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What is a Domestic Battery?

The crime of Domestic Battery is another variation of a “simple battery” that focuses on who the Victim of the battery is. As mentioned throughout this website, there are a substantial number of similarities between the crime of battery and assault. A battery can be viewed as a completed assault. The crime of assault is an act, which has the natural and probable outcome of causing physical force to be applied to another person, whereas the crime of battery requires that force was actually applied to another person. Since the crime of battery and assault have one key difference, whether force was actually applied, it is natural that the consequences for each crime work in a similar fashion. There are the base crimes, known as “simple assault” and “simple battery.” The penalties associated with the “simple assault” or “simple battery” are enhanced based on the identity of the Victimi, how the assault or battery was carried outii, and where the assault or battery occurrediii. Most variations of the crimes assault and battery are known as “general intent crimes.ivThe crimes of assault and battery are also known as “wobbler offence” in California; this means the Prosecution can choose to bring the charge as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The decision is typical based on the severity of the crime, the severity of the harm to the Victim, the age of the Defendant, and the Defendant’s prior history. With no additional facts, a domestic battery will be charged as a misdemeanor. While a misdemeanor conviction is not as substantial as a felony conviction, the fact that this also includes domestic violence elements means the penalties for a conviction will be substantially more onerous than a misdemeanor conviction in other contexts. It is important to have competent representation throughout the criminal process if you have been accused of domestic battery.

If you have been arrested for domestic battery, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately. Once you have contacted Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, you will obtain a free initial consultation where one of our any skilled attorneys will meet with you and gather information about the facts forming the basis of the allegation, as well as all information about the events leading up to being accused of domestic battery. It is crucial that you meet with Los Angeles Criminal Lawyers immediately after you have been arrested, while you remember everything clearly. There are a number of benefits to providing your attorney with all of the information surrounding the incident while it is still fresh in your memory. The most important benefit is that the information you provide will be accurate and thorough. It is a well-established fact that as time goes on our memory forgets seemingly inconsequential details, and blurs the “truth”; this is not done intentionally, but simply as a matter of mental efficiency. The more accurate information your attorney has at their disposal, the better the defense your attorney can build for their client; there are no insignificant details in law. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we believe that boilerplate defenses are both unethical and inefficient. Once your LACL attorney has all of the information pertinent to your case, they will begin building a defense, which is hand crafted to you and your case.

Once LACL has taken the information you have provided them, and built a hand-crafted defense to your case, they will be able to approach the District Attorney who is prosecuting your case in an effort to convince them to either dismiss the charges against you, or reduce the charges against you to a “simple battery.” As mentioned above, the fact that domestic battery falls into a domestic violence category means that a conviction, even for a misdemeanor, will carry significant additional penalties, many of which can have a substantial impact on your life. While speaking with the District Attorney your LACL attorney will give the District Attorney a brief analysis of their defense to your case, and the evidence they have in support of that defense. The ultimate goal is that the District Attorney either realizes they can’t win the case against you at all, or that they only have enough evidence to convict you of a “simple battery.” If the District Attorney is convinced of either of these scenarios, they will likely compromise with your LACL attorney. Unfortunately, this is not always the outcome.

If the District Attorney is unwilling to dismiss the charges against you, or offer a decent plea bargain, the case will proceed to a jury trial. Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer has decades of experience representing clients in criminal jury trials; including trials for domestic battery. Utilizing the hand crafted defense your attorney has built for you, your LACL attorney will present a persuasive argument to the jury; this is your best opportunity to obtain a favorable verdict in your trial. It should be noted that the burden is not on the Defendant to prove their innocence; the burden is on the Prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Since, domestic battery is a “simple battery” that is punished on the basis of the identity of the Victim; the Prosecution must first prove that the Defendant has committed a “simple battery.” Next the Prosecution will have to prove that the Victim of the “simple battery” is a “protected person” for purposes of domestic battery. A “simple battery” is defined by California Penal Code §242, the consequences you can expect if you are convicted of a “simple battery” can be found in California Penal Code §243. The specific penalties for domestic battery are set forth in California Penal Code §243(e)(1). The jury instructions relating to “simple battery” are set forth in CACRIM 960 v. To be convicted of domestic battery, the Prosecution must prove the following elements to the jury:

  1. The Defendant touched the Victim;
  2. The Victim was a “protected person” under §243(e)(1);
  3. The touching was harmful or offensive; AND
  4. When the Defendant touched the Victim, the Defendant was acting willfully.

If the Prosecution is unable to prove that the Victim was a person protected by §243(e)(1), but can prove every other element of the crime, then the Defendant can be convicted of a “simple battery.” If the Prosecution cannot prove any of the other elements of the “simple battery”, the Defendant cannot be convicted of a “simple battery” or any other crime that is predicated on a battery.

The United States Constitution requires that the Prosecution prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Once the Prosecution has submitted their case, the Defense will attempt to weaken the Prosecution’s proof of the elements of the crime. It is a common defense strategy to simply disprove one or more of the elements of the crime. At Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer, we have decades of combined experience representing clients accused of all types of crimes; including domestic battery. For several decades, LACL has focused exclusively on criminal defense. As a result of their years of experience, the attorneys at LACL are incredibly familiar with the elements of every single crime their clients can be accused of. Using their extensive knowledge of the law, the strategies of trial, and the art of persuasion, LACL will provide you the best opportunity possible to obtain a favorable outcome to your case.

The remainder of this article will discuss: (1) the specific elements of a battery charge, (2) the additional element that the Victim be a protected person under §243(e)(1), (3) the penalties associated with a conviction for domestic battery; and (4) what Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer can do to help you in the event you are charged with domestic battery.

What does it Mean to “The Defendant Touched the Victim”?

As mentioned above, battery occurs when physical force is actually applied to the Victim, whereas assault occurs when the Defendant engages in conduct that could result in the application of physical force to the Victimvi. There are several ways to accomplish the actual application of physical force. This section will provide examples of what does constitute this element, and an example of what does not satisfy this element. The first question is what does “another person” mean?

What Does “Another Person” Mean?

According to California lawvii “another person” includes objects that are connected to the Victim. This concept also applies to objects that are connected to the Defendant, but that will be discussed below. Even a Victim’s clothing can be sufficient to satisfy the “touching of another person” element of a “simple battery.”

EXAMPLE 1:

Dan’s daughter Victoria wants to go out with her friends one Saturday evening. Dan reminds Victoria that she is grounded for her behavior at school earlier that week. Victoria and Dan start yelling, and Victoria grabs her car keys and walks towards the door. Dan is furious, and snatches the keys out of Victoria’s hands, without touching her. Dan can be convicted of domestic battery. Since the keys are in Victoria’s hands, they are deemed a part of her person, Dan has touched her. Victoria is Dan’s daughter, so she is a protected person under §243(e)(1). The way Dan touched Victoria can be deemed harmful or offensiveviii touching. Finally, Dan acted “willfully” when he snatched the keys from Victoria.

EXAMPLE 2:

Dan’s daughter Victoria wants to go out with her friends one Saturday evening. Dan reminds Victoria that she is grounded for her behavior at school earlier that week. Victoria and Dan start yelling, and Victoria throws her keys on the table. Dan is furious, and snatches the keys off the table. Dan cannot be convicted of domestic battery because he has not satisfied the first prong of “simple battery.” In order to be convicted of a battery of any kind, the Defendant must have actually touched the Victim.

“Apply Physical Force”

There are two methods a Defendant can utilize to apply physical force to another person: directly and indirectly. While directly causing physical force to another person is apparent, there is one situation which is worth mentioning. Just like items connected to the Victim are deemed to be a part of the Victim’s body, items attached to the Defendant’s body are also considered to be a part of the Defendant’s body.

EXAMPLE 1:

Dan and Victor are roommates in a Tarzana apartment. For the last 5 months, Victor has consistently been late paying his half of rent, which resulted in a late fee of $50; Dan always paid this. One day, Victor came home and informed Dan that he had lost his job and would be late on rent again. Dan grabbed his foam bat, and started hitting Victor, yelling at him the whole time. Dan can be convicted of domestic battery. Since the foam bat is considered a part of Dan’s body, the foam bat is making contact with Victor; this is the direct touching of another person. Victor is a roommate, and is deemed a protected person. Hitting someone with a foam bat is harmful or offensive, and Dan acted willfully when he swung the foam bat and hit Victor.

“Cause Physical Force to be Applied”

The last form of applying physical force can be accomplished through indirect means.

EXAMPLE 1:

Dan and Victor are roommates in a Tarzana apartment. For the last 5 months, Victor has consistently been late paying his half of rent, which resulted in a late fee of $50; Dan always paid this. One day, Victor came home and informed Dan that he had lost his job and would be late on rent again. Dan took the beer he was holding and threw it at Victor, striking him in the chest. Dan can be convicted of domestic battery. When Dan threw the beer at Victor, he caused the beer to fly through the air and trike Victor. While Dan did not directly touch Victor he caused the item that did touch Victor to go in the air towards Victor. Victor is a protected person under §243(e)(1). Getting hit by a beer is a harmful or offensive touching, and Dan acted “willfully” when he threw the beer at Victor.

EXAMPLE 2:

Dan and Vanessa have been married for 6 months. One day they get into a raging fight over how rarely Dan is home, and Dan says he just prefers not being around Vanessa. Vanessa grabs a vase and throws it at Dan, missing him by a hair. Vanessa cannot be convicted of domestic battery because there was no physical touching, even though Vanessa intended the vase to hit Dan. Vanessa could be charged with assault however.

The second element the Prosecution must prove is that the touching itself was “harmful” or “offensive.” The reason this element is present in a battery charge I because touching occurs on a daily basis and the law does not penalize conduct that is not morally culpable; some touching is unavoidable.

What Touching is “Harmful” or “Offensive” in Nature?

As mentioned above, the fact that the Prosecution can prove that the Defendant touched the Victim, the Prosecution must still prove an additional fact relating to that touching. The Prosecution must prove that the touching was “harmful” or “offensive.” There is some touching which is neither, and therefore cannot be pursued as a battery. If a touching is done in a rude or angry manner, it will probably be considered “harmful” or “offensive.”

An important caveat is that generally the determination of whether or not a touching is “harmful” or “offensive” is made by the jury utilizing a hypothetical reasonable person. However, if the Defendant had special knowledge about the Victim that would inform them that their touching would be either “harmful” or “offensive”, then the jury may consider that information.

EXAMPLE 1:

Dan and Vivian have been married three years. During this time, Dan learns that Vivian is still traumatized from when her father used to spank her when she did something wrong. One day Dan and Vivian get into a major fight about Vivian’s spending habits. Dan isn’t upset, and doesn’t mean to hurt Vivian, but her he slaps her rear end in a playful manner. Dan could be convicted of domestic battery. Dan touched Vivian. Vivian is a protected person under §243(e)(1). Since Dan knew that Vivian was still traumatized about being hit on the rear end, the touching will deemed harmful or offensive, despite the fact that many jurors might not find this to be either. Finally, when Dan slapped Vivian’s rear end, he was acting willfully.

Another element the Prosecution must prove in order to obtain a convition for domestic battery is that the Defendant acted willfully when they touched the Victim in a harmful or offensive manner. Willfully is a fairly simple fact to prove, and absent extingent circumstances, the Prosecution will not have a hard time proving this element of a “simple battery.”

What Does it Mean to Act “Willfully”?

There are two types of criminal intent required for nearly every criminal act; general or specific. General intent means that the Defendant intended to do the act that gave rise to the crime. Specific intent means the Defendant intended the outcome of their act, or acted for a specific reason. Almost all forms of battery are general intent crimes, which means that to satisfy the intent element of the crime, the Defendant only had to intend to do the action that resulted in the touching. It does not matter if the Defendant had no ill-will, or only meant to frighten the Victim The legal community has been engaged in a discussion as to whether this definition is sufficient, it has been suggested that the correct definition of willfully is a person acts “willfully” when they engage in conduct on purpose, they are aware of what they are doing, and they intend to engage in that actix. For practical purposes, absent extenuating circumstances, this element is fairly easy for the Prosecution to prove; many of the defenses your LACL attorney can raise will be aimed at negating the possibility that the Defendant was acting willfully.

EXAMPLE 1:

Vivian is Dan’s mother-in-law. One day Vivian was giving Dan grief for failing to get a promotion over the past several years. Dan had grown incredibly tired of Vivian constantly berating him and threw a remote control at the wall next to Vivian’s head. Even though Dan meant for the control to miss Vivian, it hit her in the shoulder. Dan can be convicted of domestic battery because he intended to throw the remote. It does not matter that he had no intention of actually hitting Vivian.

EXAMPLE 2:

Dan and his son Vince are only a family outing at the Los Angeles Zoo. Dan was dehydrated and passed out. As Dan fell unconscious, his hand swung out and struck Vine in the mouth. Dan cannot be convicted of domestic battery because his arm swinging was not done intentionally; it was the result of him falling unconscious.

In the event that the Prosecution is able to prove every element of the underlying offense of “simple battery”, you may be convicted of simple battery. If you are being charged with domestic battery however, the Prosecution must prove an additional element; that the Victim was a member of the protected group of people established in §243(e)(1).

Who is a “Protected Person” Under §243(e)(1)?

California Penal Code §243(e)(1) defines the crime of domestic battery, and identifies specific individuals who are protected Victims, the battery of which will subject the Defendant to a domestic battery charge. The individuals protected by this statute are the Defendant’s intimate partners, including past partners. This statute protects the spouse or cohabitant of the Defendant, as well as the parent of the Defendant’s child. Further, a fiancé, ex-spouse, or anybody who the Defendant has or is currently dating is a protected person under this statute.

I Have Been Convicted of Domestic Battery, What are the Penalties I Could Face?

As mentioned above, if you are convicted of a “simple battery” and the Victim is a protected person under §243(e)(1) you will be convicted of a “domestic battery.” Absent additional facts, this will be charged as a misdemeanor. If there are additional factors, you may face additional charges.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor domestic battery, you will face incarceration in county jail for not more than one year and/or a fine of up to two-thousand ($2,000) dollars. If probation is granted, the Defendant will be forced to attend a Batterer’s Treatment Program for no more than one year.

Domestic Battery is unlike other misdemeanor battery offenses because a domestic battery is known as a “deportable crime” pursuant to Federal immigration law. If the Defendant who was convicted of domestic battery is not a U.S. citizen, they could face deportation. If you are a non-U.S. citizen who has been accused of domestic battery, it is imperative that you contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately, we will advocate against deportation proceedings.

I Have Been Accused of Domestic Battery, What can my Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer do to Help Me?

If you or a loved one has been accused of a domestic battery, it can be a frightening time in everyone’s lives, especially if the accused is not a U.S. citizen. Representation by Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer will provide you the best opportunity to avoid a conviction, or the substantial immigration consequences of a domestic battery. The attorneys at LACL will be available 24/7 to guide you through the criminal process, provide updates on your case, and explain the defense they have hand crafted for you. The best thing you can do for your case is contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer immediately and set up an initial consultation. At this consultation, your attorney will obtain all the facts surrounding your arrest, and criminal charges, in an effort to build the best defense available to you and your case. In addition to approaching the District Attorney with a strong argument for why the case should be dismissed, or reduced, LACL has decades of courtroom experience, which they will use to obtain the best outcome for you. At trial, your LACL attorney will raise a number of defenses including:

  • You did not cause the physical force to be applied to the Victim
  • The Victim was not a member of an identified class
  • You did not act willfully
  • The physical contact was neither harmful nor offensive.
  • Involuntary intoxication
  • Duress
  • Self-defense
  • You were wrongfully accused

In the event your LACL attorney cannot obtain a favorable verdict, and you are convicted Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer will vigorously advocate for a lesser sentencing raising every argument available to persuade the sentencing judge. The value of skilled representation cannot be understated.

If you or someone you love has been accused of domestic battery, contact Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer for FREE consultation at 310-502-1314 immediately!


i See our page on Assault on a Public Official and Battery on a Peace Officer.

ii See our page on Assault with a Caustic Chemical, Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and Battery Causing Serious Bodily Injury.

iii See our page on Sexual Battery

iv Compare to our pages Assault with a Caustic Chemical, Assault on a Public Official, and Sexual Battery, which require a specific intent in order to be convicted of the crime.

v The Judicial Council of California Advisory Committee on Criminal Jury Instructions has drafted and approved jury instructions for every crime set forth in the California Penal Code (“CALCRIM”). Attorneys will frequently submit their own jury instructions, but the CALCRIM instructions provide excellent guidance as to what the Prosecution must prove in order to obtain a conviction.

vi The latter would be deemed an assault.

vii As well as every other state’s law regarding battery.

viii An argument can be made that this was reasonable parental discipline.

ix California Crim. Jury Instr. Companion Handbook § 5:1, California Crim. Jury Instr. Companion Handbook § 5:1

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