CA Penal Code 243(e)(1)

Domestic Battery

Domestic battery, CA Penal Code 243(e)(1)[1], is the less serious, but most common form of violence inflicted upon an intimate partner.  The more serious charge is CA Penal Code 273.5, Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Cohabitant .

There are several differences between the two charges.  CA Penal Code 273.5 is a wobbler, meaning it can be tried as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on your criminal record and the details of the crime.  Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Cohabitant requires there to be a visible injury on the victim and is subsequently more difficult for the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the other hand, CA Penal Code 243(e)(1), does not require that the victim has a visible injury and it can only be tried as a misdemeanor.

In order to be convicted of domestic abuse the prosecutor must prove that you willfully inflicted force or violence upon your intimate partner.

If convicted of domestic battery you will face:

  1. Up to one year in county jail
  2. Up to $2,000 in fines
  3. Up to 3-years of informal probation
  4. Forced participation in a 52-week batterer’s program
  5. Pay a maximum of $5,000 to a battered women’s shelter

Prosecuting Domestic Battery Charge

As previously noted, in order to be convicted of domestic violence the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:

  1. Willfully inflicted
  2. Force or violence
  3. Upon your intimate partner

The law does not treat homo-sexual partner any different from heterosexual partners in accordance to CA Penal Code 243(e)(1).

To fully understand what the prosecutor has to prove it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the penal code and the language used to write the law.  The first element of the crime states that you must willfully inflict; willfully is defined by the state as on purpose or intentional.  In basic terms, it means that you cannot be prosecuted for domestic battery if you accidentally hurt your intimate partner.

The next element of the crime states that you use force or violence. In simple terms, this means that you the physical aspect of the crime, meaning you have to physically touch your intimate partner; even the softest touch can qualify as force or violence.  However, if you do not touch your intimate parter or throw something that touches your partner then you cannot be convicted of the crime.

The final element of the crime states that the action was performed upon your intimate partner.  California defines the word upon as to touch; furthermore you qualify as touching someone if you touch their body, clothing, or something attached to that person.

With a full understanding of the language of the law it is easier to see what the prosecutor has to do to prove your guilt.  The one element of the crime that is missing from this crime and not from Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Cohabitant is that there has to be a visible injury.  Because CA Penal Code 273.5 is the more serious of the two crimes it requires real and visible signs of abuse.  However, CA Penal Code 243(e)(1) does not require there to be a visible sign of abuse, this makes the prosecutor’s job easier and that’s the reason why you will often be presented with a plea bargain to accept a Penal Code 243(e)(1) charge in lieu of a 273.5 charge.

Defending Domestic Abuse Charges

Because of the nature of domestic abuse charges, it is not uncommon for people to be wrongly accused and subsequently wrongfully arrested.  These types of crimes often involve jealous and revengeful partners who want to punish their significant others for cheating, breaking-up, etc. And believe that filing a false police report is a great way to successfully seek their revenge.

Luckily, for this type of incident there are number of legal defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can show in order to prove your innocence.

The first and commonly used defense is that you were acting in self-defense.  California citizens are protected by law from being punished for defending themselves when they reasonably believe that they will suffer serious injury.  The laws are very clear, and strict, and state that you must use the least amount of force necessary to protect yourself.  This means that if you were initially acting in self-defense but then continue to inflict force upon another person once you’re safe then you can be charged with a crime.

However, if you believed that you were going to suffer serious injury because your intimate partner was aggressively attacking you, or about to attack you, then you should be protected under California law and it will then be up to your skilled criminal defense attorney to prove your innocence.

If the force or violence that you inflicted upon your significant other was an accident then you should not be charged with the crime.  As previously mentioned, the act has to willful, meaning that it has to be on purpose and if it wasn’t then you didn’t fulfill the first element of the crime.  If your attorney can prove that the force or violence that you inflicted upon the victim was an accident and was not malicious or on purpose then you will not convicted of CA Penal Code 243(e)(1).

Finally, as touched upon earlier, another viable legal defense is that your attorney can prove that you are the victim of false allegations and are innocent of the crime.  For the approach, your attorney will have to attack the “victim’s” credibility and see if there have been other police reports filed by this person before and see if they are revengeful and spiteful.  If your attorney can prove to the court, the jury and the prosecutor that you never touched the victim then your charges will be dropped.

If you are facing domestic abuse charges then it’s imperative that you talk to a criminal defense attorney immediately.  Seppi Esfandi is an effective and skilled criminal defense attorney who is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, this means that he has a good relationship with judges and DAs and a thorough understanding of the how the law works.



[1] (e)(1) When a battery is committed against a spouse, a person with whom the defendant is cohabiting, a person who is the parent of the defendant’s child, former spouse, fiancé, or fiancée, or a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship, the battery is punishable by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than one year, or by both

that fine and imprisonment. If probation is granted, or the execution or imposition of the sentence is suspended, it shall be a condition thereof that the defendant participate in, for no less than one year, and successfully complete, a batterer’s treatment program, as described in Section 1203.097, or if none is available, another appropriate counseling program designated by the court. However, this provision shall not be construed as requiring a city, a county, or a

city and county to provide a new program or higher level of service as contemplated by Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution.

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