If you are facing charges for domestic battery in Sacramento, California, you may be wondering what to expect. Domestic battery is a serious crime, and the consequences can be severe. You could serve time in jail or lengthy prison sentences, pay hefty fines, be deported, or have your gun rights withdrawn. However, with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you may be able to reduce your charges or even have them dropped.
In this article, you learn about domestic battery in California and your options if you are charged with this crime. Also, you learn helpful tips on how to protect yourself during the criminal process. So, if you face domestic battery charges in California, contact us today to assess the facts surrounding your case and build strong defenses. We would be happy to provide more information and advice specific to your situation.
How does California law define the crime of domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1)?
Before the court can convict you of domestic battery in California, the prosecutor must prove that you:
Willfully and unlawfully touched someone else in a harmful or offensive manner.
Your victim was your intimate partner, relative, or someone else with whom you have a close relationship.
You were not acting in self-defense or defending someone else.
Under California law, willfully means touching someone in a harmful or offensive manner. Also, the term “willfully” means that you acted on purpose. It does not matter whether you intended to hurt your victim or not. The prosecution only needs to prove that you touched the victim in a harmful or offensive way.
Harmful and Offensive Touching
The terms “harmful or offensive” mean that the touching was done in a way that would likely result in physical injury to your victim. It does not matter whether the victim was injured. The law only needs the prosecutor to show that you touched someone else in an offensive or harmful manner. A slight touch done angrily or rudely could be enough for the court to convict you with domestic battery.
Example: Tabitha and Kelvin are dating. An argument erupts between the two lovers, and out of anger, Kelvin pushes Tabitha. Because Tabitha is bigger, she barely moves; hence, she sustains no injuries.
The prosecution could charge Kelvin with domestic battery. Even if Kelvin’s act did not phase Tabitha, he touched her violently and angrily. Also, the court could convict Kelvin if he touched Tabitha indirectly.
Indirect touching could include touching someone else or an object and the individual or object touching the plaintiff.
Example: Stephanie and Derrick are married and living in Sacramento. When having fun at a park, they begin arguing. Derrick lunges at Stephanie, but he does not touch her. When he is lunging, he touches another visitor who pushes Stephanie.
Although Derrick did not touch Stephanie, he could face domestic battery charges because he made someone else push Stephanie. Still, Derrick is guilty of the offense even though Stepahine did not sustain an injury or only experience a slight touch.
An Intimate partner
An “intimate partner” could be a family member or another person you have a close relationship with. The term “intimate partner” includes current or former spouses, current or former registered domestic partners, cohabitants, and dating or engagement partners. “family member” includes children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The term “close relationship” includes anyone else with whom you have a close familial or intimate relationship. The term “cohabitants' ' means when you live with someone you are not related to for a certain period, and permanency is built upon the relationship. Note that you could cohabit with two or even more persons at a go.
Possible Penalties For Domestic Battery In California
If you are convicted of domestic battery in California, the penalties can be severe. The consequences will depend on your case's facts and your criminal history.
First offense domestic battery. For a first offense of domestic battery, the court could sentence you up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
Second offense domestic battery. For a second offense of domestic battery, the court could sentence you to two, three, or four years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Third or subsequent offense domestic battery. For a third or subsequent offense of domestic battery, the court could sentence you to three, five, or seven years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
In addition to the penalties mentioned above, you are required to complete a batterer’s treatment program if you are convicted of domestic battery.
Helpful Tips On How To Protect Yourself During The Criminal Process
If you have been charged with domestic battery, there are some things you can do to protect yourself during the criminal process. These include:
Do not talk to the police without an attorney present. Under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, you have the right to remain silent when facing arrest. The constitution protects you from being forced to become a witness against yourself in a criminal case. You do not have to answer questions the police ask you during interrogation or even before arrest.
Do not discuss your case with anyone other than your attorney. The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution protects you from testifying at your trial. You could choose to testify, but the law suggests that the court cannot treat your decision not to testify as evidence of your guilt or use it against you when making a verdict.
Do not post anything about your case on social media. Evidence is paramount to any case in court. Lawyers are skilled in finding your social media posts and using them to argue against you in court. The prosecution could misinterpret and use against you what you post on your social media pages. You want to avoid social media when facing charges, even if you have nothing to hide.
Do not contact the victim or any witnesses. Even though the law does not prohibit you from talking to your victim or witnesses testifying against you, talking only makes the charges against you stronger for the prosecutor. Talking to a plaintiff hurts your case and provides the prosecutor with additional evidence.
Be polite and respectful to everyone involved in your case, including the judge, prosecutors, and police officers.
Defense Options If Charged With Domestic Battery In California
If you are charged with domestic battery in California, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you and the possible penalties. An attorney can also help you protect your rights and defend your case.
There are several legal defense strategies that can be used in domestic battery cases. The best strategy will depend on the facts of your case. Some common defenses include:
Defense Of Others
California law allows you to use reasonable force to defend someone else who is an assault victim. If you reasonably believed that someone else was in imminent danger of being harmed, you may have been justified using force to defend them.
Discrediting the prosecution’s evidence could hurt their case. Your lawyer could help you do that in many ways. You may be acquitted if the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. You could also present an alibi claiming that you were elsewhere during the crime commissions and could not have committed it from far.
Your attorney could also argue that physical evidence does not exist and could also doubt the prosecution’s case. The court usually needs to see both circumstantial and physical evidence. However, your attorney could investigate to find loopholes in your case, for example, faulty police investigations.
You Acted in Self-Defense
If you reasonably believed that you or someone else was in imminent danger of being harmed, you may have been justified in using force to defend yourself. However, this defense strategy works only if you:
Believed that you were in “imminent danger.”
Reasonably believed that force was necessary to avert the impending danger.
You used an appropriate level of force in defense.
You could also argue that you did everything reasonably within the legal limits to avoid physical contact before resulting in using force, and you never used excessive force when defending yourself.
No Willful Act
The court can only convict you if the prosecution proves that you touched your victim on purpose. If you did not willfully act to cause harm, you could not be convicted of domestic battery. So it is a defense when your attorney argues that any force or contact with the plaintiff occurred by accident.
Example: Joab and Jane are lovers in Sacramento. A heated argument stems between the two one night, and Joab grabs a glass jar and hurls it across the room out of anger. The jar shatters, and pieces of glass hurt Jane.
Even if Jane sustained injuries in the incident, Joab could defend against any domestic battery charges that the prosecution could bring. The court could dismiss or lower charges against Joab because he did not “willfully” touch Jane. Also, Joab did not intend to touch peter.
Consent is among the best defenses to a domestic violence charge in California. If you could prove that the victim consented to the touching, the court cannot convict you of domestic battery. Many domestic violence crimes involve two intimate partners or relatives. Many cases involve evidence coming from one person’s words versus another one’s concerning what happened in private between them. You cannot be convicted of domestic battery if you reasonably believe that the victim consented to the touching.
Mistake Of Fact
“Mistake of fact” is a legal defense that you could invoke to challenge a domestic battery charge. Your lawyer could argue that you did not intend to commit a crime because you misunderstood a certain fact. For instance, you could use the defense to challenge a domestic battery charge by showing that you made a mistake and had a reasonable belief that your partner consented to touch them.
Unfortunately, innocent people are wrongly arrested and charged with domestic violence daily. Often than not, plaintiffs falsely accuse others due to:
Desire to revenge
At times emotional situations could occur between spouses or intimate partners. These emotions could make your partner unjustly blame you for domestic battery. If you have been falsely accused of domestic battery, you can present evidence to show that you did not commit the crime.
If the plaintiff claims that you are liable for domestic battery, you could prove your innocence using different ways. Your defense attorney could present evidence that you were not close to the scene of the said incident or have an alibi, as explained above.
Is Domestic Battery a Felony in California?
In California, the crime of domestic battery is a misdemeanor. If found guilty, possible punishment includes:
Serving time in jail for a maximum of one year.
A $2000 maximum fine.
The court could award you with misdemeanor or summary probation in the place of jail time. If the court grants you probation, you must complete:
A battery’s intervention program
Another appropriate counseling program if the intervention program is not available.
The court could also issue a protective or restraining order to prevent you from harming, harassing, or threatening the plaintiff.
Consequences For Non-Citizens
A conviction for a domestic battery charge alone should not bring severe immigration consequences. Domestic battery is not a deportable domestic violence crime. Therefore, upon conviction for a PC 243(e)(1), the immigration department should not mark you as inadmissible or deport you.
How Long Does Domestic Violence Stay On Your Record In California?
A domestic violence conviction will stay on your record forever. This can make it difficult to find a job, housing, or attain a professional license. However, you could have your crime in your criminal record expunged if you complete a jail term or probation.
Effects of a Domestic Battery Conviction on Your Gun Rights
A domestic battery conviction will result in a loss of gun rights. If you are guilty of a PC 243(e)(1) violation in California, you could face a 10-year ban on possessing or owning a gun. California Penal Code 29805 is the statute that imposes the gun ownership ban.
What if the accuser wants to drop the charges?
The accuser cannot drop the charges. Only the prosecutor can decide to drop the charges. The accuser may convince the prosecutor to drop the charges, but this is not guaranteed.
Related Offenses to Domestic Battery
Many offenses are related to domestic battery. These offenses are those the prosecution could charge you together with or in the place of domestic battery, and they include:
Child Abuse, Penal Code 273(d)
Penal Code 273d PC is the California statute that makes it a crime to abuse a child physically. The definition of “child” for this statute is a person under the age of 18. Child abuse could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case.
Misdemeanor child abuse attracts punishment of up to one year in county jail and a fine not exceeding $6,000. Felony child abuse is punishable by two, four, or six years in state prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Criminal Threats, Penal Code 422
Penal Code 422 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of “criminal threats.” A criminal threat occurs when:
You willfully threatened to commit a crime that will result in death or serious physical injury to another person.
The specific intent of the statement, made verbally, in writing, or using an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out.
The threatened person is thereby placed in sustained fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.
“Great bodily injury” means a significant physical injury.
A criminal threat is punishable by up to three years in county jail and a fine of up to $10,000. If the threatened person is a “specified victim,” then the crime can be charged as a felony, punishable by four, five, or six years in state prison.
Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant, Penal Code 273.5
Penal Code 273.5 PC is the California statute prohibiting corporate injury to a spouse or cohabitant. A conviction is punishable by two, three, or four years in state prison. The crime of corporal injury requires proof that:
The defendant inflicted a “corporal injury” on a victim.
The defendant did so willfully.
When the defendant inflicted the injury, they were aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the victim was a “spouse, cohabitant, or former spouse or cohabitant.”
A “corporal injury” is an injury that involves a physical wound or damage to the body. Willfully, in this context, means on purpose and not by accident.
A “spouse” is a person to whom the defendant is currently married. A “cohabitant” is a person with whom the defendant currently lives or used to live. A “former spouse or cohabitant” is a person that the defendant used to be married to or live with.
Aggravated Battery, Penal Code 243(d)
Penal Code 243 (d) PC is the California statute that defines the crime of aggravated battery. This occurs when a person unlawfully uses force or violence against another and thereby causes great bodily injury.
Great bodily injury means a significant physical injury. The crime of aggravated battery is punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If you face domestic violence charges, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you and the possible penalties. An attorney can also help you protect your rights and defend your case.
Elder abuse, Penal Code 368
Penal Code 368 PC is the California statute that makes elder abuse a crime. Elder abuse occurs when a person:
Willfully makes or allows any dependent adult or elder to suffer.
Causes physical pain or mental suffering.
Having the care or custody of any dependent adult or elder willfully allows or causes the person or health of the elder or dependent adult to dwindle.
Willfully allows you to make the dependent adult or elder in a situation where their person or health is injured.
“Elder” is defined as a person who is 65 years of age or older. “Dependent adult” is defined as a person between 18 and 64 years of age who suffers from physical or mental conditions that restrict their ability to carry out normal activities or protect their rights.
Elder abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. Misdemeanor elder abuse is punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine not exceeding $6,000. Possible penalties for felony elder abuse include two, four, or six years in state prison and a fine not exceeding $10,000.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or someone you know has been accused of domestic battery in Sacramento, California, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Domestic battery is a serious crime that attracts harsh penalties, including jail time, imprisonment, and paying hefty fines. Your criminal defense lawyer can help you build a solid defense to fight the charge and protect your rights. At Foos Gavin Law Firm, we defend suspects and have their domestic battery charges reduced or dismissed in court. Don’t wait – contact us today for a free consultation at 916-779-3500.