensive touching means any touching that is done in a disrespectful or angry manner.

Please note that it is not necessary that this touching actually causes pain or actual harm. A defendant can be convicted of domestic battery even if the victim is not injured in any way. All that is required is that the defendant used force against the alleged victim in an angry way.

What is an intimate partner?

The crime of domestic battery can only be committed against someone with whom the defendant has, or had, an intimate relationship with. For purposes of Penal Code 243e1, this includes:

  • a spouse or former spouse,
  • a person with whom the accused lives or lived with,
  • a fiancé or fiancée,
  • a person who is the parent of the defendant's child, and
  • a person the accused is dating or dated.

Please note that several of these relationships—spouse, fiancé or fiancée, another parent—are easy to prove. But sometimes it can be difficult to establish whether two people were actually cohabiting or involved in a dating relationship. In these situations, the court will closely examine and analyze the facts of the case.

What are the penalties if a person violates PC 243e1?

A violation of PC 243e1 is charged as a misdemeanor. The offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year; and/or
  • a maximum fine of $2,000.

It is common for defendants convicted of California domestic battery to receive probation (also known as a “suspended sentence”). If this occurs, a defendant will be required, as a condition of probation, to complete a minimum one-year batterer's treatment program.

Also, if a defendant receives probation as a sentence, the court may decide that, instead of a $2,000 fine, he pay:

  • up to $5,000 to a battered woman's shelter, and/or
  • any reasonable expenses that the victim occurred as a result of the offense, including the cost of counseling.

Are there legal defenses to domestic battery charges?

Luckily, a person accused of domestic battery can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A successful defense can work to reduce or even dismiss a charge.

Three common defenses to a charge of domestic battery are:

  1. the defendant did not act willfully,
  2. the incident did not involve an “intimate partner,” and
  3. self-defense.

As to this last defense, please note that California law says that all of the following must be true for the defense of self-defense to work:

  • a person reasonably believed that he or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched unlawfully,
  • the person reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; and
  • the person used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.

Is intentional infliction of corporal injury the same as domestic battery?

While intentional infliction of corporal injury is a similar crime to domestic battery, the offense is treated differently under California law.

Per Penal Code 273.5, a person commits this offense if he willfully inflicts bodily injury on an intimate partner.

The major difference between this offense and domestic battery is that intentional infliction of corporal injury requires that a defendant actually cause some kind of injury to the alleged victim.

A violation of PC 273.5 is a wobbler offense, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The crime is punishable by:

  • substantial jail time, and/or
  • fines of up to $10,000.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Comments have been disabled.

Free attorney consultations...

The attorneys at Shouse Law Group bring more than 100 years collective experience fighting for individuals. We're ready to fight for you. Call us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 855-LAW-FIRM for a free case evaluation.

Regain peace of mind...

Shouse Law Defense Group has multiple locations throughout California. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Office Locations

Shouse Law Group has multiple locations all across California, Nevada, and Colorado. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

Call us 24/7 (855) 396-0370