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Jan 31, 2020

Penal Code 243(e)(1) – California “Domestic Battery” Law

While most people use the terms “assault” and “battery” interchangeably, the two are different crimes under California law. Put simply, assault is attempting to inflict violence on someone else, while battery is actually inflicting violence on the other person. A simple example is that if Billy is mad at Timmy and throws a rock at him and misses, Billy can be charged with assault. He attempted to inflict an injury on Timmy, but wasn’t successful. If Billy’s aim is better and he hits Timmy with the rock, then Billy can be charged with battery. If the rock hits Timmy in the head and causes a concussion, Billy can be charged with “battery causing serious bodily injury.”

California’s battery law (Penal Code 243) outlines a number of different battery crimes and punishments that vary depending on the characteristics of the victim. For example, there are specific penalties associated with battery if Timmy is a law enforcement officer, an animal control officer, or even a lifeguard. But let’s say that Billy and Timmy are intimate partners and live in Alameda County. Then, a subsection of the Penal Code – 243(e)(1) – known as California domestic battery law – applies.

Who is Considered an Intimate Partner?

Penal Code 243(e)(1) applies to a variety of types of intimate partners in Oakland and Alameda County:

  • Spouse or former spouse: If, for example, Kenneth and Stacey are married or divorced and Kenneth shoves Stacey, then Penal Code 243(e)(1) applies.
  • Parent of the defendant’s child: If Kenneth and Stacy aren’t married, but Stacey is the mother of Kenneth’s son, then Penal Code 243(e)(1) applies.
  • Person with whom the defendant is cohabiting: If Kenneth and Stacey aren’t married but are living together, then Penal Code 243(e)(1) applies.
  • Fiancé or fiancée: If Kenneth and Stacy are engaged, then Penal Code 243(e)(1) applies.
  • Currently dating or previously dated: If their relationship never progressed to living together, engagement, or marriage but Kenneth and Stacy are or had been dating, then Penal Code 243(e)(1) applies.

It’s important to note that, for the purposes of “domestic battery,” Stacey doesn’t need to be injured by Kenneth’s actions; Kenneth only needs to use force against Stacey. When Kenneth shoves Stacey, he’s using force against her. The same would be true if he tried to grab her as she was moving past him and yanked on her dress or tugged her ponytail.

The Bigger Picture

Being accused of violating Penal Code 243(e)(1) – California “domestic battery” law – in Alameda County is one piece of a larger picture of public policy initiatives pertaining to domestic violence. When police are called out to a dispute between intimate partners, they are responsible for ensuring the safety of the purported victim and any children in the household. Police officers are trained to investigate and document the incident with an eye toward prosecution.

One thing they look at is whether or not the alleged victim is injured. If force was used against the partner but they are not injured, then Penal Code 243(e)(1) applies. If the partner has been injured, then a felony violation of Penal Code 273.5, also known as intentional infliction of corporal injury, is considered. If one partner threatens to kill or gravely injure the other and the other fears for their safety, then Penal Code 422, also known as criminal threats, applies. If the threat is accompanied by following or harassing the partner, then stalking – as detailed in Penal Code 646.9 – may be considered as a possible charge.

When the Oakland police respond to a dispute, their procedure is to separate the two people and interview each person at the scene. They may remove the suspected batterer from the premises. They take extensive notes, paying close attention to each person’s physical and emotional condition and recording remarks and statements. Their purpose is to determine the “dominant aggressor.” In order to do so, they can consider:

  • Each person’s physical characteristics, such as weight, height, and age
  • Each person’s history of domestic violence
  • Defensive vs. offensive injuries
  • Seriousness of injuries
  • Who made the 911 call
  • Drug or alcohol involvement
  • Who is afraid

In addition to talking to the people involved and any witnesses, Oakland police officers may take photos and collect a variety of items into evidence, including torn clothing, drugs and drug paraphernalia, hair and fiber samples, and weapons.

Arrest and Conviction for a Penal Code 243(e)(1) Violation

In the training manual for police officers, Penal Code 243(e)(1) – domestic battery – is compared to willful infliction of corporal injury. One does not involve an injury, but the other does. The police officer can arrest the alleged perpetrator of domestic battery without a warrant after talking to the purported victim so long as two conditions are met. The officer must have reasonable cause to believe that the battery occurred, and the officer must make the arrest as soon as they have probable cause to believe that the battery occurred.

If you’ve been arrested for a violation of Penal Code 243(e)(1) – California “domestic battery” law – it’s natural to wonder about what comes next and what happens if you’re convicted of the crime. A domestic battery violation is charged as a misdemeanor. It’s common for police officers to cite people accused of misdemeanors and then release them without taking them into physical custody. Yet, because a domestic battery accusation is related to intimate partner violence, cite-and-release typically isn’t an option. Instead, you are booked into jail as a suspect.

If you’re convicted of a violation of Penal Code 243(e)(1), you can receive a jail sentence of up to a year and a fine of up to $2,000. If it is your second conviction, you must spend at least 48 hours in jail. In addition, a conviction means that you are required to complete a costly year-long batterer’s treatment program. In Alameda County, there are a number of approved programs, including:

  • One in Alameda
  • Two in Berkeley
  • One in Castro Valley
  • Two in Hayward
  • One in Livermore
  • One in Newark
  • Six in Oakland
  • One in Pleasanton
  • Three in San Leandro

If you are arrested on domestic battery charges, it’s imperative that you immediately contact an Alameda County domestic battery attorney. A domestic battery conviction has serious consequences and can have a devastating impact on everything from your reputation to your immigration status to whether or not you are allowed to visit your children.

Defenses to Penal Code 243(e)(1) – California “Domestic Battery” Law Charges

When called to a dispute, officers are trained to identify the “dominant aggressor.” But they don’t always read the situation correctly and they may not conduct due diligence in collecting evidence and writing their reports. With a seasoned Oakland domestic battery attorney advocating on your behalf, you can mount a rigorous defense to the charges. This is crucial because, even though your intimate partner may change their mind about pressing charges, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office can proceed with the case without the cooperation of your partner.

That’s where your Alameda County domestic battery attorney comes in. It’s your attorney’s job to poke holes in the prosecution’s case. For example, your attorney might argue that you were acting in self-defense, perhaps saying that your partner was coming at you and so you pushed them away. Your Oakland domestic battery lawyer can assert that the encounter was an accident. After all, it could be that you didn’t mean to tear your partners shirt; in reality, you were trying to grab a glass that was about to fall off the coffee table. Your attorney can turn the tables, positing that you are the victim and that your accuser is the batterer. Or, perhaps your defense is that your partner was really angry with you and falsely accused you of battery. Alleged victims can put on a show and tell a tall tale to the officers who respond to the call; prosecutors understand that.

If your attorney is not able to have the charges dropped, then they work with the prosecution to arrive at a potential plea agreement to a charge unrelated to domestic violence. While Penal Code 243(e)(1) is a misdemeanor, any conviction related to domestic violence can raise concerns with future employers, in family court matters, and with future intimate partners. A first conviction for domestic battery is a priorable offense; if you are convicted a second time, you are required to spend at least 48 hours in jail. In contrast, a misdemeanor conviction for a charge unrelated to domestic violence has fewer long-term consequences.

If you enter a plea agreement in exchange for a guilty plea to another misdemeanor, or if you end up being convicted of misdemeanor violation of Penal Code 243(e)(1) – California “domestic battery” law – your Alameda County criminal attorney can work on your behalf to avoid jail time and a fine. Instead you may be granted probation. Probation allows you to keep living your life, going to work and engaging in your favorite pastimes. As a condition of your probation, you are likely required to attend a one-year treatment program authorized by the Alameda County Probation Department.

California law allows the court to mandate two other conditions of probation. The first is making payments totaling up to $5,000 to a battered women’s shelter. The second is reimbursing the intimate partner for counseling and other costs associated with the battery. Before mandating either of these as parole conditions, though, the court has to ascertain that you have the ability to pay.

The bottom line? It’s crucial that the first call after your arrest is to a seasoned Bay Area domestic battery attorney. They may be able to have the charges dropped immediately; if not, they can navigate the legal system on your behalf so that it least disrupts your life.

Remember, your reputation and your freedom are on the line. The sooner you have the assistance of an Oakland domestic battery attorney, the better the outcome for your case.

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