Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1) & Domestic Violence PC 13700

Accusations of domestic violence and domestic battery can cost you your marriage and your job, damage your reputation, and result in hefty fines and jail time. You need to take these accusations seriously and contact a criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights. 

Every relationship is unique and has its ups and downs. When a couple finds themselves engaged in a heated argument, a concerned neighbor may call the police. Or it may be one of the partners who dials 911 and seeks police assistance when they believe their partner crossed the line. When the police arrive, the assumed perpetrator may be charged with domestic violence or domestic battery and taken into custody.

Domestic battery PC 243(e)(1) & domestic violence PC 13700 are commonly misunderstood in California. At Gressley & Donaldson, we are well-versed in domestic violence laws and strive to provide responsive and accessible counsel to those who have been charged with domestic battery and domestic violence. Our law firm is dedicated to protecting the rights and freedom of every client we represent because we believe people facing criminal charges deserve to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

When you find yourself facing domestic violence or domestic battery charges, you need a reputable and skilled lawyer to help you navigate the criminal justice system. The team at Gressley & Donaldson is here to help. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about domestic battery and violence charges under California criminal law.

How Does California Define Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC Domestic Battery?

California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC defines “domestic battery” – sometimes referred to as spousal battery – as any intentional and unlawful physical contact that offends or causes harm to the accused person’s:

  • Current or former spouse;
  • Current or former fiancé;
  • Current or former cohabitant;
  • Mother or father of their child; or
  • Any individual with whom the accused currently has or used to have a dating (romantic) relationship.

Under California law, you can be convicted of domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1) if all of the following elements are met:

  1. The offender used unwanted or unlawful physical contact, no matter how slight;
  2. Against a person who falls into any of the above-mentioned categories; and
  3. Causes harm, injuries, or no injury at all.

The alleged offender can be convicted of domestic battery even if they did not cause any pain or visible injury to the alleged victim. Even the slightest, non-injurious contact may constitute “battery” when it is done in an offensive or violent manner. For this reason, allegations of domestic battery often result in an automatic arrest even in the absence of concrete evidence proving the alleged offender’s guilt. 

How Does California Define Penal Code 13700 PC Domestic Violence?

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California Penal Code 13700 PC defines the term “domestic violence” and explains what constitutes “abuse” to be charged under this section. Under the law, a person commits abuse when they intentionally or recklessly: 

  • Attempt to cause serious bodily injury;
  • Cause serious bodily injury; or
  • Place the victim in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury.

Such abuse becomes “domestic violence” under PC 13700 when the alleged victim and the offender:

  • Are current or former spouses;
  • Are current or former cohabitants;
  • Share children together; or
  • Currently have or used to have a dating (romantic) or engagement relationship.

California Penal Code has a separate statute – “corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant” under California Penal Code section 273.5 PC – that makes it a crime to cause physical injuries to anyone who falls into one of the above-mentioned categories through an act of domestic violence. However, if the injury was caused during an innocent accident and the person who caused the injury to the alleged victim did not act intentionally or recklessly, the incident will generally not lead to domestic violence charges.

What Is the Difference Between Domestic Battery And Domestic Violence?

Many people use the terms “domestic battery” and “domestic violence” interchangeably, but, as we have explained above, domestic battery PC 243(e)(1) & domestic violence PC 13700 charges refer to two different things.

Notably, no visible injuries indicating physical abuse are required to charge a suspect under PC 243(e)(1). As long as it can be proven that the offender acted in an offensive or violent manner, it is not necessary that the victim suffers bodily injury from the contact. Domestic violence PC 13700, on the other hand, requires that the offender either causes or attempts to cause serious bodily injury to the victim or places them in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury. Let’s review two examples:

  • Example #1. A husband and wife get into a heated argument. At one point, the husband grabs his wife’s wrists in a violent manner. The incident did not cause any injury to the wife, not even bruises, but the husband could still be charged with domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1) because he touched his wife in a violent manner.
  • Example #2. A husband and wife get into a heated argument. At one point, the husband pushes his wife to the ground. The wife hits her head and suffers a concussion. The incident will most likely qualify as domestic violence under PC 13700 and result in charges under PC 273.5.

Our legal team at Gressley & Donaldson can help you make a distinction between domestic battery and domestic violence and prepare a defense strategy to dispute the allegations of abuse or battery in your case.

How Does the Prosecution Prove Domestic Battery & Domestic Violence?

In order to convict someone of domestic battery or domestic violence under California law, the prosecution must prove these three elements: 

  1. The defendant and the alleged victim are current/former spouses, cohabitants, fiancés, dating partners, or share children together;
  2. The defendant (a) made unlawful contact with the alleged victim (domestic battery PC 243(e)(1)) or (b) caused or attempted to cause serious bodily injury to the victim or placed them in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury (domestic violence PC 13700); and
  3. The defendant acted intentionally or recklessly (the incident was not an innocent accident).

Keep in mind that the prosecutor does not need to prove that the alleged victim suffered a visible injury to convict the defendant of domestic battery. The prosecution can secure a conviction as long as the defendant is acting in an offensive or violent manner.

Defense Strategies to Domestic Battery & Domestic Violence Charges

When it comes to facing domestic battery PC 243(e)(1) & domestic violence PC 13700 charges, the burden of proof falls on the prosecutor. The defendant, in his or her defense, can employ a defense strategy to either disprove the allegations entirely or mitigate charges and penalties.

At Gressley & Donaldson, we work to help clients develop legal defense strategies tailored to their unique circumstances. Some common defenses to domestic battery and domestic violence charges are:

  • Self-defense. You cannot be guilty of domestic battery or domestic violence if you used force or acted in an offensive or violent manner to defend yourself. However, your response must be proportionate to the level of immediate threat of harm.
  • Defense of another person. The prosecutor cannot secure a domestic violence/battery conviction if you can prove that you were acting in defense of another person, such as your kids.
  • False accusations. You cannot be convicted of domestic violence or battery if you have been falsely accused and the “incident” never happened or the accuser’s allegations were exaggerated.
  • Lack of evidence. The prosecution may not be able to prove your guilt if there is not enough evidence (e.g., a record of an emergency call, witness statements, signs of injury or struggle, etc.) in the case.
  • No willful act. If you did not act recklessly or intentionally and did not intend to cause harm in the alleged incident of domestic violence or battery, you cannot be convicted.

This is a non-exhaustive list of possible defense strategies when facing domestic battery and domestic violence charges. The viability and effectiveness of each defense depends on the specific facts of your case, which is why you might want to work with a lawyer when building a case. The lawyers at Gressley & Donaldson can evaluate the details of your case and identify the most effective defense strategy.

Penalties for Domestic Battery and Domestic Violence in California

In most cases, domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1) is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a maximum of six months in jail. By contrast, corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant under PC 273.5 – a form of domestic violence PC 13700 – is a “wobbler” offense, which means the prosecution can pursue it as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the victim’s injury, the offender’s criminal history, and the facts of the case. Possible penalties for a misdemeanor or a felony under PC 273.5 include:

  • Misdemeanor: a fine of up to $6,000 and/or up to one year in county jail.
  • Felony: a fine of up to $6,000 and up to four years in state prison.

If a domestic violence charge is prosecuted as a felony, the defendant could also face other consequences upon a conviction, including:

  • The loss of the right to own and possess a firearm;
  • The loss of a professional license; and
  • Being subjected to a restraining order.

Under AB 3129, which went into effect on January 1, 2019, the loss of gun rights triggered by either a misdemeanor or a felony conviction related to domestic violence crimes is a lifetime ban. Before the legislation, misdemeanor convictions resulted in a 10-year firearm prohibition.

Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1) & Domestic Violence PC 13700 Frequently Asked Questions

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Being accused of domestic battery PC 243(e)(1) & domestic violence PC 13700 in California can be a nerve-wracking experience. The uncertainty of lies ahead can make you feel hopeless and helpless. In the FAQ section below, we will provide answers to some of the most common questions we receive from prospective clients accused of domestic battery and domestic violence:

• Is domestic battery or violence a felony in California?

In most cases, domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1) is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. However, if the alleged victim suffered physical injuries as a result of the accused’s intentional or reckless conduct, the charge may be elevated to corporal injury under PC 273.5, which is a wobbler offense. In other words, the prosecution can pursue a charge under PC 273.5 as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the facts of the case.

• What are the consequences of a conviction for non-citizens?

As a rule of thumb, a domestic battery conviction under PC 243(e)(1) will not result in negative immigration consequences because it does not constitute a “deportable crime of domestic violence” pursuant to 8 USC 1227(a)(2)(E). A conviction for domestic violence, including corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant under PC 273.5, can subject non-citizens to deportation and make them inadmissible for re-entry to the United States.

• How long will a domestic violence conviction stay on your record?

Any misdemeanor or felony domestic violence conviction stays on the convicted person’s record for life. Although the state of California does not use the term “expungement,” there may be a way to clean your record, according to the official website of the Judicial Branch of California. It may be possible to remove a conviction from your criminal record if you have successfully completed probation or a term of imprisonment, whichever was imposed in your case.

• Will my domestic violence conviction affect child custody? 

Yes, it could. If a parent has been convicted of domestic violence in the last five years, Cal. Fam. Code § 3044 applies. This statute creates a rebuttable presumption against awarding child custody to a parent who committed domestic violence. The judge may give a preference to supervised visitation if doing so would be best for the children.

• How will a conviction affect my gun rights?

Yes, you will have to surrender your firearms after a conviction for domestic violence in California. Proposition 63, which passed in California in 2016, requires every individual convicted of a firearm-prohibiting crime, including domestic violence, to sell or transfer their firearms within a specific timeframe after a conviction.

• The accuser wants to drop the charges. Will this affect my case? 

Sometimes, the alleged victim, known as the accuser in domestic violence cases, may decide that he or she does not want to press charges. Accusers can take back the statements they made to the police or change their story about what happened. However, even if they do that, it will still be up to the prosecutor to decide whether the criminal case should go forward or whether it makes sense to dismiss the charges. The primary concern for the prosecution is that the accuser could have been threatened or pressured by the accused to take back their statement or change their story.

• Can you be charged with domestic battery if there was no injury?

Yes, you can be charged with and convicted of domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1) even if the alleged victim did not suffer any injury. The prosecution has the burden to prove that you acted in an offensive or violent manner to secure a conviction. However, the prosecution cannot convict a person of domestic battery if the contact with the alleged victim was purely accidental.

• Is there a difference between corporal injury and domestic battery? 

While the charge of domestic battery does not require the alleged victim to suffer visible injuries, corporal injury does. A person cannot be charged with corporal injury if they do not intentionally or recklessly cause physical injuries to their current/former spouse, cohabitant, fiancé, intimate partner, or the mother/father of their child.

• How do I appeal a domestic violence conviction?

If you have been convicted of domestic violence, you can appeal your conviction by filing a Notice to Appeal. The deadline for submitting the notice differs depending on whether you receive a misdemeanor or a felony judgment. If your domestic violence case was prosecuted as a misdemeanor, you have 30 days to file a Notice to Appeal from the date of the judgment. If the case was prosecuted as a felony, there will be a 60-day deadline. Once your case proceeds through an appeals process, it will be reviewed by a higher court.

Gressley & Donaldson: Top California Domestic Violence & Domestic Battery Defense Lawyers

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Accusations of domestic battery or domestic violence can change your life in an instant, and not in a good way. It is crucial to have a reliable and skilled criminal defense attorney when it comes to defending yourself against domestic battery PC 243(e)(1) & domestic violence PC 13700 charges.

At Gressley & Donaldson, we understand the delicate nature of cases involving allegations of domestic battery or domestic violence and are committed to providing a client-focused and zealous representation to Californians facing these accusations. You can rely on our team to listen to your side of the story and help you mount a defense strong enough to cast doubt on the prosecution’s case against you. Contact our law office today to receive a case evaluation.

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We understand that being accused of a crime is one of the most challenging times of your life. Rely on us to advocate for your rights and to give you the defense you deserve.