Disagreements between couples are nothing new. At times it can get a little heated, and force may be used against an intimate partner. This action could land you in trouble as it violates Penal Code 243(e)(1). It is enough to be charged and convicted of domestic battery under Penal Code 243(e)(1), even without inflicting pain or injury to your intimate partner. A conviction could see you serving time behind bars, and as with any other crime, a criminal record. Thus your employability, ability to secure credit, and enjoy low insurance rates will be adversely affected. That is why you need to hire legal representation. Attorneys at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney have the experience needed to fight domestic battery charges. We aim to have the charges reduced, if not dismissed entirely.
Understanding Domestic Battery
Domestic battery is a category of domestic violence. Even if it did not result in pain or injury to your victim, force is critical for a conviction. This standard contrasts to corporal injury to a cohabitant or spouse, a Penal Code 273.5 violation. Under PC 273.5, the victim has to have suffered injury or pain for you to be convicted of the crime.
Willful action, an intimate partner, and any forceful action considered harmful or harmful touching are fundamental elements in a domestic battery case. They are the basis of the prosecution’s case against you.
Legally, willfulness is any on purpose, deliberate, or intentional action. However, for purposes of PC 243(e)(1), the actions were not necessarily intended to cause injury or harm to the alleged victim, nor were they aimed at breaking the law.
Offensive Of Harmful Touching
Touch can be both direct or indirect. Of importance is the manner of the contact. It has to be either harmful or offensive for you to be found guilty of the crime. For example, touching your intimate partner in anger or in reaction to being triggered fits the definition of harmful touching.
According to PC 243(e)(1), prosecutors don’t have to demonstrate that the touch hurt or resulted in any physical injury to the alleged victim. Therefore, even a slight touch is enough to have you charged for a PC 243(e)(1) violation.
In some cases, defendants are accused of using objects. This accusation will prove to be material as long as prosecutors demonstrate that you touched another or an object and that the person or item you touched came into contact with the alleged victim. This argument fits PC 243(e)(1)’s definition of indirect touch.
Alleged victims in domestic battery cases should be intimate partners. Your intimate partner could be any of the following:
- A spouse, current or former
- Your fiancé, current or former
- The parent of your child and
- Any other person you are dating or have an intimate or sexual relationship with. This also includes former dating or sexual partners.
Cohabiting partners are too intimate partners. They are unrelated individual parties who live together. The law requires the parties to have lived together for a substantial time to show the permanency of the relationship. Further, the courts also consider the joint ownership or use of property, shared expenses, the sexual relations between the cohabiting parties, and the continuity of the relationship.
Two or more individuals can cohabit, and for purposes of this law, they should cohabit within the same duration of time.
Penalties for a Domestic Battery Conviction
Domestic battery convictions are misdemeanors that attract fines, a jail sentence, or probation instead of time behind bars. A penalty of no more than $2,000 and a jail sentence of no more than one year will be imposed once convicted.
Judges will issue probation terms that remain in effect for three or a maximum of five years. Compliance with the probation terms is non-negotiable, and the courts will supervise your actions to ensure strict adherence.
Summary Probation Terms and Who Qualifies
Defendants are required to enroll, attend and complete a batterer’s intervention program as part of the probation terms issued by the judge. Some refer to the program as a batterer’s treatment program or domestic violence cases. The 52-week program aims to stop domestic violence. It achieves this objective by addressing what caused the domestic abuse, its effects on the victim, and the changes needed to prevent a repeat of domestic violence in the future. If the program is unavailable, you can attend a counseling program equivalent to the batterer’s intervention program.
Failure to complete the program is a probation violation. The one-year jail sentence you avoided when the summary probation was issued will be reintroduced, and you will be required to serve it out as well as any other penalty the judge may impose. However, through your attorney’s help, you can avoid the jail sentence again and go on probation with new or existing terms.
Who then qualifies for summary probation?
Anyone can qualify for summary probation with the help of an experienced attorney. Those who qualify easily are low-risk individuals like first-time or juvenile offenders. However, it does not disqualify high-risk individuals from qualifying for summary probation, including those with prior convictions. Your attorney will argue your case, and after assessing the circumstances in your case, the judge decides on whether you qualify or not.
Additional Penalties for Defendants Convicted of Domestic Battery
In addition to the fines, jail sentence, or probation, the judge may issue a protective order. The orders bar you from contacting the victim. These orders prevent defendants from harassing, threatening to harm, or causing harm to the victim. The order also prevents you from communicating with parties close to the victim, among other terms. The circumstances of your case will inform the judge’s decision on the terms of the protective order issued against you.
Effects of a Penal Code 243(e)(1) Conviction on Gun Rights and Immigration
Be prepared for a negative impact on your gun rights upon conviction of domestic battery. You won’t possess or own a gun for ten years as provided for under Penal Code 29805.
A concern for some is the effect of a conviction on their immigration status. A conviction for a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation, in itself, will not result in an adverse consequence on your immigration status. It is so because the offense is neither a crime of violence nor a deportable crime of violent offense.
Defenses Used in a Domestic Battery Charge
Defenses adopted by attorneys are informed by the circumstances of each case. Therefore, they may vary. However, there are common defenses that your attorney may use. They include the following.
Your Actions Were in Self-defense
Self-defense requires the defendant to demonstrate that you or another were in immediate danger from the victim. Your actions, therefore, were focused on defending yourself or another from the perceived threat, and the force used was necessary to avert harm befalling you or the other individual you were defending.
For example, Beverly is arguing with her daughter Madison. The situation intensifies, and Beverly strikes Madison. Jack, Beverly’s husband, intervenes by grabbing Beverly’s hand and pulling her away from Madison. Later, Beverly presses charges and accuses Jack of domestic battery.
In this case, the circumstances support Jack’s self-defense argument because his actions were in defense of Beverly.
Your Actions Were Not Willful
Prosecutors need to prove willfulness in your actions for you to be found guilty of domestic battery. However, accidental acts or actions of misunderstanding are not intentional. Your attorney will demonstrate that your actions were either accidental or as a result of a misunderstanding and that you did not intend to touch the victim offensively.
For example, Gary is in a heated argument with his fiancée, Dave. Gary storms out of the room and bangs the door shut behind him. Unknown to Gary, Dave was close behind him and was hit by the door breaking his nose. Dave then presses charges.
Gary did not willfully break Gary’s nose, neither did he intend to do so when he slammed the door. Therefore, Gary will use this defense to challenge the charges.
You are a Victim of a False Accusation
Many do face domestic battery charges as a result of a false accusation. Emotional investments between intimate partners do drive some to falsely accuse their intimate partners of domestic violence. In most cases, they are driven by anger, jealousy, or the need for revenge. Your attorney should prove this in court in your defense.
It is worth noting that your intimate partner may consider not pressing charges after reporting the incident. In other instances, he/she may recant the statements they made to police officers aiming at avoiding your prosecution. While the intentions may be genuine and intended at a step towards reconciliation, such actions do not guarantee that prosecutors will not pursue the charges.
Prosecutors assume that your accuser was coerced or threatened to drop the charges. Alternatively, they assume that your making up with your accuser is a ploy to avoid prosecution. Therefore, do not hesitate to call your attorney even if your intimate partner decides not to pursue the case.
Expunging a Domestic Battery Charge From Your Records
Many are concerned about a criminal record, especially for a non-serious offense like domestic battery, and rightly so. A criminal record adversely affects your employability, insurance premium rates, as well as access to credit facilities. The good news is that you can expunge your domestic battery conviction from your criminal records. You will be eligible once you complete your jail term or probation. Your attorney should help you start and complete the process.
Domestic Violence Offenses
Domestic violence is broad. It encompasses threats or actual assaults to intimate partners, children, and the elderly. Two of the various domestic violence crimes are related to domestic battery. They are:
- Aggravated battery, a Penal Code 243d violation, and
- Corporal Injury to a cohabitant or spouse, a Penal Code 273.5 violation,
The three crimes are more severe compared to domestic battery. It, therefore, should not come as a surprise if prosecutors, informed by the circumstances in your case, pursue any of the two charges and not the domestic battery. This should not be a cause for alarm. Your attorney should manage to defend you against the charges.
Aggravated Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Striking another or offensively touching them, thus inflicting significant bodily harm, is a PC 243d violation. The term aggravated battery implies touching another with the intent to harm them or in a way others, including the victim, may consider offensive. While PC 243d is not specific on the victims of the crime, the court will find you guilty of the crime even if your intimate partner, through the prosecutor, pursues these charges.
Prosecutors should prove two elements for you to be found guilty. You first must have intentionally touched your accuser in an offensive or harmful manner. This means the courts consider both direct and indirect touch through objects. Thereafter, your contact resulted in serious bodily injury. What amounts to serious bodily injury is determined by the jury and the judge. Therefore, it varies from one case to another. Accusers also need not have gone for medical treatment to prove their injuries are significant. Some of the common injuries considered as significant bodily injury include:
- Fractured or broken bones
- Loss of consciousness
- A lost or broken tooth
- Split lips that need sutures
Penalties for an Aggravated Battery Conviction
You can be either convicted for a misdemeanor or a felony violation, all dependent on the circumstances in your case and any prior convictions. Misdemeanors are penalized by a jail term of no more than a year and a fine not exceeding $1,000. On the other hand, felony offenders will part with a maximum of $10,000 in fines and up to four years behind bars. If the victim suffered great bodily harm, a sentence enhancement will be issued. The judge will add three to six years to your sentence.
Based on the elements prosecutors have to prove in an aggravated battery case, the following are the most common defenses attorneys use:
- Your actions were in self-defense
- The victim’s injuries are not serious
- You did not intend to harm your accuser and that the entire circumstances leading up to the injury were purely accidental.
Corporal Injury to a Spouse or an Intimate Partner
Corporal injury is an escalation of domestic battery. Under PC 273.5, any intentional infliction of corporal injury on a cohabitant, spouse, dating partner, or co-parent, leading to a traumatic condition, violates PC 273.5. Domestic abuse, intentional infliction of corporal injury, corporal injury on a cohabitant, intimate partner or spouse, or spousal abuse are some alternative phrases that refer to a PC 273.5 violation.
Particular elements stand out from PC 273.5’s definition of corporal injury to a spouse, and they are the aspects prosecutors must prove for a guilty conviction. They are:
Intention is key. You must have deliberately taken the actions that led to the injury to an intimate partner. However, you must not have intended to break the law.
Any bodily injury or wound resulting from physical force is a traumatic condition. Prosecutors have to prove that the traumatic condition suffered by the victim resulted from the direct physical force applied by the defendant. The injury has to be a natural or probable consequence of the force used.
Do note: the injury does not have to be serious. Minor injuries count under PC 273.5.
Some of the more common injuries considered include a sprain, broken bones and teeth, concussions, bruises, internal bleeding, or strangulation or suffocation injuries.
PC 273.5 provides that the victim in corporal injury cases should be intimate partners. The list of intimate partners under this law is no different from those in domestic battery cases.
Penalties Following a Corporal Injury on an Intimate Partner Conviction
PC 273.5 violations are wobblers, meaning you can be either charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor penalties include a fine not exceeding $6,000 and a jail sentence of no more than one year. Alternatively, the judge may issue probation terms instead of a jail sentence. Summary probations remain in effect for one or three years.
You would be convicted of a felony if your intimate partner suffered significant bodily injury. Additionally, if you have several domestic violence complaints or other aggressive acts filed against you, a felony conviction may be preferred. Felony offenders will be required to part with up to $6,000 in fines as well as spend two, three, or four years in prison. Probation is also a possibility in felony convictions.
Prior convictions increase the fines you’ll have to pay as well as the time you will spend behind bars. Past convictions a judge will take into account include:
- Sexual battery, a PC 243.4 violation
- Battery on an intimate partner, a PC 243(e) violation — A prior conviction increases your prison sentence to two, three, or four years with a fine not exceeding $10,000.
- Assault or battery resulting in significant bodily injury, a PC 243(d) violation
- Assault or battery with a caustic chemical, a PC 244 violation
- Assault with a stun gun, a PC 243.4 violation
- Assault with a deadly weapon, a PC 245 violation
- Corporal injury on an intimate partner, a PC 273.5 violation — Prior convictions increase your prison sentence to two, four, or five years and fines amounting to $10,000.
If your spouse suffered a significant bodily injury, you are a candidate for sentence enhancement as provided for under PC 12022.7. You will receive an additional three, four, or five years to be served consecutively with the penalties issued in your case. Further, causing significant physical injury will result in a strike in your record.
Probation for PC 273.5 Violators
The following probation terms are issued for both summary and formal probation sentences. They may vary based on the judge’s assessment of the circumstances in your case, among other considerations.
- Enroll, attend and complete a 52-week domestic violence program
- Pay fines as directed by the judge
- Make a payment to the battered women's shelter totaling no more than $5,000
- Pay restitution fees to the victim — The sums cater to any expenses incurred in treating their injury and counseling expenses.
- Complete community service
- Comply with the protective order terms — In most cases, the order remains in effect for no more than ten years.
- Spend the mandated period in jail — While probations are jail or prison time alternatives, a judge may require you to spend a short time in jail. You could spend ten days in jail if you were convicted of assault or domestic violence in the last seven years. If you have two or more prior convictions of the same offense, you will spend a minimum of 60 days.
Violating your probation terms could lead to harsher penalties or a more adverse outcome, probation revocation. This means that the jail or prison sentence you avoided through probation will be reintroduced.
Unlike domestic battery, a PC 273.5 violation negatively impacts your immigration status. You will be denied US citizenship, deported, and denied re-entry to the country.
Contact a Chula Vista Criminal Attorney Near Me
Every relationship has its fair share of challenges, and they sometimes lead to arguments with unintended consequences. At the heat of the moment, victims may press charges and exaggerate the events that transpired, including their injury. Their action in their emotional state creates a possibility of a conviction in your record once prosecutors pursue domestic battery charges. By hiring a criminal defense attorney, you will receive the services needed to fight these charges. This is the Chula Vista Criminal Attorney commitment to our clients. Give us a call today at 619-877-6894 if you or a loved one is facing domestic battery charges.