Domestic Violence Defense
Domestic Battery Law & Defense
Facing charges of any crime is a stressful and scary experience for anyone. To make matters worse, domestic violence allegations can lead to a breakdown of the defendant's family and his or her reputation. It is not uncommon to see domestic violence allegations in relationship to divorce and child custody disputes and it might seem that the whole world is coming apart for anyone charged with domestic violence or for anyone suffering from domestic violence. This page is here to help answer some of the questions a defendant might have when facing charges of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1). If after reading this information you have further questions on domestic violence defense, please contact one our experienced and successful domestic violence defense lawyers. We are here to serve you during this anxious and overwhelming time in you life.
Information on the crime of battery against a spouse or cohabitant, also known as misdemeanor domestic violence, is found at California penal code section 243(e)(1). This page is dedicated to the law, punishment, and common defenses associated with the crime of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant. For information on felony domestic violence crimes, please see PC 273.5(a).
PC 243(e)(1) Law
To prove that the defendant is guilty of misdemeanor domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant the district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the following:
· The defendant committed abuse or violence against another person (abuse and violence defined below)
· The defendant and the alleged victim were in a domestic relationship at the time of the alleged abuse or violence (domestic relationship defined below)
· The defendant abused or committed violence against the alleged victim without legal justification (See defenses below for legal justification)
Abuse or Violence Defined
Per 243(e)(1), abuse or violence means the defendant applied physical force against the alleged victim, or offensively touched the alleged victim, and the alleged victim did not consent to the touching and there is no legal justification for the defendant's application of physical force or offensive touching against the alleged victim. This includes the crimes of battery, false imprisonment with injury, and kidnapping, but it also include offensive touching such as molestation or forcefully grabbing an item out of the alleged victim’s hand without consent. Per 243(e)(1), the offensive touching does not have to cause pain or injury as long as the touching was done in a harmful or aggressive manner and without legal justification. Common PC 243(e)(1) charges alleged that the defendant grabbed a phone phone the alleged victim without the alleged victim's consent.
Domestic Relationship Required
For the crime of domestic battery against a spouse or cohabitant to be properly charged the prosecutor must prove that the defendant and the alleged victim were either legal spouses to one another (or former legal spouses), or, lived together as roommates (or former roommates). PC 243(e)(1) defines a cohabitant as ‘a person who is not of family relationship to the defendant.’
Note: If the defendant and the alleged victim are in a dating relationship when an allegation of abuse or violence is levied against the defendant the defendant is more likely to be charged with the crime of inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 273.5(a)), than domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant under PC 243(e)(1). See PC 273.5(a) for further information on the crime of inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant.
PC 243(e)(1) Punishment
Jail Sentence: The crime of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1)) is classified as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of misdemeanor PC 243(e)(1) the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail (not state prison). Any actual in-custody jail sentence is subject to fifty percent (50%) good conduct credits. This means that for every day the defendant is in jail and he or she is on his or her good behavior he or she will receive credit for two days off his or her jail sentence. The same good conduct credit applies to jail sentences that are served alternatively on work release (See below).
Note: The crimes of domestic battery of a spouse or cohabitant is usually charged as PC243(e)(1)-M in San Bernardino County. This includes the cities of Redlands, San Bernardino, Fontana, Victorville, Rialto, Yucaipa, Hesperia, Rancho Cucamonga, Chino, Highland, and the San Bernardino mountain towns and cities.
Probation Sentence: Probation is a period of supervision in lieu of a jail sentence; however, a term of probation can include a short term of actual jail in some cases. Probation terms for PC 243(e)(1) generally include mandatory domestic violence classes, criminal protective orders, fines, penalties, substance abuse treatment (if drugs or alcohol is alleged in the facts of the case), restitution for medical bills or damaged property, and more.
A probation sentence in domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant cases is not supervised by a probation officer. Instead, if the defendant is sentenced to probation in any PC 243(e)(1) case, the defendant is placed on court supervision. Court supervision is also called misdemeanor probation, summary probation, and informal probation. Basically, with court supervision, the defendant must comply with all the terms of his or her probation sentence and stay out of trouble (no arrests for misdemeanors or felonies), but the defendant does not actually have a probation officer supervise his or her conduct. Probation sentences in PC 243(e)(1) cases, if any is offered, last for four years.
Work Release & House Arrest: If found guilty of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1)), and the defendant is sentenced to probation in lieu of jail, the defendant may usually serve his or her jail sentence on work release or house arrest. Work release is picking up trash, usually around the San Bernardino jails and freeways; house arrest is also known as electronic monitoring and requires the defendant to wear a angle monitor.
Domestic Violence Classes: If found guilty of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant the court will sentence the defendant to mandatory domestic violence classes. These classes usually require weekly attendance from 16 – 52 weeks depending on the circumstances of the case. The defendant is required to pay for the classes. The list of domestic violence classes and locations for San Bernardino County is provided by the court upon any PC 243(e)(1) conviction.
Loss of Firearm Rights: All domestic violence crimes carry some type of firearm prohibition. For the crimes of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant that prohibition is ten years; however, California’s ten year prohibition is of little value since the federal government now requires a lifetime ban on domestic violence conviction. In fact, even a plea bargain to a lesser crime, such as disturbing the peace or trespassing, can lead to a lifetime firearm ban if the underlying facts of the case demonstrate a domestic violence type crime. The law in this area changes frequently. For the most up-to-date information on firearm prohibition and domestic violence conviction contact our domestic violence defense lawyers for a free consultation.
Immigration and PC 243(e)(1): Misdemeanor domestic battery on a spouse or a cohabitant is considered a crime involving moral turpitude and a crime of domestic violence. A crime involving moral turpitude means a crime that involves dishonestly or a morally bad act. Both crimes of moral turpitude and crimes involving domestic violence can have severe negative consequence for non U.S. citizens under current U.S. immigration law. If found guilty of PC 243(e)(1), a non U.S. citizen defendant could face deportation or denial of reentry into the United State. Immigration laws in the United States are changing frequently and any person charged with a domestic violence crime should consult with a domestic violence defense attorney familiar with immigration law without delay.
Professional License & PC 243(e)(1): Any professional or occupational license may be negatively affected by a criminal conviction of PC 243(e)(1). A professional or occupational license includes any license granted by a California Bar, Commission, or Board. This includes, but is not limited to, the following professions: Nursing, lawyers, doctors, dentist, therapist, barbers, pharmacists, psychologist, and more. A negative impact means that the defendant’s profession or occupational license could be suspended, revoked, placed on probation, or more. Any defendant charged with a domestic violence crimes, including the crimes of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant, should contact a domestic violence defense lawyer familiar with administrative actions against professionals without delay.
Additional Penalties for PC 243(e)(1): If found guilty of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant, the defendant may face any or all of the following additional punishments: fines, monetary penalties, civil lawsuits, discharge or denial of entry into the military, insurance premiums raised, restraining orders (criminal protective orders [CPS]), DMV issues (for DV cases that involve the use of a vehicle), violation of probation or parole (if defendant was on probation or parole at the time of the alleged domestic violence charge), loss of the right to receive spousal support, loss of right to adopt a child in a stepparent adoption proceeding, and more.
Note: If the defendant and the alleged victim are married at the time of the alleged domestic violence incident, the defendant is likely to face a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) in family law court. In addition, the family law court may deny spousal support to any person found guilty of domestic violence against the supporting spouse. If the defendant is married at the time of being charged with any domestic violence crimes, including PC 243(e)(1) he or she should contact a criminal defense lawyer familiar with family law, or vice versa. Also, any statement made in criminal court or family law court may be used against the defendant in either court.
Defense to PC 243(e)(1)
The best defense to a charge of domestic battery against a spouse or cohabitant will depend on the facts of the individual case and the circumstances of the defendant. For example, seeking a plea bargain with the district attorney for a lesser crime, such as disturbing the peace, simply battery (not domestic), or trespassing, might be a good strategy for some defendants, but if the facts of the case suggest no crime was committed, then pleading guilty to any criminal charge is usually repugnant to the defendant. On the other hand, PC 243(e)(1) cases that are supported by strong evidence might not convince a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge or lesser sentence if the conviction is going to result in the loss of the defendant’s professional license or immigration status. With that said, common defenses to PC 243(e)(1) charges include: self-defense, defense of others, insanity, consent to touching, alibi, statute of limitations (1 year from the date of incident), insufficient evidence, mistake of fact, police misconduct or failure to properly investigate the alleged incident, coerced confessions or statements, and more.
Note: The fact that the alleged victim changes his or her mind about wanting to press charges, or changes his or her statements surrounding the alleged domestic violence incident rarely leads to a dismissal of criminal charges. San Bernardino County prosecutors are used to alleged victims of domestic violence changing their desire to assist prosecutors or changing their statement about what occurred during an alleged domestic violence incident.
PC 243(e)(1) and Plea Bargains
It is not uncommon to find that San Bernardino County district attorneys are willing to make agreements with defendants in PC 243(e)(1) cases wherein the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for the district attorney’s promise to lower the criminal charge or impose a lesser sentence that otherwise might be sought after a finding of guilt at a jury trial. Lower charges in PC 243(e)(1) cases could include a plea to disturbing the peace, trespass, or simple battery (Simple battery is a battery without domestic violence allegations). Whether the San Bernardino County district attorney is willing to enter into a plea bargain in any domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant case depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history, if any.
Note: Veteran’s court diversion might be available for military enlisted persons and veterans in PC 243(e)(1) cases. Veteran’s court diversion programs are beyond the scope of this article; however, any persons suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of military service, which contributes to chemical dependency or otherwise leads to criminal behavior, might consider having his or her criminal case transfer to veteran’s court for treatment that might avoid prosecution. For more information on veteran’s court in San Bernardino County contact our domestic violence defense lawyers for a free consultation.
If you have been charged with misdemeanor domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1), inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 273.5(a)), or a request for domestic violence restraining orders, contact our domestic violence criminal defense lawyers without delay and for a free consultation or visit our Domestic Violence Defense Blog for more information. Our domestic violence defense lawyers have successfully representing hundreds of clients in the County of San Bernardino, including the cities of Redlands, Colton, Rialto, Fontana, Victorville, Yucaipa, Highland, Hesperia, Ontario, Chino, Rancho Cucamonga, and San Bernardino. Our first time, in-office consultation are always free. Call today!