Being arrested for domestic battery in Orange County is a severe crime. Apart from the jail time, the social stigma, and hefty fines that are associated with the offense, a domestic battery arrest can affect your life negatively. Several trips to the court that are time-consuming, community service, an aggressive prosecutor, and a lengthy counseling program are just a few penalties you are likely to face. Given these serious and lifelong impacts of a conviction, you should consult an attorney at the Orange County Criminal Lawyer. You can trust our attorneys to offer you aggressive, competent, and focused representation you require.

What is Domestic Battery?

California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC is the domestic battery law. It defines this crime as battery against an individual with whom you are in an intimate relationship. You violate the law when you willfully or illegally touch your intimate partner and inflict violence or force.

To prove a defendant is guilty of violating domestic battery law, the prosecution should prove certain facts are true. These elements of the offense include:

  • The defendant touched somebody else,
  • The touch was offensive or harmful, and
  • The alleged victim was the defendant's intimate or ex-intimate partner.

To understand the legal definition of California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC) better, here is an overview of the main legal terms:


The term willfully means you acted willingly on purpose. You don't require to have planned to injure another person or violate the law.

For instance, Mary and Jack are married, and they get into an argument. Mary tries to leave their house, but Jack restrains her physically. Mary struggles to free of his grip and dislocates her wrist. Although Jack did not plan to injure Mary, he could be found guilty of breaking the domestic battery law. This is because he used force against his wife in a harmful manner willfully.

Offensive or Harmful Touching

It is worth noting that a defendant could be found guilty of Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC, even if they did not hurt or injure somebody else.

Offensive or harmful touching does not have to result in pain, or an injury provided it was executed angrily or disrespectfully. Bearing that in mind, spousal battery is comparable to battery ( Penal Code 242 PC).

For instance, Gladys and John, who are engaged, get into an argument. Gladys is furious and pushes John against their vehicle. Being smaller than John, Gladys’ push cannot injury John. But since she touched her fiancé violently and angrily, she can be accused of spousal battery.

It is unclear whether a defendant is required to touch another person's body for them to be charged with spousal battery. The law is not clear on that point. But then again, it could be the case that the defendant could be charged even if they only touched something closely related to or attached to the alleged victim instead. 

Against your Intimate Partner

Spousal battery can be committed only against an individual with whom the defendant has an intimate relationship. It can be:

  • Your spouse or an ex-spouse
  • An individual whom you are staying with (cohabiting)
  • Your fiancée or fiancé
  • A mother or father of your baby
  • An individual whom you had or have a dating relationship with

An engagement relationship, other parent, or spouse are simple to prove.  However, there are instances when establishing whether two individuals are dating or cohabiting can be overwhelming.

For instance, a man is seen beating a woman who isn't his live-in lover, wife, or fiancée outside his house at 5:00 am. He is charged with violating domestic battery laws, but the woman fails to testify against the man. The man claims that there is no evidence that he is dating the woman. But a witness heard him call the woman his girlfriend. Besides, the fact that the woman was at his house at 5:00 am is enough proof for the judge to believe they were in a dating relationship.

For the purposes of the Penal Code Section243(e)(1) PC), you can cohabit with several people concurrently.

How Domestic Violence Differs from Domestic Battery?

A Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC) charge is a California misdemeanor. A Penal Code Section 273.5 PC (domestic battery) offense, on the other hand, is charged as a wobbler. It can be charged either as a misdemeanor  or a felony hinging on the degree of injury and facts of your case.

Also, it is a requirement that the victim suffered an injury under Penal Code 273.5. On the contrary, spousal battery only needs an offensive or harmful touching.

Corporal Injury to Cohabitant or Spouse Under PC 273.5

You commit domestic violence when you inflict an injury on your intimate partner, and the hurt leads to a traumatic condition. Different from a simple spousal battery offense, you can't file intentional infliction of corporal injury charges against an individual you are or were dating or are or were engaged to. The definition of an intimate partner under PC 273.5 is restricted to:

  • Your former spouse
  • A parent to your baby
  • A current or former cohabitant

Another notable difference is that in domestic violence, the victim should suffer a traumatic condition. A traumatic condition is a bodily injury or wound that is as a result of direct use of physical force. It can be severe or minor. 

What Penalties Does Domestic Battery Attract?

Violation of Penal Code section 243(e)(1) PC is considered  a  misdemeanor. It attracts the penalties below:

  • A one-year jail sentence
  • Up to $2,000 in fines
  • Summary or misdemeanor probation

Probation Terms and Conditions

It's not uncommon for people convicted of spousal battery to be granted probation. In case this happens, the defendant will be needed to complete a year batterer's treatment class successfully.

Moreover, if a suspended sentence is granted, the judge could decide instead of the two thousand dollars fine, you pay:

  • Any reasonable bills the alleged victim incurred due to the crime including counseling cost, or
  • A maximum of $ 5,000 to the battered woman's shelter.

Additionally, if you get a subsequent domestic battery conviction and receive probation as the sentence, you will be obliged to serve a minimum of forty-eight-hour jail term.

The only way around this condition is if a defendant can persuade the court that they have a good cause of why they shouldn't serve the time.

Immigration Repercussions

In most cases, spousal battery is considered a minor crime, and potential consequences are not very serious. However, if you are a non-citizen defendant, you need to know the immigration impact of a domestic battery conviction.

Since the violation of Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC is a domestic violence offense, it's a deportable offense under federal immigration law. That means even if you're in the United States lawfully, you could be deported following a domestic battery conviction.

Bearing that in mind, the immigrant defendant should consult a competent domestic battery defense attorney immediately. It is crucial that you speak to a lawyer who is well-versed with both criminal and immigration law before you plead guilty to spousal battery.

Legal Defenses

Discussed below are numerous legal defenses which your experienced domestic violence attorney should be in a position to use:

Defense of Self or Others

Defense of self or others is a valid legal defense if all the statements below are true:

  • The defendant thought that they or somebody else was in impending danger of being touched unlawfully or suffering bodily injury
  • The defendant reasonably believed that the sudden use of force was required to protect against the risk
  • The defendant did not apply more force than was required to protect against the risk

If a defense attorney is able to prove all the statements mentioned above, then you aren't guilty of spousal battery.

Lack of Willfulness

Another valid legal defense is claiming the incident leading to the offense was an accident. If you injured your intimate partner by mistake, then you cannot be found guilty of spousal battery. This is because the intended application of force or willful is one of the elements of domestic battery that the prosecution should prove.

False Accusation

Every single day innocent persons are arrested for domestic battery.

Often these arrests are founded on false accusations originating from jealousy, vengeance, and anger.

If this occurs, you could feel devastated and helpless. Your experienced criminal defense attorney will tell you that they have previously experienced this situation several times. Therefore, they know what to inquire about and the evidence to collect to make sure the truth is revealed.

Related Offenses to Spousal Battery

Other similar offenses to domestic battery include:

Intentional Infliction of Corporal Injury (PC 273.5)

Like mentioned earlier, the main difference between domestic battery and Penal Code 273.5 PC is that the latter requires the defendant to cause an injury to their intimate partner.

Intentional infliction of corporal injury is a California wobbler. In other words, it can be charged either as a felony or misdemeanor, depending primarily on the accused's criminal history and the case's facts.

Penal Code Section 273.5 carries more severe penalties compared to spousal battery. Therefore, in most cases, it is sensible to plead guilty to spousal battery charges.

Penal Code Section 243d (Aggravated Battery)

Another crime that is charged alongside or instead of domestic battery is aggravated battery. However, the differences between the two laws is in Penal Code Section 243d:

  • The alleged accuser can be any person (not just the defendant's intimate partner), and
  • The victim should have sustained a serious bodily hurt.

Violation of California Penal Code Section 243d is considered a wobbler. If charged with a California felony, you will spend 2, 3, or 4 years in prison.

Sometimes if the prosecution team is in a position to prove that you injured the alleged victim, you will be charged with aggravated battery rather than spousal battery.

Penal Code Section 368 PC (Elder Abuse)

Under PC 368, it is illegal to negligently or willfully impose unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain to an individual who is at least 65 years of age.

If your behavior amounts to a violation of Penal Code Section 243(e)(1) PC, but the accuser is sixty-five years or older, the prosecutor could choose to prosecute you under PC 368 instead.

Violation of elder abuse law attracts more severe consequences than spousal battery. It is a California wobbler. When charged as a California felony, it is punishable by:

  • Two (2), three (3), or four (4) years in prison, and
  • Up to six thousand dollars in fines.

If the alleged victim died or sustained severe bodily hurt, the prison sentence is enhanced to five or seven years.

Damaging a Telephone Wire (PC 591)

It seems like Penal Code Section 591 has nothing to do with spousal battery, right?

Well, more often than not, these crimes are charged alongside one another. It isn't uncommon for the domestic battery victim to claim that you disabled the phone or cut a phone wire. Penal Code Section 591 is a California wobbler. A felony charge is punishable by a three-year jail sentence.

Aggravated Trespass (Penal Code Section 601 PC)

You're guilty of aggravated trespass if you cause severe bodily harm or make threats to somebody else. Then after thirty days of threatening them, you enter their workplace or residence intending to execute the threat. It is worth noting that you cannot be charged with this offense if the workplace or home you entered is also yours.

PC 601 is considered a wobbler with a felony jail sentence of a maximum of three years. Nevertheless, it is a practical reduction from spousal battery since it has less stigma on your criminal record.

Disturbing the Peace (Penal Code 415 PC)

Under PC 415 it is an offense to:

  • Fight another person in public,
  • Make unnecessary noise that disturbs other people, or
  • Direct offensive towards somebody else in public.

California Penal Code Section 415 is a misdemeanor that carries up to a ninety-day sentence. It can also be charged as an infraction. An infraction charge does not have a criminal record and can be similar to a parking ticket.

The prosecution will be willing to reduce spousal battery charges to PC 415 after a plea bargain. Most defendants like this agreement because disturbing the peace charges do not have the penalties, immigration consequences, and stigma that comes with a spousal battery conviction.

Can a Domestic Battery Victim Drop Charges?

Even when the victim says they will drop the charges against you, you should still take the case seriously and prepare for the consequences that come with the charge. A spousal battery victim cannot drop a domestic battery charge in California. If your case proceeds to prosecution, the prosecutor assigned to the case should investigate it and determine whether there is sufficient proof to go ahead.

Reasons Why Prosecutors in California have adopted "No-drop" Policy

There are two reasons for the ‘'no-drop'' policy. They include:

  1. It sends a crucial message that domestic battery charges are of substantial concern. Therefore, they should be addressed in an aggressive and serious way
  2. The other reason relates to the assumption that the victim changed their side of the story about what occurred as a result of the fear of the defendant. That means the prosecution team could frown upon a dropped accused, even after the victim decides otherwise later.

The case is stronger when the victim testifies. Nonetheless, the prosecutor can convict you even without the testimony. All they require is photos, testimonies from witnesses, and the victim's admission.

The prosecutor will subpoena the victim to testify against the defendant. If the victim fails to show up in court, the victim will face a contempt charge. This is a strategy prosecutors use to get accusers to testify against their intimate partners even when the victim doesn't want to file the charges.

Are There Ways You Can Use to Get Your Spousal Battery Charge Dropped?

If you are charged with domestic battery, you can try one or all of the below methods to get the charge dropped:

  • Get the Support of the Prosecution

Different from the popular belief, it's the prosecution team and not the alleged victim who decides whether to drop a spousal battery charge or not. That means it's in your best interest to get methods to convince the prosecution that dropping the charge will be in favor of the state and all parties involved.

  • Get a Copy of the Police Report

A police report offers a lot of evidence which forms the basis for the domestic battery case. Accessing the evidence will help you in defending against the charge. If the evidence is strong, the defense could result in a dropped domestic battery charge. 

  • Preparing

It might appear that after obtaining the police report that the charge is founded on false accusations. If this is the case, you ought to put together the facts of what happened as well as provide the same account to the prosecution.

  • Speak to an Experienced Domestic Battery Lawyer

A competent attorney will be essential in getting your charges dropped because they can:

  1. Attempt to convince the prosecutor that the charge should be dropped
  2. Outline conflicting proof
  3. Cast doubt on the victim
  4. Offer a reality check of the success of filing a charge

Domestic Battery Expungement

A spousal battery conviction has long-term negative consequences as far as employment, housing, and professional licensing is concerned. Every time a person is found guilty of a crime in California, the conviction is submitted to the Department of Justice that keeps the conviction record.  Increasingly, companies depend on criminal background searches when deciding whom to consider for an employment opportunity.

Can a Domestic Battery Conviction be Expunged?

A domestic battery conviction in California can be expunged. Nevertheless, the judge may not grant the expungement if you have repeatedly broken probation conditions or you have committed a subsequent offense. The judge will also not grant expungement if you are at the time on probation for another crime.

Sometimes a defendant could be on probation but could have a convincing argument to seal their case earlier. In this case, the accused can bring a motion to dismiss probation early before sealing the conviction. Typically, the judge will only grant this motion if the circumstances are truly convincing, like impending loss of employment.

Effects of Sealing Your Criminal Record

If the judge grants you the expungement, your previous conviction or plea will be vacated, and your case dismissed retroactively. The information will also be forwarded to the Department of Justice.

It is worth noting that even after the expungement, you will still be prohibited from owning a firearm for ten years due to the conviction.

Moreover, the expungement won't have results on U.S immigrants facing removal proceedings due to the conviction. The government will still put this previous conviction into consideration in any removal proceeding.

Expungement Process

To have your conviction expunged, you need to file a motion in accordance with Penal Code 1203.4. After paying the filing fee, the motion will be scheduled for hearing before the sentencing judge. During the hearing, your lawyer will give reasons why your conviction should be sealed.

The prosecutor will hear the motion and can oppose the motion if you have violated probation conditions or have a subsequent crime. Finally, the judge will decide whether to seal your record or not.

If you want to seal your conviction, it is vital to have an experienced criminal defense attorney file the motions on your behalf.

Find A Orange County Criminal Lawyer Near Me

A domestic battery charge in California can put you in a tough spot when it goes to court. Hence, irrespective of the case's facts, the judge is likely to punish you as brutally as the law will permit.  That means a conviction could result in a sentence, fines, protective orders, and an implication on child custody and divorce proceedings. The challenge with these penalties is that, in most cases, the allegations are either inaccurate, totally untrue, or exaggerated. Unfortunately, the judge isn't likely to understand your side of the story unless you have a competent criminal defense lawyer by your side. Orange County Criminal Lawyer has been assisting domestic violence defendants for many years. Please contact us at 714-262-4833 to discuss your case with a free consultation.