What is Domestic Battery?
Domestic battery is one of the more common California domestic violence crimes. It is defined as any willful and unlawful touching that is harmful or offensive and is committed against:
- The defendant’s spouse or former spouse,
- The defendant’s cohabitant or former cohabitant,
- The defendant’s fiancé or former fiancé,
- A person with whom the defendant has or used to have a dating relationship, or
- The father or mother of the defendant’s child.
The victim of domestic battery doesn’t have to be injured in order for the defendant to be convicted. All that is required of domestic battery is the use of force or violence against the victim.
Penalties and Punishments for Domestic Battery
Domestic battery is a misdemeanor under California law. Penalties include:
- Up to one year in a county jail.
- A fine up to but no more than $2,000.
- Misdemeanor probation.
When placed on misdemeanor probation, one has to appear before a judge with periodic progress reports. This typically lasts between 1 to 3 years with minimum of 1 year of batterer’s treatment program.
Instead of paying the $2,000 fine, the judge may decide for the batterer to pay up to $5,000 to a battered women’s shelter and/or any reasonable expenses that the victim has had to pay for including medical treatment and counseling.
If you are given misdemeanor probation then it is also required to serve at least 48 hours in a county jail. The only way around this requirement is to convince the judge that there is a “good cause” why you should not serve that time.
Legal Defenses for Domestic Battery
It’s important to hire an experienced attorney when accused of domestic battery. There are a number of defenses that your attorney can use against your case. Here are some of the most common ones:
Self Defense/Defense of Others
This defense applies only if all of the following are true:
- You reasonably believed that someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched unlawfully.
- You reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger; and
- You used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.
Lack of Willfulness
This is also known as an accident. You are not guilty if you did not willfully touch the other person. For example, if a husband and wife are in their house together and the man throws a glass cup at the wall out of anger and the glass ricochets and gashes the women’s leg, then the man is not guilty because he didn’t intentionally or willfully touch his wife with the glass.
People are wrongly accused of relational domestic battery all the time, typically based on false allegations initiated out of anger, jealousy, or revenge.
An experienced defense attorney has seen this case many times and will know what types of questions to ask in order to gather the evidence needed for the truth to come out.