Crimes that involve personal connections are a tricky area of law to navigate. In addition to the emotional connection to the person committing domestic battery, there is also a financial aspect that may preclude someone from seeking help. A person may also feel that someone is not committing a crime against them, especially if the person with whom they have a special relationship does not leave a physical mark on their person.

This article seeks to shed light on the crime by defining domestic battery as well as discusses the potential consequences against the perpetrator.

What is Domestic Battery?

Domestic battery is the unlawful, willful, and harmful touching or force against another person.

The perpetrator does not need to cause residual physical harm to or leave marks on the victim. The crime does not require the use of a weapon or tool to inflict harm. The charge itself is taken seriously by law enforcement – the victim cannot walk back the charge once they report it. In California, the perpetrator will be arrested once police are called to the scene.

An example of domestic battery is the perpetrator slapping the victim across the face with the perpetrator’s palm.

Who can be a victim of Domestic Battery?

The victim can be someone who has a personal connection to the perpetrator. For example, the victim can be a family member, spouse, or a prior or current boyfriend or girlfriend. Domestic battery is not committed by someone who is not intimately connected to the victim. This would be considered a different crime.

man shouting on his wife- who can be a victim of domestic battery- pc 243(e)(1)

Domestic Battery vs. Domestic Violence

While the two terms seem similar, there are some distinct differences. Domestic violence is an umbrella term that encompasses any crimes against a person who has a personal or intimate connection to the victim.

Domestic battery falls under the category of domestic violence. Domestic battery is categorized as a misdemeanor, while domestic violence can be categorized as a misdemeanor or felony.

Is Domestic Battery a Misdemeanor or Felony?

The crime is considered to be a misdemeanor in the state of California if there is no physical injury. The penalty is up to a year in county jail, a fine of up to $2,000.00, and potentially probation.

Under PC 243(e)(1), probation includes attending a counseling program for no less than a year. The perpetrator would also pay a fine that would include payments to a domestic violence shelter (up to $5,000.00) and/or reimbursement to the victim to cover counseling and “other reasonable expenses” which are determined by the court.

What is a restraining order, and how does it work?

In many domestic battery cases, a restraining order will be issued against the perpetrator. A restraining order is an order issued by the court that prohibits the perpetrator from being in close proximity and contact with the victim.

The restraining order protects the victim from being in the vicinity of the perpetrator to prevent the perpetrator from harming the victim. If the perpetrator violates the restraining order, the perpetrator will receive legal consequences.

What are some defenses against Domestic Battery?

California law takes domestic battery very seriously; however, not all cases of domestic battery are cut and dried. There are a few defenses that the defendant can make in court to explain their actions.

It is highly recommended that the defendant speak with a defense attorney prior to going to court in order to best represent the facts.

The following are two potential defenses a defendant can make in court.

  • The defendant acted in self-defense because the alleged victim attacked the defendant. In some situations, the victim is not the victim, but the real perpetrator. However, the real perpetrator knows that if they make themselves the victim, they will be able to create additional harm or stress to the real victim. If the real perpetrator assaults the victim and the real victim defends themself, the real victim can claim that they are the real victim in the situation.
  • The defendant is being falsely accused by the victim or someone who called law enforcement. It is not uncommon that a well-meaning neighbor may call law enforcement to what the neighbor believes is a domestic violence incident occurring at another’s residence. If an incident of domestic battery did not occur or was misconstrued by another as having occurred, the defendant can argue in court that they are innocent of such crime.

Need Help?

If you’re facing domestic battery charges, we are ready to help with your case. We will fight for you so that you can get justice. We look forward to putting our experience and skills to work for you. Call us for a free case evaluation to get started.

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