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Domestic Battery Laws in California – Penal Code 243(e)(1)

Posted by Philip Israels | Aug 12, 2019

Domestic battery is described in California Penal Code Section 243(e)(1), and is often referred to as “spousal battery.” In Los Angeles County criminal courts, domestic battery is one of the most common charges filed in a domestic violence related incident.

This crime is generally described as willful and unlawful offensive touching on someone that is your current or former spouse, cohabitant, someone of a dating relationship, or parent of your child.

Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery charges does not require the alleged victim to sustain an injury. Rather, you only have to use some type of force or violence. If the victim suffered any injury, it could be filed under California Penal Code 273.5, corporal injury to spouse.

A common domestic battery crime occurs when a husband and wife become involved in a verbal argument and he ends up grabbing her wrist or pushing her away. This example satisfies the definition of a domestic battery offense due to the fact he used force that could be considered offensive touching, even though she was not injured.  

This example also illustrates how a family disagreement can quickly turn in to a criminal charge of domestic battery in violation of Penal Code 243(e)(1).

If you have been accused of domestic battery, you should consult with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Cron, Israels & Stark.

We have a track record of success defending our clients against any type of domestic violence related charges and know the best defenses. Our criminal defense lawyers provide an overview of California domestic battery laws below.

Legal Definition of California Domestic Battery – PC 243(e)(1)

In California, Penal Code 243(e)(1) defines the misdemeanor crime of domestic battery:

  • When battery is committed against a spouse, cohabitant, fiancé, person with a current or past dating relationship, parent of the defendant's child, it's punishable by up to one year in county jail, a fine up to $2,000 or both.

If you are granted probation, the sentence will be suspended and you will be required to attend a one-year batterer's treatment program, described in Penal Code 1203.097 PC. This would be a condition of your probation. The court could also order you to participate in another counseling program.

To be convicted of domestic battery under Penal Code 243(e)(1), the prosecutor has to prove – beyond any reasonable doubt – all the elements of the crime listed in CALCRIM 841 that you:

  • Willfully and unlawfully touched someone;
  • In a harmful or offensive manner; and
  • The victim was your current or former intimate partner, and
  • You were not acting in self-defense

The term “willfully” means your act was on purpose – not an accident. “Harmful or offensive” touching is anything that is disrespectful or done out of anger.  Again, it's important to note the touching does not have to cause an injury, or even any type of pain.

A false imprisonment charge can be filed against you in a situation where you unlawfully deprive someone of their personal liberty. This essentially means intentionally detaining another person without a legal right to do so, and they aren't allowed to leave when they want to. There are certain situations when the prosecutor could be open to a reduced charge for domestic violence through plea negotiations.

What are the Legal Penalties PC 243(e)(1)?

If convicted of the misdemeanor domestic battery in violation of California Penal Code Section 243(e), you are facing the following legal penalties:

  • Up to one year in a county jail
  • A fine up to $2,000
  • Misdemeanor summary probation

As stated above, if you are granted probation, you will receive a “suspended sentence” and be order to complete a 52 week batterers' treatment program. 

You might also be ordered to pay a battered woman's shelter and expenses the victim had to pay due to your crime, commonly known as victim restitution. If you are not a legal immigrant, a domestic battery conviction might lead to deportation due to the fact it's a deportable crime under federal immigration laws.

Related Offenses for California Domestic Battery – PC 243(e)(1)

There are a wide range of California criminal offenses that are often associated with Penal Code 243(e)(1), including:

Penal Code 136.1 – Intimidating a Witness
Penal Code Section 242 – Battery
Penal Code Section 243(d) – Aggravated Battery
Penal Code Section 273.5 – corporal injury to a spouse
Penal Code Section 273.6 – Violating a Protective Order
Penal Code Section 368 – Elder Abuse
Penal Code Section 415 – Disturbing the Peace
Penal Code Section 422 – Criminal Threats
Penal Code Section 601 – Aggravated Trespassing
Penal Code Section 646.9 – Stalking
Penal Code Section 653m – making annoying phone calls
Penal Code Section 602 – Trespassing

Defenses for California Domestic Battery Charges

The common legal defenses that are used for domestic battery charges include the following:

Self-defense or defense of others – This legal defense could be used if you had a reasonable belief you were in danger of suffering bodily injury, you only used the force necessary against the danger, and you didn't use more force than necessary to defend yourself.  In simple terms, you were only protecting yourself or someone else.

Touching was not willful – It might be possible to make an argument the touching on the alleged victim was not willful, or on purpose, but an accident. The primary element of the crime is crucial and a prosecutor won't be able to convict unless they can show it was willful touching.  This is the accident as a legal defense argument.

False allegation – There are false domestic battery accusations on a daily basis. Most often, these are the result of jealously, anger, or revenge from a disgruntled spouse.

Retain a Defense Lawyer for Help 

If you have been accused of domestic in violation of California Penal Code Section 243(e)(1), you need to retain a criminal defense attorney immediately. A conviction will have a severe negative impact on your life for many years.

An highly skilled criminal defense lawyer at our firm has a track record of success and will aggressively work to obtain the best possible outcome on your case.

The experience of your attorney can't be overstated as we know the common mistakes made by a prosecutor and will be able to use our knowledge on your behalf. We need to first review all the details of your case in order to develop an effective defense strategy. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.

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About the Author

Philip Israels

Phil Israels was raised in California's Central Valley where he still has family. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley where he was a member for Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and studied Economics, he continued his education...

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