Domestic battery is a criminal offense under California Penal Code 234(e)(1). Under the law, the court can find you guilty of the charge if you commit the act against an intimate partner. Under the statute, an intimate partner includes your current or former spouse, a person you have a romantic relationship with, either current or past, and a person with whom you have a child. The law also considers a person you are cohabiting with and are not related to as an intimate partner. 

In California, domestic battery is a misdemeanor. If the court finds you guilty of the offense, the judge can sentence you to a maximum jail term of one year or charge you a maximum fine of $2000 or both. The judge can also sentence you to three-year probation instead of a jail term. However, the prosecution must prove various elements of the crime before the court finds you liable for the crime. Fortunately, you can present several defenses to prove your innocence.

Do you or someone you know face domestic violence charges? If so, you should use the services of a criminal attorney with vast experience in handling domestic battery cases. At Koenig Law Office, we have over 20 years of experience representing clients facing domestic battery charges. We are dedicated to helping you achieve a favorable outcome in your case. Give us a call today, and let us help you fight these charges. 

Understanding Domestic Battery According To California Law

Under California law, domestic battery entails committing battery against a person you have an intimate relationship. The law defines an intimate partner as your current or former spouse, your current or former cohabitant, your current or former fiancé, a person you are currently or previously dating, and the parent of your child. The law also considers a person with whom you are cohabiting as an intimate partner. It does not matter if you cohabitate with one person or several people. Under California law, your relationship can either be heterosexual or homosexual. 

What the Prosecutor Needs to Prove

The prosecution has to prove various facts for the court to find you guilty of the offense. The elements of the crime are facts of the crime the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution has to prove you committed the offense willfully, you did not act in your defense or the defense of others, and you touched the victim offensively.

  • You Understood What Willful Means Under Penal Code 234(e)(1)

The prosecution has to prove you did not commit the offense by accident. They have to prove you willfully battered your intimate partner. Under the statute, the term willful means you acted intentionally and on purpose. Therefore, the court cannot find you liable for the crime if the prosecution does not prove beyond reasonable doubt that you acted willfully. 

  • You Used Force While Committing the Offense

The prosecution must also prove you used force while committing the offense. Use of force under the statute means you physically touch the victim. The judge can find you liable for the offense even if the touch was minimal and did not cause any injury. The prosecutor needs only to prove you touched the victim angrily or offensively. The court can also find you liable for the charge if you touch the victim through an object. For example, you throw a table plate that hits your partner during an argument. Remember, the object does not have to cause injury. 

  • You Were Not Defending Yourself Or Others

The prosecution also has to prove you did not act in self-defense or the defense of others. In California, you can use appropriate force to stop an attack on yourself or others. Therefore, the court cannot find you guilty if the prosecution does not prove you were not protecting yourself or your loved ones. 

Defenses to Domestic Battery Charges 

You can present various defenses in California against domestic battery charges. You can state that your actions were not intentional. You can also state that you acted in self-defense or the defense of other people from what you believed was imminent danger. You can also state the accusations are false. Below are the various defenses you can present in court. 

  • You Were Acting In Your Defense Or The Defense Of Others

You can state that you were acting in your defense or the defense of others. However, you have to prove you believed you or the people you were protecting were in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm. Nonetheless, the force you use to defend yourself should be proportional to the threat. You should not use excessive force to stop the attack or threat. If you subdue the threat and continue using force against the attacker, the court may charge you with committing a crime. 

  • The Incident Was An Accident

You can also state you did not intend to commit domestic battery, and the incident was an accident. The prosecution can only charge you with the offense if you commit it willfully. Therefore, you can state it was not your intention to commit the crime. If your lawyer can convince the court the incident was an accident, the court will not convict you of domestic violence. 

  • False Allegations 

You can also state the allegations are not true. Unfortunately, intimate partners become spiteful after a breakup or when one cheats. Therefore, the hurt party may seek revenge by falsely accusing you of domestic battery. If your lawyer can prove the allegations are false, the court cannot find you guilty of the charge. 

Penalties For Domestic Battery In California

California law classifies domestic battery as a misdemeanor. If the court finds you guilty of the offense, the judge can sentence you to a maximum jail term of a year. The judge can also charge you a maximum fine of $2,000 or sentence you to both the jail term and charge you the fine. Instead of serving your jail term, the court can also sentence you to three years of misdemeanor probation. 

If the court sentences you to probation, you must attend a fifty-two-week batterer intervention program. You must attend the sessions without fail. The meetings take place for two hours every week.  You must also complete the program. If you fail to complete the batterer's intervention program, the judge can issue an arrest warrant. The court can also revoke your probation, and you will have to pay the fine or serve time in jail. The court will also require you to pay restitution of at least $5,000 to the victim. 

If you have a prior conviction of contravening penal section 234e1, you will spend at least 48 hours in jail.  In most cases, the judge will also issue a restraining order to protect the victim against further harassment from you as the perpetrator of domestic battery.

  • What Domestic Violence Restraining Order Mean Under California Law

Remember, domestic battery is part of California's broader domestic violence offense. Therefore, the judge will issue a domestic violence restraining order. The order makes it a criminal offense to contact the victim. Under California law, the judge will issue a restraining order to protect the victim from threats, harassment, or other attacks you might instigate against the victim. If you violate the restraining order, the court can charge you with a crime under penal code 273.6. If you violate the terms and conditions of the restraining order, the court could send you to county jail for a maximum of one year.

In California, the authorities can issue three types of protection orders. Depending on the case's circumstance, they can give an emergency protection order, a temporary restraining order, or a permanent restraining order. An emergency protection order lasts for thirty days, a temporary restraining order lasts for ninety days, and a permanent restraining order lasts for ninety days. 

In California, the police issue emergency protection orders. Previously, the order used to remain in effect for seven days. However, the time has been extended to thirty days. The police issue the protection order if the victim is in immediate danger of domestic battery. The authorities can also issue temporary restraining orders. Previously, the order remained in effect for twenty to twenty-five days. However, the duration has been extended to ninety days. The authorities issue a temporary restraining order before a judge determines the domestic battery case. Or before the prosecution sets a court date for the domestic battery case hearing.  

The authorities can also issue permanent restraining orders. Under California law, permanent restraining orders are long-term. The court issues this type of order once they conduct a hearing on the case. If the judge determines the victim needs long-term protection, they will order a permanent restraining order that can remain for five years. 

The conditions of a restraining order depend on the specific case. However, all restraining orders forbid you from having any contact with the victim. Under the law, contact means personal contact, any electronic contact through email, text messages, phone calls, or social media. Some orders also have additional conditions. These conditions include giving up any guns you own, you should pay for child support, you have to return specific property, and you have to attend a 52-week batterer's program. 

Under the law, the victim does not have to show they suffered any physical harm for the judge to issue the restraining order.   The victim only needs to prove you are committing domestic violence and that you are an intimate partner. It is a criminal offense to violate the conditions of a stay-away order restraining order and a protective order.

Can The Prosecutor Charge You With The Offense Even If You Do Not Cause Injury To The Victim?

Under California law, the prosecution can charge you with domestic battery even if you do not cause injury to the victim. The prosecution only needs to prove you touched the victim to charge you with domestic battery, unlike corporal injury. The prosecution can charge you with the offense even if you touch the victim's clothing or touch them through an object, for example, using a stick or rod to beat the victim. The prosecution only needs to prove you touched the victim angrily or offensively, even if the contact was minimal.  

Example: James and Joan are in a relationship. One day, Joan and James engage in a heated argument. James pushes Joan with his shoulder during the argument, but Joan does not move or suffer an injury. Joan could sue James for domestic battery in such a case, although she did not suffer any injury. The act of James touching Joan angrily or offensively is enough grounds for the prosecution to charge James with contravening penal code section 231e1. 

The Difference Between Domestic Violence And Domestic Battery 

In California, domestic violence is broader as it encompasses other forms of domestic abuse, including psychological abuse, financial abuse, corporal injury, and spousal abuse. Under California law, domestic battery is always charged as a misdemeanor. On the other hand, domestic violence can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. Additionally, the prosecution can charge you with domestic battery even If you do not cause any injury to the victim. However, for various domestic violence charges, including corporal injury, you must cause injury to the victim for the court to charge you with the offense. 

The Difference Between Corporal Injury And Domestic Violence

Under the law, the prosecutor will charge you with corporal injury against your spouse if you cause injury to the victim. The charge only applies to your former spouse, your current or former cohabitant, or the father or mother of your child. Unlike domestic battery, you cannot sue a person you used to date for corporal injury. Unlike a domestic battery act, the prosecution also has to prove you caused a traumatic injury to charge you with corporal injury. The law defines a traumatic injury as any physical injury to the victim. It does not matter the seriousness of the injury. 

Does The Law Classify Domestic Battery As A Felony Or A Misdemeanor In California?

Under California law, domestic battery is charged as a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor charge is less severe than a felony. However, the charge will hurt your life. 

Does The Offense Affect Your Immigration Status?

Some offenses in California have negative immigration consequences, while others will not affect your immigration status. Under California law, domestic battery is not a deportable offense. Therefore, even if the court finds you guilty of the crime, you will not be deported. The authorities will also not mark you as inadmissible. 

Does A Domestic Violence Offense Stay Permanently On Your Criminal Record In California? 

Under the law, the court can expunge your domestic battery charges from your criminal record. However, you have to complete your jail term or probation depending on the penalty the judge passes. Expungement of the crime from your criminal record means changing your guilty plea or non-contest plea to a not guilty plea. Once the offense is expunged from your criminal record, employers will not see the domestic battery charge on your record even if they conduct a background check.

Does A Domestic Battery Charge Affect Your Gun Rights In California?

In California, a conviction of domestic battery will affect your gun rights. If the court charges you with the crime, you cannot own or possess a gun for the next ten years. Therefore, even if the court expunges the crime from your record, you cannot own a gun until the ten years are over. Under California penal code 29805, domestic battery is classified as a crime that warrants the ban of your gun rights. 

What If The Person Who Accused You Of The Crime No Longer Wants To Press Charges?

The victim may decide to recant their accusations and claim that you did not commit the offense in some cases. However, the prosecution will not withdraw the case for various reasons. The prosecution will proceed with the charges leveled against you and continue with the criminal case. The prosecution proceeds with the case because they presume you convinced the victim to drop the charge in one way or another. The prosecution will assume you threatened the victim or coerced them into dropping the charges. 

Call A Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Domestic battery charges can significantly impact your personal and professional life. If the court finds you guilty of the offense, the judge can charge you hefty fines, send you to mandatory battery classes, or worse still, send you to prison. At Koenig Law Office, we specialize in domestic violence-related charges. We have a wealth of experience representing clients charged with domestic battery offenses in Bakersfield, California. Therefore, our lawyers know how to present a solid defense strategy to help you fight the charges. We present your case as it is and use different defense strategies. Therefore, if you face domestic battery charges, do not hesitate to contact us at 661-793-7222 for a free consultation.