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California Laws on Domestic Battery | Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC

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Arrested man in handcuffs with hands behind back

A common misconception of battery is when someone intentionally strikes another person. However, a battery is committed with as little as rude or angry touching and there’s no requirement of any striking. Other forms of battery include pushing, shoving, scratching, and grabbing another person without their consent.

Charges of domestic battery are codified under Penal Code 243(e)(1) pc making a crime to rudely or offensively touch another person without their consent.[1] Although touching includes the examples provided above, it also encompasses punching or striking someone.

A defendant may be charged with domestic battery even if the purported victim does not suffer any physical injury – e.g., scratches, red marks, bruising. However, the arresting officers typically photograph the suspect and accuser to corroborate the alleged victim’s version of the incident.  Furthermore, if the purported victim suffers great bodily injury or is placed in a traumatic condition, then the prosecutor often files corporal injury charges.

This charge is a form of domestic violence because it includes a crime against a close of someone familial to the defendant. Some examples include:

Elements to Domestic Battery

To prove a person is guilty of domestic battery under PC 243(e)(1), the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  1. Defendant willfully and unlawfully touched another in a harmful or offensive manner;
  1. Defendant has a relationship with his or her accuser;
  1. Defendant was not acting in self-defense.

Legal Defenses to PC 243(e)(1) Charges


Someone acts in self-defense, or defense of another if they reasonably believe harm was imminent. Self-defense is a common defense against domestic battery charges because it normally involves an aggressive or heated encounter with the purported victim. The standard is that a defendant cannot use force deemed excessive under the circumstances.


Touching another on accident or through misfortune does not mean a person acted willfully since the touching was not done on purpose. Or there could be attenuating circumstances that negate this element.

Harmful or Offensive

Harm or offense is measured under an objective standard instead of measuring what the accuser believed. In other words, the touching must be objectionable to a reasonable person under the circumstances. Therefore, grabbing another person’s hand would unlikely suffice to be deemed offensive. Furthermore, another example may be that you believe your accuser tripped and you were merely grabbing their arm to catch or balance them from falling.

False Accusations

False accusations are far too common among spouses or persons within a dating relationship. In most instances, accusers attempt to utilize the system to leverage the defendant in child custody disputes, business deals, alimony, or for revenge purposes after an affair or the like.


When the injury or act is on accident or a product of misfortune, a defendant may move for a jury instruction on “accident”. In other words, when something is done by accident, this instruction allows the jury to excuse their conduct by negating either the intent or negligent element.[3]

Punishment & Sentencing

PC 243(e)(1) is a misdemeanor offense carrying up to one (1) year in the county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Ordinarily, the court imposes a period of probation requiring a defendant to complete domestic violence counseling and anger management. Other consequences include:

Examples of Domestic Battery

Steps to Protect Yourself

Retaining counsel at the earliest stages of the case is crucial since there are methods of contacting the prosecutor in an effort to convince them not to file charges, or in the alternative, lesser charges. In the meantime, there are several things someone can do in preparation for their defense:

Contact us to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you’ve been arrested or charged with domestic battery, there’s no question that you need a skilled and experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer to defend your rights.  Contact us to schedule your free consultation.  Early intervention may mean the difference between serving jail time or having the case rejected completed.  Our office handles all domestic violence-related charges in all Orange Court courthouses.

Legal References:

[1] Penal Code section 243(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 participates 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.

[2] The term cohabitants mean two unrelated adults living together for a substantial period of time, resulting in some permanency of the relationship. Factors that may determine whether people are cohabiting include, but are not limited to, (1) sexual relations between the parties while sharing the same residence, (2) sharing of income or expenses, (3) joint use or ownership of property, (4) the parties’ holding themselves out as (husband and wife/ domestic partners), (5) the continuity of the relationship, and (6) the length of the relationship.  See CALCRIM 841.

[3] CALCRIM No. 3404:

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