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Domestic Battery

What is Penal Code 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery?

California prohibits a spouse or partner from intentionally touching their spouse or partner in a manner that is harmful or offensive. This is codified in California’s penal code under Penal Code section 243(e)(1). Penal Code 243(e)(1) is commonly referred to as domestic battery or spousal battery. Penal Code 243(e)(1) is one of the more commonly charged crimes of domestic violence in California.

You can be charged with Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery even if your spouse/partner was not injured. This is distinguishable from California’s Penal Code 273.5, which cannot be charged unless the victim suffers a physical injury.

Let’s explore the legal definition of Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery.

Legal Definition of Penal Code 243(e)(1)

To be convicted of a domestic violence crime, the district attorney needs to prove all of the elements, or facts, of the crime. For Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery, the district attorney must prove all of the following elements:

1) You intentionally touched another person;

2) The touching was harmful or offensive;

3) The person that was touched was a current or past intimate partner.

Let’s examine the individual elements of Penal Code 243(e)(1) more closely:


In order to be convicted of a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation, the prosecutor needs to prove that you acted intentionally when you committed the act that led to charges against you. Keep in mind that the prosecutor does not have to prove that you willfully injured your spouse/partner but that you acted willfully in committing the actions that allegedly harmed or offended your spouse.

Example: Roseanne and Dan are married. One day, while cooking dinner, Roseanne slips and accidentally spills hot water on Dan’s face. The paramedics arrive, followed by the police, responding to what they believe a potential incident of domestic violence. Because Roseanne has a bad attitude and a previous record of violence, the police arrest and charge her with a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation. In this example, Roseanne could argue she did not willfully or intentionally cause the hot water to touch Dan. Therefore, she did not commit a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation.

Harmful or Offensive Touching

Even if you did not “hurt” your partner/spouse in the traditional sense by causing physical injury or pain to the other person, you still be charged with a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation. Penal Code 243(e)(1) applies to a broader range of conduct. You can be convicted of Penal Code 243(e)(1) even if your actions were conducted in a manner that was angry or disrespectful.

Example: Dwight and Michael are intimate partners who have lived together for years. One day, Dwight gets jealous at Michael for flirting with a mutual friend. He shoves Michael against a wall. Michael suffers no physical injuries. However, because Dwight pushed Michael in an heated manner, he is potentially guilt of a Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery. This is because Dwight’s touching could be meaningfully interpreted as offensive. There is no requirement that the touching cause physical injuries.

Intimate Partner

You can be charged with Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery only if the alleged victim is someone that you shared an intimate relationship with either currently or in the past. Under Penal Code 243(e)(1), intimate partners include all of the following:

  • Spouse or past spouse.
  • Co-habiting partner or someone you are living with
  • A fiancé
  • The parent o
  • A person you maintained a dating relationship either currently or in the past

In order to be convicted of Penal Code 243(e)(1), the prosecutor needs to prove that the alleged victim is an “intimate partner.” Some types of relationships, such as spouse or co-parent, are easy to prove. However, especially in modern times, it is more difficult to prove if two people are or were simply dating. Also, it can be equally complicated to determine if two people are cohabitating in the legal sense.

Example: Sheldon and Raj are good friends and work at the same University. In fact, they share an office. However, one day, they get into a fight at a comic book store over who will buy the last copy of a limited edition Spiderman comic. In a fit of rage, Raj punches Sheldon in the face. Raj is charged with a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation. In this case, Raj is not guilty of a Penal Code 243(e)(1 domestic battery) violation because he does not meet any of the requirements of an “intimate partner.” Raj and Sheldon are simply friends and are not dating each other.

However, if Sheldon and Raj used to date, called each other boyfriends, or used to tell people they were in a romantic relationship, then Raj could potentially be guilty of a Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery.

Example: Chris and Anna were dating for a long time. One day, Chris gets a new job that is more prestigious and makes a lot more money. Chris begins an intimate relationship with his secretary, Jennifer, on the side. Things are going well until one night Chris and Jennifer get into an argument about whether Chris was flirting with other girls in the club. Upset, Chris slaps Jennifer. In this situation, Chris is guilty of Penal Code 243(e)(1). This is the case because California law recognizes that a defendant may have multiple “intimate partners.” Chris can commit a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation against Jennifer even though he is in an intimate relationship with Anna. Furthermore, California also recognizes that a defendant can be cohabitating with multiple partners.

What are the potential consequences for Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery?

Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery is categorized as a misdemeanor. A Penal Code 243(e)(1) conviction can result in all of the following consequences: 1 year in county jail time, up to $2,000 in fines, and summary probation.

Probation Conditions

With a strong legal defense, defendants facing a Penal Code 243(e)(1) charge might be able to obtain probation in lieu of jail time. This type of probation is otherwise called a “suspended sentence.” If you receive probation, you will be obligated to meet certain terms and conditions imposed by the judge. Included in these terms will be a requirement that you complete a minimum of one year of a batterer’s treatment program. Additionally, in lieu of up to $2,000 in fines, the judge could decid that you must also do the following: make a donation of up to $5,000 dollars to a abused woman’s shelter and/or force you to pay the expenses your partner/spouse may have reasonably incurred (such as counseling or therapist fees) due to your Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation.

If you are convicted with a Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery violation a second time, and the judge sentences you to probation, you will be forced to serve a minimum of two days in a county jail. However, you might be able to avoid this jail time if the judge can be convinced of a “good cause” to not impose any jail time.

Immigration Consequences of Penal Code 243(e)(1)

Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery can have severe immigration consequences for non-citizens. The Department of Homeland Security considers crimes of domestic violence a “deportable crime.” Thus, even if you are currently in the United States legally, you could be subject to deportation if you suffer a conviction under Penal Code 243(e)(1).

Due to these adverse immigration consequences, it is important to have an experienced domestic violence criminal defense attorney who can either convince the prosecutor to dismiss the current charge of 243(e)(1) against you or get this charge reduced to a less serious and more immigration-safe alternative.

Example: Tony and Carmela Soprano are married. One day, Carmela discovers her husband’s infidelity. In a fit of rage, she throws a vase at him. The vase hits Tony, but does not hurt him. Alarmed by the commotion, a neighbor calls the police. When the police arrive, Tony and Carmela both admit to what happened. Carmela gets arrested and is later charged with a violation of Penal Code Section 243(e)(1). Carmela is not a U.S. citizen. Her domestic violence attorney diligently portrays to the prosecutor the battery as an isolated incident born out of shock over a spouse’s infidelity. Carmela’s attorney also has Carmela successfully complete anger management and couple’s therapy with Tony. The prosecutor is ultimately convinced to reduce the charge against Carmela to a misdemeanor disturbing the peace under Penal Code section 415, which has no immigration consequences for Carmela.

What are the legal defenses to a Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery charge?

A Penal Code 243(e)(1) conviction can carry severe consequences. Fortuitously, there are a variety of legal defenses available to fight a Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery charge. An experienced and thorough domestic violence attorney can review the particular circumstances of your domestic violence case to develop an effective legal strategy that will result in the best possible outcome in your particular case.

Self- Defense or Defense of Others

The legal defenses of Self Defense or Defense of Others are available to a Penal Code Section 243(e)(1) charge if the following facts can be all be proved in a court of law:

  • You had a reasonable belief that you or another person were in imminent danger of experiencing bodily injury or unlawful touching;
  • You had a reasonable belief that the imminent use of force was required to defend yourself or another person;
  • You did not exceed the level of force that was reasonably necessary to protect against that danger.

If the judge or jury can be convinced of all of these listed facts, then you acted in legal and justifiable self-defense as far as the law is concerned.

Example: Donald and Melanie are married with a child. One day, Melanie gets angry with her child and starts hitting him with a stick. Donald tackles Melanie and keeps her down on the ground. If Donald is charged with a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation, Donald could argue Defense of Others. Donald’s son was in danger of imminent bodily injury. However, because Donald tackled Melanie and forced her to stay on the ground, it could also be argued that he used unreasonable force or more force that was necessary to deflect the harm to his son.

You did not act willfully.

You cannot be convicted of a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation if you did not intentionally touch your spouse/partner. In other words, accidental touching does not constitute a Penal Code section 243(e)(1) violation.

Example: Ironman and Superwoman are in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. While fixing his suit, Ironman accidentally hits a button on his rocket arms and they fly into Superwoman. In this example, Ironman did not commit a Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery. He was not acting willfully when he touched Superwoman with the rocket arms. However, if Ironman used the rocket arms to smash into Superwoman as a joke, he could be considered guilty of a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation. It does not matter that Ironman did not intend to harm or offend Superwoman. Under Penal Code 243(e)(1), it only matters whether the touching itself was done willfully.

You were falsely accused

There are many of reasons why you might be falsely accused of a Penal Code 243(e)(1) violation. Your “intimate partner” could be angry with you, or they might be trying to gain an advantage in a divorce proceeding by creating a record of domestic violence. Regardless of the reason, it is important to have a skilled domestic violence attorney, experienced in the area of domestic violence, on your side. A domestic violence attorney can build the evidentiary record in your favor and utilize a variety of substantive and procedural legal strategies to ensure a better outcome in your case. For example, by hiring an investigator, a domestic violence attorney can poke holes in the alleged victim’s story and help you avoid a Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery conviction.

Example: Sam and Diane are in an intimate relationship. They are also business partners because they own a bar together. Sam finds out that Diane is stealing money from the bar to pay for a drug habit. Sam confronts Diane about this habit. As a result, Diane calls 911 and tells the police that Sam shook her heavily because he was drunk. Sam promptly calls an experienced domestic violence criminal defense attorney. After thoroughly investigating the facts, Sam’s attorney uncovers information that reveal Diane’s motive to lie and that prove that Sam had an alibi for the timeframe in which Diane claimed the crime occurred. As a result, the police drop any Penal Code 243(e)(1) charges against Sam.

Call an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney Immediately if You are Accused of Penal Code 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery

As demonstrated above, Penal Code 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery is a serious offense carrying severe penalties. The earlier you contact Domestic Violence Attorney, the better chance you have at avoiding such accusations.

For a free legal consultation, you are invited to call our office no matter the time at 424-276-6060.

Domestic Violence Attorney will review your case with confidentiality and thoroughness. We will then advise you on what steps you should take to fight Penal Code 243(e)(1) charges.

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