Disagreements are common in marriages or among couples, and sometimes a spouse might be overwhelmed by temper resulting in a physical skirmish that is the source of domestic battery. The offense is defined under PC 243(e)(1) as deliberate or illegal touching of an intimate partner using physical force or violence. A violation of this statute is a misdemeanor whose conviction attracts no more than twelve months of jail custody. To reduce the consequences or avoid them entirely, you will need the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm to challenge the charges.

The General View of Domestic Battery

As per California PEN 243(e)(1), domestic battery is a domestic violence crime that involves deliberate and unlawful use of force, causing injuries on an intimate partner. It doesn’t matter whether they felt pain or experienced visible injuries. You can be sentenced because the only element the prosecutor must show is that you made bodily contact with the victim offensively, angrily, or rudely.

Domestic battery is different from the battery because battery involves offensive physical contact with any other person, while domestic battery focuses on offensive touching of an intimate partner.

Also, you should understand that domestic battery is different from assault. There must be actual offensive contact with domestic battery, but with assault, an attempt to offensively touch someone else alone is enough to convict you. For purposes of PC 243(e)(1), an intimate person can be your former spouse, a cohabitant, fiance, a person you are or have been in a romantic relationship with, and the parent of your child.  

A cohabitant, in this case, refers to any individual you aren’t related to, and you have lived together for a long time resulting in the permanency of the relationship. The factors that determine you are cohabiting with another are:

  • Having sexual relations with the person while sharing the same residence
  • Sharing costs and revenue
  • The continuity and length of the relationship
  • You and the other person holding yourselves as domestic partners or couple

Note that after a battery offense involving a spouse, the accuser may drop charges at some point, but the prosecutor might opt to seek justice.

Classification of Domestic Battery

Domestic battery belongs to the misdemeanor class of offenses. If you are sentenced for the crime, the penalties include at most 12 months in jail, court fines amounting to $2,000. Instead of serving the one-year jail term, the judge might impose probation for a duration ranging from 12 to 36 months, but sometimes it might be extended to 60 months. 

On the other hand, the judge might impose felony probation in the place of state incarceration. Probation duration is between 36 to 60 months, where you are assigned a parole officer to make face-to-face check-ins regularly.

Eligibility for Summary Probation

If you are convicted for a misdemeanor offense, like domestic battery, you might qualify for informal probation rather than spending time in jail. You are a candidate for the program if you are deemed low risk, either because you are a minor or a first-time offender. However, this doesn’t mean that you must serve the jail term if you have a prior conviction. Depending on the facts of the case and the negotiation skills of your lawyer, the court can lower your sentence or grant summary probation instead of jail.

Judges convict many defendants charged with misdemeanor domestic battery to summary probation instead of jail. Therefore, if you don’t want to spend time behind bars after a conviction, you should consider talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney early in the case.

The goal of probation is to ensure public safety and rehabilitate both you and the victim of your action. There are two ways you can be placed under probation. One is through negotiations between your defense team and the DA during plea bargaining. The other way is after a trial where the judge might decide to impose probation in place of you serving time in jail.

Note that when you end up on summary probation, the court doesn’t require you to serve a jail sentence unless in rare circumstances. And even in these unique situations, the time you spend behind bars is outstandingly reduced than the minimum jail sentence for the offense provided by the law.

Misdemeanor Probation Conditions

Apart from frequent check-ins with the relevant government offices, you must comply with particular requirements under summary probation. These requirements are:

  • Victim restitution
  • A court-imposed counseling program
  • Community labor
  • Finishing a twelve months batterer’s program
  • Weekly domestic violence classes. These lessons combine counseling and learning that focuses on establishing domestic battery causes, their effects on the victims, and the action that you can take to reduce or prevent the cases.

Furthermore, the judge might require you to pay no more than $5,000 to a shelter of battered women. Alternatively, you could spend the money on the accuser as compensation for the damages or losses incurred due to your unlawful conduct. If you pay this amount, you don’t need to pay the court the $2,000 court fines provided for by law as punishment for a domestic battery conviction.

An offender must comply with the probation requirements because failure to do so means the judge will cancel the probation and impose the initial maximum jail sentence in the law for the crime.

Domestic Battery Vs. Domestic Violence

Domestic battery as outlined under PC 243(e)(1) is a misdemeanor, while domestic violence is a wobbler outlined under PC 273.5. Also, with domestic battery, no visible bodily injury is necessary to prove the crime. Still, it must be apparent that you sustained physical injuries from the violence or force with domestic violence.

Immigration Consequences

If you are a noncitizen defendant of a domestic violence crime, a sentence for domestic battery can have severe immigration consequences, even when you are in the country legally. Under federal law, domestic battery falls under domestic violence offenses, meaning it is a deportable offense. As an alien, being sentenced for domestic violence will have you deported. Therefore, you must employ an aggressive and profound legal defense team that understands state immigration laws and is willing to fight the charges by all means. If they cannot have the case dismissed, they will win you a reduced charge or sentence that doesn’t involve deportation.

Elements of Domestic Battery

A conviction for domestic battery doesn’t come easily. The prosecutor must prove particular elements of the offense beyond reasonable certainty. These elements are:

  1. You Willingly and Unlawfully Made Contact With Another Individual

The first element the prosecutor must prove in this case is that you touched someone else on purpose and intended to inflict bodily harm and were fully aware that the contact would have detrimental effects on the victim. The prosecutor is not needed to demonstrate a violation of the law, or you caused visible bodily harm to the victim. Instead, they focus on showing that you willingly made physical contact with the victim, aware of the detrimental effects it could cause.

  1. The Contact Was Angry, Offensive, Rude or Violent

Physical touching is necessary to face domestic battery charges. Visible physical injuries are not a must in these cases, leaving the prosecuting team to focus on proving the manner or fashion in which you made physical contact with the victim. The touch must have been aggressive, rude, offensive, or violent. Note that even touching something firmly connected to the accuser, like a hat or purse, is an offense that attracts serious consequences.

The other element of the offense that the prosecuting attorney must prove is that the victim of the battery was an intimate partner, and this was discussed earlier.

Fighting Domestic Battery Charges

When you face allegations of domestic battery, a conviction can cause severe consequences, and this is where your criminal attorney comes in. An attorney can apply multiple defense strategies to challenge the charges. These are:

The Need for Self-Defense Drove Your Action

Your attorney can contest the charges by invoking self-defense or defending someone else as a strategy. For you to argue this defense, the following circumstances must be factual:

  • You were convinced beyond doubt or believed that you or somebody else was in imminent threat of being touched offensively or sustaining bodily harm.
  • You believed that immediate use of reasonable and proportionate force was necessary to repel against the perceived immediate harm.
  • Once you repelled the threat and danger was no more, you stopped the application of force.

You need to demonstrate to the court and the DA that the force you used was reasonable, and once the danger was subdued, you stopped using power. Otherwise, if you continued using force after the threat had been repelled, this defense will not help prove your innocence.

You Lacked the Willingness to Commit the Offense

Remember, for the action you performed to be deemed domestic battery, it must have occurred willingly. With the absence of willfulness to commit the crime, you will face another charge but not for domestic battery. Your attorney can assert that you contacted the victim by accident, but the victim misunderstood your actions as intentional.

You Were Falsely Accused

False accusations are rampant in domestic battery cases. An intimate partner can file a report with the police claiming that you willfully touched them offensively or angrily, whereas you aren’t aware of an incident like that. Most of these cases involving false allegations occur when the victim seeks revenge or wants to gain an advantage in a child custody or divorce case. Individuals who make these allegations are driven mainly by jealousy, vengeance, or anger.

Many innocent people have been convicted for false allegations because they could not prove that the allegations are false. However, with the help of a criminal attorney, you can show the court the truth of the events leading to the claims. The attorney can cite some emotional situations that might have provoked the alleged victim to blame you for the crime unjustly. Also, the attorney can ask the alleged victim questions geared towards proving that the accusations are false.

You Weren’t in a Dating Relationship With the Victim

Even if all the other elements are actual, but you weren’t in a dating relationship or intimate with the victim, you cannot be guilty of domestic battery. The victim of your actions must have been someone you are associated privately with, and there was an assurance of sexual or affectional involvement.

Domestic Battery Related Offenses

There are several crimes related to domestic battery that you can be charged with under domestic violence. The common D.V crimes in Riverside include:

  1. Child Abuse

According to PC 273d, when you cause a child to sustain bodily injuries or punish them without proper spanking, you could be arrested and charged with child abuse. Any physical contact or force that causes a child visible bodily injuries or is deemed cruel is prohibited under this law. And if arrested for the offense, a conviction can result in 12 months in jail or 36 months in state prison if the crime is a felony.

  1. Elder Abuse

California PC 368 makes it an offense to neglect, abuse both physically and emotionally, commit monetary fraud, or endanger the life of a senior citizen aged 65 or older. The charge is a wobbler, meaning you could face misdemeanor or felony charges. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by jail incarceration for twelve months, while a felony conviction attracts forty-eight months of state prison incarceration.

  1. Child Endangerment

Child endangerment is defined under PEN 273 as knowingly or deliberately putting in danger the health and safety of a child under your care or putting them in harm's way. The offense is classified as a misdemeanor, and if convicted, you risk spending at most six months in prison.

  1. Criminal Threats

It is a crime under PC 422 to threaten someone else with the harm that causes loss of life or bodily injury. You would face charges for this crime even if you didn’t plan on making your threats real. The offense is a wobbler, meaning it attracts misdemeanor charges whose sentence attracts no more than one year in county jail. A felony offense, on the other hand, attracts up to forty-eight months in prison.

  1. Aggravated Trespass

The offense of aggravated trespass is highlighted under PEN 601 and can be charged alongside the domestic battery. According to the statute, it is unlawful to threaten bodily injury to another person. Within 30 days of making the threats, access their residence or workplace to make your threats real. Doing so is what is called aggravated trespass.

Based on the circumstances of the case, the prosecutor might choose to file misdemeanor or felony charges. If found guilty for a misdemeanor aggravated trespass, the consequences are:

  • Summary probation
  • A fine of $2,000
  • 12 months in jail

For a felony conviction, the punishment is as follows:

  • Formal probation
  • Sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months in prison
  • No more than ten thousand dollars court fines

If you have been charged with domestic battery, you can plead with the prosecuting attorney to lower the charges to aggravated trespass because the offense carries less social stigma even though the penalties for both crimes are harsh.

When contesting the charges, your attorney can claim that you made a threat, but it wasn’t credible, you were kidding, or when you entered the victim’s property, you intended to apologize and not to act on your threats.

  1. Aggravated Battery

Under PEN 243d, it is unlawful to use force or violence causing serious bodily harm like disfigurement, concussion, loss of consciousness, or fractured bones. The offense is closely connected to domestic battery only that:

  • An aggravated battery offense would hold in court if the accuser suffered serious bodily harm.
  • You can face aggravated battery charges even when an intimate relationship doesn’t exist between you and the victim.

Note that it’s easy to confuse between great bodily injury (GBI) and serious bodily harm. A GBI under PC 12022.7 refers to:

  • A prolonged consciousness loss
  • Wounds that need extensive stitching to heal
  • A lengthy impairment of a body part or organ function
  • Severe concussion
  • Severe bodily pain stemming from torture

Sometimes, if your case involves domestic violence, the prosecutor might opt to charge you with PC 243d violation instead of domestic battery if the accuser suffered visible and serious bodily harm from your action.

PEN 243d is also a wobbler that results in one year in jail when it’s a misdemeanor or no more than four years as a felony.

  1. Corporal Injury on a Spouse

According to PC 273.5, it is a crime to willingly cause physical injury to an intimate partner like a spouse, your child’s biological parent, or cohabitant, resulting in a traumatic condition. For the victim to file these charges, they must prove that they suffered a traumatic disorder in the form of a physical injury or wound resulting from the application of physical force or violence. A traumatic situation is linked to your use of physical force if:

  • The traumatic condition was the natural and likely source of the injury
  • The harm was the immediate cause of the traumatic state
  • You couldn’t have suffered the traumatic situation were it not for the injury

And because the offense is a wobbler, it can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor sentence results in the following ramifications:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • A court fine at most $6,000

The punishment for a felony conviction is punishable by:

  • As much as $6,000 court fines
  • Up to 48 months in prison
  1. Disturbing the Peace

According to PEN 415, when you fight or demand another person for a fight in public, make annoying noise wilfully and maliciously to worry the public, use rude or angry words to provoke someone else amounts to disturbing peace. For instance, if you argue with the neighbor next door then return to the house and play loud music, you could be charged with disturbing the peace.

The offense is typically filed as a misdemeanor or sometimes an infraction, thus attracting lesser penalties like:

  • Three months jail custody
  • A court fine of as much as $400
  • Both court fines and jail

To avoid the punishment, you can claim through your attorney that the charges are based on false allegations, you lacked criminal intent, or your actions were legal.

If your charge is domestic battery, you can have your attorney negotiate with the prosecutor during plea bargaining to have the offense reduced to PC 415 violation. Compared to domestic battery, PEN 415 violation attracts fewer consequences because you won’t face immigration consequences. Also, you beat the stigma and criminal record that comes with domestic battery conviction.

  1. Child Neglect

Another offense related to domestic battery under domestic violence crimes is child neglect. The offense is outlined as per PEN 270 as deliberately failing to perform your responsibilities of providing for the needs of a minor. Parents have a legal obligation to provide food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care to their kids. If you fail in performing these duties whereas you can do so, you can face arrest and charges for child neglect.

These cases are commonly charged alongside domestic battery where one parent of the child is failing in their duties. If the other parent tries to confront the negligent one, this could result in allegations of domestic battery as retaliation for child neglect accusations.

A PC 270 violation is a misdemeanor whose court-imposed fines don’t surpass $2,000 or a jail sentence of as much as one year.

  1. Destroying a Telephone Line

PEN 591 makes it an offense to damage or cut a telephone line or equipment. These cases occur when intimate partners argue, and one of them disconnects a telephone line to prevent the other from making calls. The offense can be filed as a felony or misdemeanor where the punishment for a felony is up to 36 months in prison or court fines amounting to $10,000.

Find an Experience Domestic Violence Attorney Near Me

If a simple disagreement between you and your intimate partner results in rude or angry bodily touch, you could face stigma and criminal history if the court finds you guilty of domestic battery. Therefore, you should immediately reach out to Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm at 951-946-6366 if you face these charges. We are willing to evaluate your matter and advise accordingly.