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Domestic Battery in California

Unfortunately, domestic violence is surprisingly common in the United States, and in California specifically. Nearly 33% of women in California and over 27% of men experience some form of stalking or physical violence from an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Domestic battery is a form of domestic violence, and it is a very serious crime to have on a person’s record. If you have been accused of domestic battery, you should learn about what these charges mean, and you should find an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you.

What is domestic battery?

Domestic battery is a crime that involves one person willfully and unlawfully touching a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, fiancé, former fiancé, significant other, former significant other, or a person with whom the defendant shares a child, in a way that is harmful or offensive.

Harmful or offensive touching typically means aggressive, or violent contact. This does not mean that the touching has to cause physical harm. If you push your ex-boyfriend in anger and it does not cause any injuries, you could still be guilty of domestic battery.

The contact must also be willful, which means if it is accidental, it will not be domestic battery. If you trip and fall onto your girlfriend, and she suffers a broken wrist as a result, this was not willful, and you did not commit domestic battery.

And finally, it is important to remember that this is a crime that can only be committed against a person with which you share or have shared an intimate relationship. While the law might seem to include roommates, California courts do not count violence between platonic roommates as domestic violence. This means that if you slapped your roommate across the face, this would not be domestic battery. The person must be someone you are or have been in an intimate relationship with.

Defenses to domestic battery

There are several defenses to a charge of domestic battery. In some cases, a person might be falsely accused of domestic violence. Sometimes an angry spouse or significant other might make a false allegation as a form of revenge or simply a way to hurt the other person.

Another defense that applies in many cases is self-defense or the defense of others. If one spouse attacks the other, and the attacked spouse fights back, causing injuries to the attacking spouse, this is a case of self-defense. Additionally, if for instance, if a father was attacking the couple’s child, and the mother hit the father to try to stop him, she would have a defense against any charges of domestic battery that the father might file against her.

Finally, there is the defense of accident or a lack of will. Imagine that a husband and wife are fighting. The wife walks out of the room and the husband follows her. To get away from him, she walks into the bedroom and slams the door without looking back. She did not see him in the doorway, but when the door slams, his fingers get smashed. Here the wife did not willfully hit the husband’s hand with the door, and so this would not be a case of domestic battery.

The penalties for domestic battery can include probation, fines up to $2000 and up to a year of jail time. If you have been accused of domestic battery, contact Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP today at 909-798-3300 for a free consultation.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.