More often than not, life throws us tough situations to handle by ourselves, ranging from regrettable choices we made on the spur of the moment, to having false accusations made against us. Such conditions are what most persons accused of committing the crime of domestic battery face. In numerous cases, the battery charges are investigated with a high nature of biases favoring the claimant, and it is often up to the accused to plead for his or her innocence.
The process of litigation is often a long and draining one for a defendant, and you would be in a better position if you seek legal assistance. The prosecution may impose overbearing evidence in a hearing that could easily overpower a defendant without legal representation. The attorneys working with the Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm are an excellent option for consultation when charged with domestic violence. We provide a wide range of remedies that may be available for you, as well as give you professional advice on possible defenses applicable to your case.
What is Domestic Battery?
The crime is a slight deviation of domestic violence that is often characterized by the physical act of violence directed from one person to another, of the same family household. The parties involved in the actions of abuse are:
- Spouses - The provision extends to married couples who live together and may have already started a family. A spouse may also be someone with whom you have cohabited for long, and anyone can presume that you have the intention of staying together for as long as the arrangement works, similar to a married couple.
- Children - Unfortunately, children may end up on the receiving end of domestic violence and may remain victims of battery themselves, when force is unleashed on them, mostly by their parents. The act of assault of a child is treated as child abuse, attracting severe penalties for the offender.
- The romantic partners - The category involves people who are not in a legally recognized form of marriage but are involved romantically. Commonly, boyfriends and girlfriends living together fit this category, as well as fiances who are waiting to get married and have started living together. The battery of one partner by the other is highly likely, especially where a level of provocation or verbal abuse is often evident.
- Siblings - Despite the expected nature that siblings living together will look out for each other, there are cases where battery amongst themselves has been recorded. It may arise from a wide range of reasons, including but not limited to merging of families that create the relation of step-siblings, or even mere competitive and provocative nature at home that may elevate to physical violence.
While establishing the elements of the crime of domestic battery, several investigations are carried out to determine the nature and severity of injuries caused. The prosecution will often establish the elements of the crime of domestic battery to convict an accused person.
Elements of the Crime of Domestic Battery
Before a suspected defendant is convicted of the offense of domestic battery, the prosecution’s side has to bring some aspects of the crime into light during the trial process. They have to establish proof that is beyond any reasonable doubt that the action indeed occurred.
For a judge to determine any crime that has been convicted and rightfully convict an offender, he/she must be satisfied that the element of intent and actual commission or omission leading to the crime is present. Therefore, the details are broken down and applied following the facts and circumstances surrounding the crime.
The first and most crucial element to be established is the wilful intention, otherwise termed the Mens Rea in legal terms. Section 242 of the California Penal Code describes the crime of battery as a deliberate and unlawful act of violence. The criminal intent revolves around a voluntary and conscious intention that is formed to wreak injury to the victim of the battery. A defendant’s intention to cause harm is deduced from the circumstances leading to the infliction of the crime, as well as the actions he/she took moments before initiating action against a victim.
The intention is fundamental to prove in the case of domestic battery, because the broader umbrella crime, domestic violence, is classified as a general intent crime. In these classes, a judge or jury may only require proof of intent to convict a defendant, regardless of whether he/she also possessed a direct intention to break the law. Therefore, your defense attorney will have the right to refute a prosecutor’s submission indicating your plan to break the law. The inclusion of such a claim is irrelevant to your case.
Act of Inflicting Injury
The law applied in California through the penal code in section 243(e) creates clear guidelines as to when the battery is committed. The provision states that even the slightest touch to a victim is a good enough action that may land you in trouble. Charges of a domestic battery may be entered in that respect. For domestic violence to be established, there has to be direct contact between the offender and the victim.
Should a victim sustain injuries from other occurrences that are not directly related to a direct impact from the defendant, the offense might not be established. The requirement means that if a claimant is injured as he/she tries to escape the offender, a violation will probably fail to stand. Instead, the defendant may face a different charge of the offense. The most common alternative is a charge of assault.
The section also requires that the offender should have resulted in the violent physical battery after the imposition of an irrefutable emotion of anger. The inclusion of the requirement can helpfully serve a defendant in raising the defense of prior provocation.
Close Proximity Relationship
Borrowing from the term ‘domestic battery’, a simple definition indicates the restriction of the parties involved in such a crime to members in a close, family-like relationship. The prosecution will, therefore, require to prove that a defendant’s case involves affliction of injury to a victim who is closely related to him/her.
Your relationships may be dynamic, bringing about the need to clearly define what may be termed as a domestic relationship. The most common scenario of the type of relationship prescribed is what exists between married couples. Two consenting adults who are legally married are expected to live together and share different responsibilities involving the running of a household. Most consider them cohabitants due to their style of living together and the extent of their involvement in each other’s lives. In a case where an attack of physical violence occurs by one married partner to the other, the offense may be termed domestic battery. Of course, the charges entered will depend on the degree of injury caused to the victim.
Additionally, cohabitants may also be two or more people who have a clear record of having lived together for an extended period. For the aspect of cohabitation to be brought out, the duration of living together should be uninterrupted. Your attorney is highly likely to refute a claim of cohabitation to prove domestic battery if you and the claimant did not live together for a significant time. The rebuttal could significantly help your case and possibly secure your release, or at least a reduced penalty.
The aspect of sharing property is also an indication of cohabitation, amounting to a domestic setting. For one to earn the trust of his or her partner to the extent of accessing the property, he/she has to contribute to their livelihood. There has to be an element of the parties cohabiting and coming to an agreement that they will let each other use the property. Houses, cars, or even money can be some of the property shared between the couples presumed to cohabit. These are sensitive possessions that are not available to any other person, except those in a proximate relationship.
Moreover, if people who have consummated their relationship are involved in a crime of battery, it will be classified as a domestic issue. The consummation refers to sexual engagement between the parties, which inevitably brings the presumption of cohabitation. It is not restricted to married couples, and the evolution of culture and societal values now allow for any consenting adults to choose to engage in whatever intimate actions they prefer. The consummation may also bring forth children, which primarily fits the exact definition of a domestic situation.
Lastly, if actions and statements made bring about the impression that two people are likely to be in a relationship, they will be fitted in the domestic situation in case of an occurrence of battery. These actions are a combination of all discussed arrangements so far, with the addition of sharing responsibilities. The judge may analyze the roles of each person involved in the relationship in question and adequately determine if theirs is to be classified as a domestic kind. Commonly shared responsibilities include the general running of a household, whereby one may have a duty to take care of grocery shopping as the other handles rent. Thus, It is easy to establish the aspect of cohabitation in such a case.
Law Provisions and Penalties of Domestic Battery
A lot of references are made to the California Penal Code. The reliance on the law is because it purposes to define types of offenses expressly. Additionally, it gives the penalties to be applied in each scenario.
Section 242 of the penal code provides for the crimes of assault and battery. The descriptions to differentiate them are given in various other parts of the law, defining assault as an attempt to inflict injury by use of force or violence. At the same time, the battery is the actual commission of the infliction of force.
After defining the offense of battery, section 243(e)(1) makes the provisions for the penalties to be issued if you are found guilty of the charges. The article states that the crime of battery amounts to a misdemeanor in California, and a defendant could face a jail term ranging from six months to a year. Alternatively, the defendant found guilty can be given a fine penalty for a sum amounting to $2,000. It is important to note that these penalties only apply if the battery did not cause any severe or traumatic injuries. The definition given for a traumatic condition is one that will cause any breaking of the skin and wounds. The wounds may be internal or external, and it does not matter that they may not be severe. The existence of the result is enough to establish a traumatic condition.
Upon analysis of the circumstances of the case as well as other essential factors like the existence of a previous criminal record, a convicted party could face both the jail and fine penalties. The difference in the degree or extent of force used affects the penalties charged. If a victim brings forth any additional evidence of harm arising from the battery, the judge will consider it.
The penal code has made these inclusions, which are also found under various sections. There are also inclusions to do with the crimes that may be committed by the defendant after the action of battery, which is often an effort to prevent the victim from seeking help by escaping or raising the alarm. The provisions are analyzed below as follows:
Battery with Traumatic Wounding
Section 273.5 classifies the offense of causing traumatic wounding as a wobbler crime, meaning that it can either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A judge will issue the applicable charges upon the precise determination of the gravity of the wounds, and whether an offender used excessive and overbearing force when attacking the victim.
Intimidating a Witness
Section 136.1 creates a wobbler crime that is imposed on an offender who issues threats to a witness of the crime. Concerning the domestic battery, the defendant may threaten a witness. He or she is likely to be at the scene during the crime commission. The witness is most probably a child present in a violent home. On top of the criminal charges of the battery that the offender may face, he/she may also be issued with additional charges of intimidation, amounting to either a felony or a misdemeanor. The bullying extends to threats to kill the witness by issuing death threats. Section 422 of the penal code also terms the violation of a wobbler crime and attracts similar charges to those released in intimidating a witness.
Destroying a Phone Line
Section 594 and 591.5 create provisions that make the destruction of a phone line a crime when a victim of domestic battery is trying to raise the alarm to the police. An offender will probably try to cut the cords connecting a house phone to a power source.
Additionally, if a smartphone is in use by the victim, the offender may also snatch it and crash it against the ground so that connection is disabled. All these and other actions amount to a wobbler crime. Where the offense is a misdemeanor, the penalty issued is a fine amounting to $1,000 or face a jail term of up to one year. As a felony, the sentence given is a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment term amounting up to three years in county jail.
Possible Defenses for the Crime of Domestic Battery
As a suspected offender facing domestic battery charges, you have the right to legal representation, that will help argue out your defenses in a court of law and possibly get you an acquittal. The Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm is well experienced in offering defense services to seeking clients.
Your attorney has to raise the best possible defense to suit the facts surrounding your case, to enhance the aspect of relevance in court.
The defense best applies where the defendant was forced to commit battery by an endangering situation. Quite often, disagreements happen at home, whereby the people in conflict could lose their temper and result in abuse by physical violence. The acts of violence quickly escalate to the use of weapons such as knives or baseball bats.
The use of weapons immediately creates an endangering circumstance for the person cornered, who may decide to resort in battering the attacker. Unfortunately, because of the earlier reports that may be made by the person responsible for the initiation of the entire chain of events, you will be highly scrutinized and suspected to be the main offender as the batterer. The suspicion is, of course, unfair to you. Thus, an attorney should endeavor to prove the threat that warranted your self-defense correctly.
It is, however, important to note that the court will only allow the claim of self-defense if the offender was driven to the wall and could not flee the attacker. Also, the judge will not accept the use of excessive force to defend yourself, which is highly disproportionate to the threat faced in the situation.
When the defense succeeds, the offender is absolved of the charges.
Mistake of Fact
The judge or jury presiding over a case of domestic battery is prepared to admit and listen to a defense of genuine mistake of fact. The factors to be considered are whether the offender acted under the honest impression of different events to reality as they were and that he or she lacked the requisite criminal intent in subjecting the physical violence amounting to the battery.
In a domestic case, the jury or judge may be interested in the circumstances at home. They include those that would lead to the defendant reasonably believing that his/her victim is an intruder, therefore, warranting the defendant to batter him/her. The typical scenario applicable and acceptable as the defense presented is when a couple does not live together in an established arrangement, but mostly visit each other on occasion.
The defendant may not expect to find the victim who is most likely to be the partner at home, and may suddenly attack out of alarm and panic. These kinds of mistakes are prone to happen at night, where vision may be impaired. A simple case of a surprise visit may, therefore, lead up to a matter of domestic battery due to an unfortunate mistake of fact.
Moreover, the mistake of fact works well with the proof of absent criminal intent required to convict a criminal offender. Since the situations leading to the commission of physical violence are often unknown and not anticipated, the defense will suffice under the Mens Rea element.
Human beings are bound to act out of emotion. Provocation as a defense of domestic battery is admissible in court. However, important aspects to note regarding the case are:
- The defense does not absolve liability absolutely but merely acts as a mitigating factor. Thus, a defendant may not be acquitted of the charges but may receive smaller penalties.
- For the argument to succeed, the defendant must have acted in the heat of the moment. Additionally, he or she should act before passions have cooled. The defense is the only way in which the law excuses the human nature of working on emotion. If the battery is committed reasonably long after the provocation, the defense is likely to be quashed.
- The force used as a result of provocation should not be excessive, lest the defense shifts into a compromising factor. A rational human being has to act reasonably at all times, despite challenging temptations that may bring out the worst in us.
After considering all these factors, your lawyer should be able to argue out your defense successfully and hopefully win you a reduced sentence.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
A defendant facing domestic battery charges deserves legal representation, just as is the case in any other offense of law. As the attorneys of Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we understand the stigma and stereotype surrounding suspects of domestic violence in general. We are happy to offer you non-discriminatory legal representation, support as well as advice, despite the challenging and emotionally draining period of litigation. Give us a call today at 714-740-7848.