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Practices - Domestic Battery/Spousal Battery

California PC 243(e)(1) - "Domestic Battery" or "Spousal Battery"

CA Penal Code 243(e)(1) is commonly referred to as “domestic battery” or “spousal battery”. It is the most common misdemeanor domestic violence charge in California. In this section, the domestic violence attorneys from the Law Offices of Pereira & Moffatt will explain what a “domestic battery” is under Penal Code 243(e)(1), how our domestic violence attorneys can help you defend against these charges, and what the consequences of a conviction might be.

Elements of the Crime – CA Penal Code 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery
Battery is a crime under Penal Code 242. A battery is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another”. Penal Code 243(e)(1) makes it a specific crime to commit a battery against an “intimate partner”.

What is “willful”?
“Willful” means that the act was done on purpose, or with intent. It does not mean that you intended to harm your “intimate partner” or commit a crime, simply that you intended to make any unwanted or unlawful physical contact.

What is “force or violence”?
Any unwanted physical contact is considered “force or violence” under PC 243(e)(1) domestic battery. No actual injury is required, only that even a slight physical contact was made out of anger or disrespect.

What is “upon the person”?
A 243(e)(1) domestic battery can occur when physical contact is made with the skin, clothing, or something “attached or closely connected” to a person. This can include a purse, hat, or other physical object. Punching someone, grabbing their shirt, or knocking an object out of their hand are all considered physical contact “upon the person”.

What is an “intimate partner”?
For purposes of domestic violence laws, an “intimate partner” can be many things:

  1. Your current or former spouse
  2. Your fiancé or fiancée
  3. The parent of your child
  4. Your homosexual partner
  5. Any person with which you have or had a dating relationship

How is 243(e)(1) “Domestic Battery” difference from 273.5 “Corporal Injury” or 243(d) “Aggravated Battery”?
Of the California domestic violence laws, 243(e)(1) domestic battery is the least serious. It is always charged as a misdemeanor.

When you create an unwanted physical contact with your spouse or domestic partner in California, the prosecutor’s office can file charges against you under one of the three following statutes:

  1. 243(e)(1) “Domestic Battery”
  2. 243(d) “Aggravated Battery”
  3. 273.5 Corporal Injury on a Spouse, Cohabitant, or Fellow Parent

Penal Code 243(d) “Aggravated Battery” is a “wobbler”. This means that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. The prosecutor will consider the circumstances of the crime, the injuries sustained, and your criminal history when determining whether to file charges as a misdemeanor or felony. Under this statute, the accuser must sustain a “serious bodily injury” meaning broken bones, a concussion, or an injury requiring stitches.

Also, the accuser can be anyone, not just an “intimate partner”. Because of this, 243(d) “Aggravated Battery” is a crime which is not specifically a “domestic violence” crime. However, if your accuser is an “intimate partner” as described above, this crime can be classified as a “domestic violence” crime for purposes of deportation of non-citizens. If the prosecutor wants to file felony charges against you, but your accuser doesn’t qualify as an “intimate partner” under Penal Code 273.5, this is the charge they would file.

Penal Code 273.5 “Corporal Injury” is also a “wobbler”. You commit this crime if you willfully inflict a corporal or “bodily” injury upon a:

  1. Current or former spouse
  2. Someone with whom you live or lived, or
  3. The parent of your child.

This domestic violence law differs from the other two in that it requires a “traumatic condition”, and it limits the definition of an “intimate partner” more so than 243(e)(1).

If the prosecutor cannot prove the elements of 243(e)(1), can I still be charged with a crime?
Yes. The crimes of CA Penal Code 240 – Assault and CA Penal Code 242 – Battery, they are in their own sections, not under domestic violence are lesser included offenses of CA Penal Code 243(e)(1) “Domestic Battery”. A “lesser included offense” is a less serious crime where the elements necessary for a conviction are contained within the elements of a more serious crime. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you are guilty of 243(e)(1) “Domestic Battery”, you may be charged with “simple assault” and “simple battery”.

How can the domestic violence attorneys from the Law Offices of Pereira & Moffatt fight my 243(e)(1) domestic violence charge?
Our domestic violence attorneys can fight your 243(e)(1) charge in several ways. Let’s take a look at a few common defenses:

  1. Self defense. 243(e)(1) charges of domestic violence can be difficult for the district attorney to prove. When you have a reasonable belief that you or someone else will suffer serious harm if you don’t fight back, self-defense law may apply. In this situation, the defendant’s actions are excused under self-defense.
  2. Accident. “It was an accident” is a defense to many California crimes, including 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery. Accidentally physically touching someone is not a crime. When there is no will or purpose to create an unwanted or harmful physical contact, there is no crime.
  3. False accusations. The accusations against you must be true to be convicted of CA Penal Code 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery. Unfortunately, these situations arise from very passionate arguments, where people tend to exaggerate or make up stories out of anger.

    A spouse may lie and say that she wasn’t hitting the defendant, when in fact she was and the defendant hit back out of self-defense. She may make up stories when the police arrive to gain the upper hand, resulting in the defendant being falsely arrested and charged with domestic violence.

    At the Law Offices of Pereira & Moffatt, we will ask questions and investigate your case to find information and statements which will help show the prosecutor that you were falsely accused of CA Penal Code 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery.

What sort of penalties am I facing if I am convicted of PC 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery?

If you are convicted of 243(e)(1), you may face the following penalties:

  1. Up to 1 year in county jail;
  2. Up to a $2,000 fine;
  3. Informal or “summary” probation for up to 3 years.

If probation is granted, which is typical, the court will require you to complete a minimum 1-year Batterer’s Program. The court may also require, in lieu of a $2,000 fine,

  1. You pay a maximum of $5,000 to a Battered Women’s Shelter, and/or
  2. You pay restitution to the accuser for reasonably incurred expenses as a result of this crime, including medical expenses.

I am a gun owner. Can a conviction for CA Penal Code 243(e)(1) affect my right to own a gun?
Yes. You may be prohibited from owning, possessing, purchasing, or receiving a firearm for 10 years if convicted of PC 243(e)(1) Corporal Injury. Click here for more information on “How A Conviction Can Affect Your Gun Rights”

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