In California, domestic battery is a crime of violence within the larger category of domestic violence. Domestic battery is governed by California Penal Code 243(e)(1). Penal Code 243(e)(1) defines domestic battery as a battery upon an intimate partner. This definition can be vague in many ways, so there are five important things you should know if and when you find yourself in a domestic battery situation. 

  1. What is a battery? 
  • A battery is the willful or unlawful use of force or violence on someone else. Making contact with another person is enough. The touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind. 
  1. What is an intimate partner? 
  • An intimate partner can be the defendant’s current spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, fiancé, mother or father of the defendant’s child, a co-parent, or a person with whom the defendant has or had a dating relationship with. 
  1. What is the difference between domestic battery and domestic violence? 
  • A domestic battery charge under 243(e)(1) is always a misdemeanor. However, there are more serious domestic violence charges under Penal Code 273.5 that can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the level of injury and case circumstances. 
  1. What are my possible defenses? 
  • A possible defense is that you, as the defendant, acted in self-defense. This will apply in a situation when you have a reasonable belief that you or another person will suffer great bodily harm if you do not defend yourself or the other person. The force used, however, must be reasonable and not excessive. 
  • Another defense is that the defendant accidentally battered the other person. If there is not intended application of force, or the battery was not “willful,” then the battery may have been an accident and you cannot be convicted. 
  • Lastly, if the victim alleged a false domestic battery incident against you, then that is another defense. 
  1. What are the penalties of domestic battery? 
  • As stated above, 243(e)(1) is a misdemeanor. 
  • If you are convicted of domestic battery, you could face a maximum of one year in county jail, a maximum fine of $2,000, and/or informal probation for up to three years.