Domestic violence crimes are crimes committed by an individual against an intimate partner. These crimes include the offense of “domestic battery,” also known as “spousal battery” or spousal assault,” as defined in California Penal Code § 243 (e). California statutory law contains special code sections for domestic violence crimes as the California Legislature has declared that they merit special consideration for purposes of imposing a sentence based on society’s condemnation of violence committed against victims with whom the offender has an intimate relationship.

California addresses the crime of battery in California Penal Code § 242, defining it as “any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.” For victims of a battery within the protected class of people found in § 243 (e)(1), the crime of “battery” becomes the crime of “domestic battery.”

The crime of domestic battery occurs when a battery is committed against the following victims:

  • a spouse,
  • a person with whom the defendant is cohabiting,
  • a person who is the parent of the defendant’s child, former spouse, fiancé, or fiancée, or
  • a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship,

The following are some legal defenses to a charge of domestic battery:

  • self-defense,
  • The force or violent act was not “willfully” inflicted;
  • The charge was the result of a false accusation

The crime of domestic battery is an example of a crime that may be less serious when charged as a misdemeanor but carries a serious stigma because of its relationship to domestic violence. There are few, if any, individuals who would not care about having such a conviction on their arrest records since it is a domestic abuse offense. An experienced domestic violence defense attorney may help any Californian wrongly accused of the crime of domestic battery.

Because one requirement of domestic battery is that the crime is “willful,” the defendant must intend to perform an act of making unwanted physical touching or contact. It does not mean that the offender intended to harm an intimate partner or intended to commit a criminal act. Nonetheless, if the defendant acted negligently, or even recklessly, the act is not willful and this may be an effective defense to the charge of domestic battery. In contrast, an “unlawful use of force” means any illegal physical contact and does not require any intention to cause harm or injury.

The lesser crimes of assault and battery may still be charged as lesser included offenses if the prosecution cannot prove the elements of California Penal Code § 243 (e)(1). An unsuccessful attempt to unlawfully touch a partner could still result in an assault charge. If it cannot be proven that a victim was an intimate partner, the offender may still be charged with battery if the prosecutor can prove the existence of the willful use of unlawful force or violence against the victim.

As a California Criminal Trial Lawyer with over 40 years of courtroom experience, John Patrick Dolan has handled everything from traffic tickets to death penalty murder cases. Mr. Dolan is a recognized California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law and a true courtroom veteran of domestic violence defense cases. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.

Legal Defenses To Domestic Battery

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