The California law under Penal Code 243 (e) (1) PC describes domestic battery as the deliberate and illegal physical contact towards an intimate partner to harm him or her. The penal code defines an 'intimate partner' as the defendant's current or former spouse, an individual (the defendant) currently or formerly cohabitated, mother or father to the defendant's child, and current or former fiancée.
Note that the victim does not need to demonstrate any visible injury for the defendant to be charged with domestic battery. The prosecutors need to prove that the defendant applied force or violence towards an individual they currently or formerly shared an intimate relationship with, as described in the penal code.
While domestic battery cases are common in California, they can have detrimental effects on your criminal record if the prosecution proves the accusations. If you have been arrested or charged with domestic battery, get in touch with our domestic violence attorney at the Pasadena Criminal Attorney.
We serve clients in Pasadena, and we will provide you with the appropriate legal advice regarding your case and represent you in court to have lesser penalties or even get the case dropped in case there is evidence of false accusations. We can also negotiate with the prosecution before the charges are filed in court.
Elements That the Prosecution Needs To Prove
For you to be convicted of a domestic battery charge, the prosecution must prove the following elements:
You intentionally and unlawfully got into physical contact with the victim in an offensive way
The victim had an intimate relationship with the defendant as one of the following:
Current or former spouse
Current or former cohabitant
Current or former fiancée
An individual with a current or former dating relationship
The mother or father of your child
In many cases, the prosecutor depends on the victim's testimony to file the charges. There can be additional witnesses who witnessed the battery as well as photographic evidence of the alleged injuries, which can be presented to the judge. Hiring a skilled attorney early enough will advise you on whether to negotiate with the prosecutor before formal charges are made in court.
Defense Strategies to Fight Domestic Battery Charges
The following are some of the legal defense techniques that an experienced and skilled criminal attorney can deploy to defend you against the domestic battery charges:
It Was Self-defense or Defense of Others
The attorney can prove to the court that you reacted as self-defense or that of other people. Such defense could be acceptable if you were in a situation that you reasonably believed that failure to defend yourself would cause significant bodily harm to you or the other individual. Note that the force that you use to avert the threat needs to be proportionate, and if the threat subsides, you must stop for this defense to be applicable.
You did not Act Intentionally or Willingly
For the court to consider a domestic battery charge, the prosecution must prove that the defendant acted intentionally. A skilled criminal attorney can implement this as a legal defense strategy by demonstrating the action was an accident or that the victim misunderstood the situation. In California, proving that the alleged act was an accident requires the defendant to show a lack of criminal or unlawful intent. Your attorney also needs to prove that there was no negligence on your part and that you acted within the confines of the law.
For example, Kevin gets into a verbal fight with his wife Daisy. During the argument, Kevin knocks a table filled with utensils, and a piece of glass cuts Daisy's leg. In case she charges Kevin with domestic violence, this defense can be used in that the glass was not deliberately thrown or shattered towards her direction. Therefore, the injury she sustained was not the outcome of a willful or intentional action on Kevin's part.
The attorney uses this defense if the defendant affirms that he or she was falsely accused of battery. In many cases, intimate partners get into heated arguments, and one can falsely accuse the other of domestic battery just to get the upper hand in the argument or out of vengeance. A skilled attorney deploys this defense strategy by asking the plaintiff various questions and conducting investigations about the facts of the case. This can also involve engaging with any available witnesses who can provide accounts of what happened.
Using an alibi is also an excellent strategy to use against the prosecutor's evidence. If you were not present when the alleged domestic battery occurred, then you should not be guilty of the offense. This type of defense requires the defendant to prove that he or she was elsewhere when the alleged incident occurred.
Like other cases, the prosecution in domestic battery charges must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offense. If there is inadequate evidence whatsoever to support the accusations, the case might be dropped, or the defendant acquitted.
Note that if the prosecution fails to prove the components of 243(E)(1), the defendant can still be charged with other offenses, which are considered lesser included crimes. For example, you can still face assault charges if you were about to hit your wife, but she managed to escape. If the prosecution does not prove that the victim you hit was your intimate partner, you can face battery charges.
Why Hire a Skilled Attorney?
Getting a favorable outcome, such as a dismissed case or reduced charges requires a skilled presentation by an experienced attorney. A domestic violence attorney can assist you in doing the following:
Filing a Motion to Drop the Case
A domestic violence attorney can help you in filing a legal motion, which is a formal request for the court to take any action that is within the confines of the law. Request the judge to dismiss the case because the used evidence was unlawfully obtained. The attorney also files legal motions to restrict the liability of the defendant.
Conduct Investigations to Challenge Prosecutor's Evidence
In many cases, charges after a prosecutor receive just one side of the story. An attorney conducts independent investigations to evaluate the accuracy of the presented evidence. Some of the necessary steps include reviewing the facts presented and subpoenaing documents. The move is essential because the attorney can identify some of the evidence that the prosecutor assumes or did not identify.
Plea bargaining entails an out of the court agreement between the criminal defense attorney and the prosecution to end the case and concludes with the defendant pleading guilty or nolo contendere. In return, he or she gets a reduced sentence or lesser charges. Many cases of domestic battery in California conclude with a plea agreement. Most that proceed to trial are the ones in which one side would not accept the plea, or the defendant believes that the prosecutor cannot prove the case.
Deferred entry of judgment or pre-trial diversion program is a significant defense strategy that your attorney can use depending on the details of the case. Such instances are possible, especially if the defendant completes a batterer's program. In many cases, the charges are dropped and cannot be referenced for most purposes. The following elements must be demonstrated for you to be eligible for pretrial diversion:
Place of residence for the defendant
The type of charges
Defendant's criminal history
Difference between Domestic Battery and Domestic Assault in California
Under California law, domestic battery and domestic assault are both classified under domestic violence. The charges in both categories require a willful, forceful, or violent physical touch of a current or former intimate partner. However, California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC stipulates that domestic battery charges do not require visible physical injuries on the victim.
Conversely, California Penal Code 273.5 PC affirms that a conviction on domestic assault requires corporal injury against an intimate partner. Note this includes any form of physical injury, whether severe or not. In other words, the difference between domestic violence and domestic assault is that the latter requires bodily injury from the occurrence, but the former does not.
Furthermore, California law classifies domestic battery as a misdemeanor crime and domestic assault as a felony. A felony conviction attracts a penalty of about six thousand dollars, a maximum jail term of a year, and up to four years in prison. In some cases, the conviction might combine a fine and a jail or prison term. Domestic battery conviction is a misdemeanor with less severe penalties in terms of fines, probation, imprisonment, or prison time, as well as the offender's criminal record. For you to be convicted of corporal injury to a spouse, there must be physical or bodily harm caused by the physical touch. For example, a wife and a husband might engage in a heated disagreement about family responsibilities. During the incident, the husband hits the wife and breaks her nose. If the victim reports to the police, and they identify the injury, the husband will be arrested for corporal injury. Unlike a domestic battery, which is considered as a misdemeanor, corporal injury is a wobbler under California law. If the court treats it as a misdemeanor, you can face a maximum of one year in jail and fines of up to $6000. However, if it is treated as a felony, you face between two and four years in state prison and maximum fines of $6000.
Penalties of a Misdemeanor Domestic Battery
If you face conviction of a domestic battery, the following are some of the punishments you could face:
A maximum of $2,000 in fines
Up to 12 months in a county jail
A three-year informal probation
Completion of a one-year batter's program
Any offender convicted with a battery could be given summary probation rather than jail time. Offenders that qualify for this are considered of low threat such as juvenile and first-time offenders. However, it could also be possible for a person with prior convictions to receive misdemeanor probation. This depends on how the defendant's attorney will put the case as well as the court's decision. Individuals facing battery charges are likely to receive a misdemeanor summary probation as part of the court's verdict. Having a qualified and skilled attorney with good experience in California battery charges can increase your chances of getting probation rather than a jail term.
Probation aims at protecting the general public and rehabilitating the offender and the victim of domestic battery. Note that the court can provide a misdemeanor as part of the sentencing, or it can be an agreement between your attorney and the prosecutor. In many cases, this form of probation does not include jail time. However, if the probation includes jail term, it will be considerably shorter than that potential maximum misdemeanor sentence in county jail.
Domestic Battery and Impact on Immigrant Defendants
A domestic battery crime is considered a crime of moral turpitude and can be severe for an immigrant even who is legally documented. According to federal immigration law, domestic battery is an offense of domestic violence and can incur deportation. On the other hand, California's domestic violence laws are stringent on offenders who are not legal U.S citizens.
A domestic battery offender can also be asked to submit any firearms and would be prevented from possessing for a specified period. These charges can also have a detrimental effect on your criminal records because various state professional licensing boards and employers conduct background checks, which could deny you an opportunity.
Statute of Limitations and Domestic Battery
The statute of limitations under the California law puts restrictions on how long a prosecutor or the victim of domestic battery can wait to file the charges in court. The statute of limitations aims at protecting the defendant from having to defend themselves against allegations in which the evidence is inadequate or distorted. It is also helpful, especially when the defense witnesses are not available any longer and when the defendant's memory might be limited. Under California law, misdemeanor offenses, including domestic battery, have a one-year statute of limitations.
However, there are instances when the statute of limitations might pause, especially if the defendant is out of the state to evade prosecution. It can also toll when the defendant has a similar case against him or her. It can even be paused when the evidence acquired through a search warrant is held up by a claim of attorney privilege. Your attorney can file a motion to dismiss the case for violations of the statute of limitations at any time.
What to Do When You Get Arrested For Domestic Battery
If you get arrested for domestic battery, you will likely have a lot on your mind thinking about how the incident might affect your future. The following are things you should do after being arrested:
Exercise Your Right to Maintain Silence
When you get arrested for domestic battery charges, avoid answering questions posed by the police or media without an attorney. Such a decision is helpful because it prevents you from making any statements that might be self-incriminating. Police might also attempt to twist or misinterpret your comments to make you guilty. Similarly, the press can also take your accounts out of context and insinuate that you harmed the victim. Reports from the media might influence the judges or jury's opinions and rule in favor of the plaintiff.
Hire an Experienced Domestic Battery Attorney
Having an experienced domestic battery attorney on your side will assist in defending yourself against the alleged charges. Domestic battery attorneys have to assess the case to identify whether the victim is making false accusations, their objective in filing the charges and if the evidence was legally or illegally acquired. A good attorney will recognize these elements during the first stages of the case and help in identifying the best defense strategies.
Avoid Contact With The Victim
In case you and the alleged victim live in the same residence, plan alternative living arrangements as fast as possible. The move assists in preventing issues such as false accusations that you attempted to violate their rights. If the court orders a no-contact directive, then it is best to relocate residence immediately. This also entails not contacting any third parties to engage the victim.
Collaborate with your Attorney
When you get arrested with domestic battery charges, you should always stick with the directions of the attorney. The move is significant because it helps you to gather relevant evidence that can support your case. Some necessary forms of evidence include receipts, videos, and pictures, and can work as evidence that you were not at the crime scene. Other types of proof include alibi and witness testimonies, and a character witness who will talk of your ethical conduct. Collaborating with the attorney also assists in evaluating police reports to identify any inconsistencies in the statements of the alleged victim.
If the case is a false accusation, your attorney is in a better position to identify the intentions of the alleged victim in framing you for domestic battery. Such cases are witnessed in failed relationships even if there was no physical contact. Your criminal defense lawyer knows that false accusations might be a key feature in your case and will assist in proving your innocence. In case you had physical contact with the victim, your criminal defense attorney will help you in collecting evidence that demonstrates that it was not willful or was an accident.
The attorney can also negotiate with the prosecution to lessen the charges on certain conditions. Note that the alleged victim can file a civil lawsuit even after submitting the criminal charges. Civil lawsuits are resolved in private rather than in court. The Role of this lawsuit is to seek monetary compensation for psychological and physical anguish, emotional pain, medical charges, as well as counseling. In such cases, your attorney represents you and assists in reducing the amounts of penalties you pay for the damages.
In some cases, a victim can report to the police in a fit of anger and might want the case dropped after the temper has faded. However, the prosecution will pursue the case even though the victim wants it to be dropped. The California law provides the victim with no discretion over whether the charges will be filed or not. After the victim files a report with the police, it is up to the district attorney to file the charges or not. This is a major reason why you should hire an experienced attorney who will help you in reducing the possible charges or have the case dismissed in totality.
The Prosecution Process
The prosecution of domestic violence commences when the alleged victim contacts the police and accuses another person of committing a domestic battery crime. The victim functions as the primary witness in many cases. The police then write a report with statements from the involved parties and any available witnesses. This report is then forwarded to the district attorney, who determines whether to file formal charges or to drop the case. The prosecutor decides whether to pursue the case by assessing all the facts of the case and deciding whether there is sufficient evidence to convict you of domestic violence. If the prosecutor identifies that there is adequate evidence, then you will likely be charged with domestic battery.
Find a Domestic Violence Attorney Near Me
If you or your loved one has been arrested on domestic battery violence in California, you need a skilled and experienced attorney to defend you. This is because cases of domestic battery have significant penalties as well as an emotional burden. At Pasadena Criminal Attorney, our team will help you in navigating the complex California domestic violence laws and represent you in court if need be. We will work with you to assess the available evidence and help you get lesser charges or get the case dismissed. Contact us today at 626-689-2277.