When couples get into an argument, sometimes tensions flare and people do things they would normally never do. No matter how slight, any harmful or offensive touching may result in domestic battery charges. A conviction for domestic battery can have life-altering consequences, including jail time, fines, a criminal record, and affect your parenting rights. If you were arrested for domestic battery in the East Bay, you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.
Battery and Domestic Battery
Under California Penal Code PC §242, battery is “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.”
Battery does not need to result in an injury. Even the slightest touching can be battery, even touching a person's clothes, hitting something out of someone's hand, or spitting on someone. Simple battery that does not result in serious bodily injury is generally a misdemeanor, with the maximum penalty of 6 months in prison. However, domestic battery is a more serious offense.
California Domestic Violence Charges
Under California Penal Code PC §243(e), domestic battery is battery against a partner, former partner, or someone they share a child with. Individuals who may be involved in domestic battery include a:
- Person with whom the defendant is cohabiting
- Person who is the parent of the defendant's child
- Former spouse
- Fiancé or fiancée
Cohabitants include two unrelated adults living together for a substantial period of time. Factors used in determining whether individuals are “cohabitants” for domestic battery include:
- Sexual relations
- Sharing of income or expenses
- Joint use of the property
- Length of the relationship
- Holding themselves out as domestic partners or spouses
While most people think of domestic violence involving a male perpetrator and female victim, anyone can be involved in domestic violence. Defendants facing domestic violence charges can include men or women against a same-sex or opposite-sex partner.
Mandatory Arrests in Domestic Battery Calls
Domestic violence reports generally result in a mandatory arrest. In the past, police officers had some discretion whether to arrest someone on a domestic violence call. However, police officers have to make an arrest anytime they find probable cause to believe domestic battery has taken place.
It is not up to the domestic couple whether someone will be arrested and prosecuted for domestic battery. If the police suspect domestic battery has occurred, they will make an arrest. If the prosecutor finds sufficient evidence to prosecute the defendant, they will file formal charges. Even if the spouse says it was all a mistake and does not want to press charges, the suspected batterer will be arrested.
Criminal Penalties for Domestic Battery
Under California Penal Code PC §243(e)(1), domestic battery is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and jail time of up to 12 months. In addition, domestic battery may require community service and completion of a batterer's treatment program for other appropriate counseling program designated by the court. The court may also be required to pay the victim for counseling costs and make a payment to a battered women's shelter, up to $5,000.
California Domestic Violence Batterers' Intervention Programs
As part of probation, the defendant may be required to attend a court-approved 52-week batterers' intervention program (BIP). The batterers' program may require you to go to meetings once a week for a full year. You will also be required to pay the cost of the BIP, with some options for financial assistance based on your income.
Criminal Protective Order
After a domestic battery arrest, the court may issue a criminal protective order (CPO). A CPO may require the defendant to stay away from or have any contact with the protected person. This may limit any communication, including phone calls, texts, emails, or messages over social media. It may also require the defendant to stay away from specific locations, including the protected person's home, family home, schools, or place of employment.
Under California Penal Code PC §273.6, violating a CPO is a criminal offense, with penalties including up to a year in jail for a first offense. A second or subsequent conviction within 7 years may be charged as a felony, with penalties including up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Individuals with a CPO are also prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. With a protective order, they cannot purchase a gun and must give up any guns they own to law enforcement. Possessing a firearm while under a CPO is a criminal offense, with penalties including a fine and up to a year in jail.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Self-defense or defense of another is an affirmative defense to domestic battery charges. It may be a defense to criminal charges if the defendant reasonably believed they or another person was in imminent danger of injury or harm. The defendant is limited to responding with reasonable force. However, offensive or provocative words are not a defense to battery.
Many innocent people are accused of domestic battery and face criminal charges. Some alleged victims make false accusations of battery against a current or former partner. This can occur because of jealousy or anger over ending a relationship, custody disputes, or simply to punish the other person.
Your experienced East Bay domestic battery defense attorney will investigate your case and identify the best possible defenses. They will identify the strengths of your case and the weaknesses in the prosecutor's side, to provide the best defense.
East Bay Domestic Violence Attorney:
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing domestic battery and DV criminal charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Oakland, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.