Domestic battery is one of the crimes of violence in Santa Ana, CA. Offenses of violence are seriously prosecuted because they involve harm caused to people, instead of property. A conviction carries harsh penalties, damage to your reputation, and could prevent you from securing employment. At Darwish Law, we understand the importance of your freedom and rights. Therefore, we can use our experience and knowledge to assess the facts of your case and develop a defense strategy. That way, we can get you the best possible outcome in the case.
Definition of California Domestic Battery Law
PC 243(e)(1) defines domestic battery as a battery on somebody with whom you have an intimate relationship with.
To be found guilty of the offense, the prosecution team should establish the following facts of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt:
- The defendant willfully touched another individual
- The touching was harmful or offensive
- The individual the defendant touched was the defendant's former or current intimate partner
A Brief Look on the Facts of the Offense
The following are the facts of the offense the prosecution must prove.
The legal term "willfully" means that the defendant acted intentionally, deliberately, or on purpose. The defendant doesn't need to have purposed to:
- Break the law, or
- Cause an injury to another person
You could be sentenced for domestic battery even when you did not cause an injury to somebody else.
It is not a must that the offensive touching inflicts pain or injuries provided it is executed disrespectfully or angrily. This element of the crime is like battery under Penal Code Section 242 PC.
Although the law is not clear whether the accused requires someone's body to be touched to be convicted of California domestic battery, one could be imprisoned even if they touched a substance that is closely linked to the victim.
The spousal battery is only committed on a person with whom you have a sexual relationship. Under Penal Code Section 243(e)(1), it could be:
- A former or current spouse
- Your child's parent
- An individual you're cohabiting (living) with
- A person you are dating or have dated before
Unlike relationships such as the other parent, fiancé(e), and spouse, sometimes it is hard to prove that two individuals were dating or cohabitating.
Also, as far as domestic battery is concerned, you can cohabit/stay with at least one individual simultaneously.
Penalties, Sentencing, and Consequences of Violating Domestic Battery Law
Breaking spousal battery law is considered a California misdemeanor. It is punishable by:
- Misdemeanor probation
- A maximum of a year in jail
- Up to $2,000 in fines
If convicted of domestic battery, you are likely to face probation (suspended sentence). Should this take place, you'll be expected to undergo a batterer's treatment program for one year (a condition of probation).
Additionally, the judge may decide that you should pay the following rather than the $2,000 fine:
- $5,000 to the battered women’s shelter
- Any costs the victim has incurred due to the crime, such as counseling expenses
If you have been convicted of spousal battery before and you have received probation as your sentence, you'll spend at least 48 hours in jail. You can avoid this requirement if you successfully prove to the judge why you shouldn't spend time in prison.
If you're a U.S. immigrant, you should know of the immigration consequences that come with a domestic violence conviction.
Spousal battery is one of the domestic violence offenses. Hence it's a deportable crime per federal immigration laws. In short, you risk being deported subsequent to a spousal battery conviction if you are in the U.S. unlawfully.
That is why, as an immigrant, you should talk to a qualified criminal defense attorney who is acquainted with immigration law immediately.
What are the Various Ways to Fight a Domestic Battery Charge?
There are several valid defenses that a proficient criminal defense lawyer can use to beat a domestic battery charge. They include:
Self-defense or Defense of Another Person
An attorney can use this defense if every statement below is correct:
- The accused believed that they or another person was at risk of being touched illegally or sustaining bodily injuries
- The accused thought that the application of violence was essential to protect against the danger
- The accused did not use more force than was necessary to shield against the danger
Should the defendant establish all these facts, then they have not violated the spousal battery law.
Absence of Willfulness
A defendant could not be sentenced for spousal battery if they didn't touch their intimate partner willfully or on purpose. In other words, it was an accident. To assert this legal defense, you need to prove that you acted without criminal intent or culpable negligence.
It is common for people to be accused of spousal battery. More often than not, the accusations stem from anger, jealousy, or the desire for vengeance. If you are wrongly accused, you might feel helpless. Fortunately, your competent domestic battery defense lawyer has experience with prior similar situations. So, he/she knows which issues to pay attention to as well as what proof to obtain to ensure the reality is exposed.
Are there Offenses Related to California Spousal Battery?
Discussed below are offenses that are prosecuted alongside or in place of spousal battery law. They are:
Intentional Infliction of Corporal Injury
One of the domestic violence crimes charged alongside domestic battery is PC 273.5. You violate Penal Code Section 273.5 when you willfully cause bodily injury to your intimate partner.
Unlike a spousal battery, this crime requires that you inflict injuries to your intimate partner.
Violation of Penal Code section 273.5 PC is charged as a wobbler. That means the offense could either be a California felony or a misdemeanor depending on:
- Your criminal history
- Your case's circumstances
Since intentional infliction of corporal injury is punished using more severe consequences compared to domestic battery, sometimes it is practical to plead guilty to a spousal battery charge.
Aggravated battery (PC 243 (d)) is another related offense to the spousal battery. The main differences between these two offenses include:
- For you to be convicted of aggravated battery, you must have caused the victim a severe bodily harm
- As far as the aggravated battery is concerned, the alleged victim might be any individual, including your intimate partner
Violation of PC 243 (d) is a California wobbler. A felony is punishable by either a two, three, or four-year sentence.
Sometimes, a prosecutor can charge a defendant with PC 243 (d) in place of domestic violence if they believe they can present evidence that the defendant inflicted severe injuries to their victim.
Elder Abuse (PC 368)
It's unlawful to intentionally impose inexcusable mental or physical suffering and pain on a 65-year-old person.
If the action amounts to spousal violence, but the victim is above sixty-five, the prosecution team could decide to charge you with elder abuse instead.
Elder abuse carries more severe penalties than domestic battery laws. It's a wobbler. However, if prosecuted as a felony, you will face the following potential penalties:
- A two, three or four-year sentence in California state prison
- A maximum of $6,000 in fines
And in case the victim has sustained great bodily harm or has succumbed to your conduct, the sentence is increased up to five to seven years.
A great bodily injury is a significant or substantial physical injury. The injury doesn't have to be permanent.
Disturbing the Peace
According to PC 415, it is illegal to:
- Make unreasonable noises that upset other people
- Fight a person in public
- Direct provocative words towards somebody else in public
Violation of PC 415 is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to ninety days in county jail. Sometimes, it is considered an infraction.
A skilled defense attorney should seek to have a domestic battery charge reduced to PC 415 in plea bargaining negotiations. It is because disturbing the peace conviction carries less stigma, immigration repercussions, and other penalties compared to a spousal battery conviction.
Additionally, if the charge is reduced to PC 415 as a California infraction, you will not have a criminal record.
Under PC 601, it is illegal to make credible threats to inflict severe bodily injury to an individual and then illegally enter the victim's office or residence after 30 (thirty) days of issuing the threats to execute your threat.
Please note that a defendant will not be convicted of aggravated trespass if the office or residence they go into is also their’s.
Aggravated trespass is a great reduction from PC 243 (e)(1) charges because it will have less stigma.
It is a wobbler offense. If charged as a felony, it carries a three-year sentence.
Damaging a Telephone Wire
Although PC 591 might seem like it is different from the spousal battery, the two crimes are often prosecuted together. It's a common phenomenon for a domestic violence alleged victim to claim that the accused cut a telephone wire or even disabled the telephone equipment.
PC 591 is a California wobbler. If charged as a felony, you risk facing three years in jail.
What Evidence Does the Prosecutor Use to Prove their Case?
When preparing your defense, your domestic battery defense lawyer will look for the proof that the prosecution team will use to establish their case. These different types of evidence include:
The prosecutor will attempt to introduce as much physical proof against a defendant as possible. It is because the jury finds objective facts easier to believe compared to prejudiced individuals who color their testimonies.
Photos of the victim's injuries or damaged or destroyed property are perfect examples of physical evidence used in domestic battery cases.
Although physical proof can be trustworthy, it's still open to interpretation. A defense counsel can give alternative explanations for these physical proofs.
A bystander is a witness who saw what took place but did not engage in the conduct. The law enforcement officers will collect the contact details of these persons. Then the prosecutor or a defense attorney can use these details to reach them to subpoena the witnesses.
A subpoena is an order from the court to attend a court hearing and give a testimony. If subpoenaed, the witnesses should testify or be charged with contempt of court, which could lead to custody time and paying fines.
The Alleged Victim can Also be a Witness
Under domestic battery law, the subpoena rule does not hold for the victim.
Civil Code of Procedure 1219 offers immunity from imprisonment or confinement to the domestic battery victim. In other words, the victim can't be bound by jail threat to testify against a defendant if they don't want to. However, that doesn't mean the victim can entirely disregard the subpoena. They should be present at the court proceedings even if they refused to testify.
A Law Enforcer as a Witness
A police officer who answered the call plays a significant role in a spousal battery case. The officer will be summoned to testify about their observation regarding physical evidence like the victim's injuries and damage to the assets in the crime scene.
However, your defense lawyer can stop the judge from hearing some parts of the police officer's testimony. According to Crawford v. Washington (2004), certain police statements are inadmissible in court in case the individual who made the statements isn't present to testify in court unless the accused had a previous chance to probe that individual under oath. The U.S. Supreme Court holds that that testimony will violate the Sixth Amendment, which offers a suspect the right to confront a witness at trial.
Consequently, in case the individual who made the statement to the law enforcers didn't testify during the preliminary hearing, the court won't admit the statement as proof at the criminal trial.
Per this rule, out-of-court witnesses are unavailable if one of the below is correct about the witnesses:
- Absent as a result of mental or physical illness
- They are present but refuse to testify
- Absent because they aren't in the jurisdiction as long as you didn't cause the absence
- They invoke a privilege which stops their testimony from being obligated
Text messages, emails, and voicemails between you and your intimate partner can also be relevant. You must not delete this information. It can be used as evidence in your favor when facing domestic battery allegations.
Domestic Battery Arraignment
After being arrested for a spousal battery, the prosecutor will review your case to decide whether to file a criminal charge or not. If charged with the offense, you will be required to show up in court for your arraignment.
The term "arraignment" can be defined as your first court appearance where you will be anticipated to enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty.
When Will Your Arraignment Happen?
After your arrest, you will be issued a citation to appear in court or be booked into custody. If you post bail and get released or are issued a citation, your arraignment date will be scheduled within a few weeks.
If you're not able to post your bail, you will remain in custody. Your case will be taken to court within 48 hours of your arrest, not including weekends or holidays.
What Takes Place at a Spousal Battery Arraignment?
Under PC 977 (a), your attorney can appear in court on your behalf. Nevertheless, the judge may require you to appear in court for your spousal battery arraignment.
During the arraignment, your attorney will be issued with copies of the incident reports and the complaint. Your case will be called, and through your attorney, you can enter either a plea of no contest, not guilty, or guilty. If you plead not guilty, the court will elect whether to release you on your recognizance or to set your bail amount.
The court will also grant a restraining order, which will prevent you from threatening, harassing, stalking, or applying violence to the victim. The restraining order will also prevent you from contacting the victim in any way. Sometimes the court can later reduce your restraining order to a peaceful contact protective order. This kind of protective order permits amicable contact between you and your intimate partner.
Should you chose to plead guilty, you or your attorney and the prosecutor will choose a pretrial date. You will be required to waive your speedy trial rights while electing a pretrial date.
Get a Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Near Me
In Santa Ana, California domestic battery allegations are taken seriously, and law enforcers will investigate all accusations. Additionally, the prosecution will convict you even when the victim doesn't want to take legal action. If you have been arrested for domestic battery, you could face a jail sentence, hefty fines, counseling, and a protective order. A conviction will also affect visitation rights, immigration status, and your employment. At Darwish Law, we know what is at stake, and we can work to protect your rights during this hard moment. Call us today at 714-887-4810 to begin working on your case immediately and take steps to help attain the best possible outcome.