Domestic Battery Penal Code PC 243(e)(1) & Domestic Violence PC 13700

According to the California Department of Health, 20 percent of women report that they have experienced “severe physical violence” from an intimate partner. Although domestic violence undoubtedly affects countless lives each year, it’s also important to note that, according to the Coalition to End Domestic Violence, around 10 percent of all domestic violence allegations are false. The point is, you don’t need to be guilty of domestic battery in order for an allegation to ruin your life.

Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1) & Domestic Violence PC 13700 are two potential charges that may arise from domestic disputes – two crimes that California takes very seriously. To defend yourself against these allegations, you’ll need to partner with an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer at your earliest convenience. The Law Office of Cherish Om is here to provide the top-tier legal advice you deserve.

This article will explain everything you need to know about domestic battery charges in California, common legal defenses in domestic abuse cases, and how a California domestic violence attorney can help protect your future.

Domestic Battery in California Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC

Penalties for battery depend on the type and nature of the alleged victim. California Penal Code 243 details these heightened penalties, and subsection (e) involves victims of a domestic nature.

Defining Domestic Battery in California

On a basic level, California law defines battery as any unwanted physical contact. Simple battery may not involve any physical injuries, and it may be indirect in nature. Domestic battery occurs when a defendant commits the crime of battery against a victim with whom they have a intimate relationship. Examples include:

  • A spouse

  • A parent of the defendant’s child

  • A former spouse

  • A fiance

  • A boyfriend

  • A girlfriend

  • Anyone with whom the defendant has or had a “dating relationship”

Although domestic battery often involves members of the same household, a wide range of other parties may fall under this definition. Even a few brief meetings may be enough to constitute a “dating relationship.”

What Are the Penalties for Domestic Battery in California?

If convicted of Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1), you may face a county jail sentence of up to one year, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.

If the criminal court grants you probation, you must complete a “batterer’s program” that lasts at least one year. If you cannot find a suitable program, the court may order you to complete another type of counseling program. In simple terms, these are mandatory anger management classes.

In the event of probation, the court may also order you to pay up to $5,000 to a “domestic violence shelter-based program.”

Finally, the court may order you to reimburse the victim for any losses they incur while paying for psychological counseling and other “reasonable expenses” related to the offense.

Domestic Violence in California Penal Code 13700 PC

Although domestic violence and domestic battery are closely related, they are separate entries under the California Penal Code. Domestic Violence PC 13700 defines domestic violence as abuse directed against victims within domestic relationships. These victims may include:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Cohabitant
  • Former cohabitant
  • The parent of the defendant’s child
  • Anyone with whom the defendant has or had a “dating relationship”

Although domestic violence and domestic battery are closely related, they are separate entries under the California Penal Code. Domestic Violence PC 13700 defines domestic violence as abuse directed against victims within domestic relationships. These victims may include:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Cohabitant
  • Former cohabitant
  • The parent of the defendant’s child
  • Anyone with whom the defendant has or had a “dating relationship”

What Is the Difference Between “Domestic Battery” and “Domestic Violence?”

While domestic battery is a criminal offense, domestic violence is a definition under the California Penal Code. California Penal Code 13700 PC does not include any penalties, because its only purpose is to establish when crimes of a domestic nature occur. 

Defendants in California often see both “Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1)” & “Domestic Violence PC 13700” on their written charges. However, the only criminal charge in this scenario is Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1), while the inclusion of California Penal Code 13700 PC shows that the offense constitutes domestic violence.

What Counts as “Domestic Battery” under PC 243e1?

Relatively minor physical acts may constitute domestic battery in California. It is important to remember that physical injuries need not occur, and that the physical contact can be indirect.

Examples of Physical Contact that Does Not Cause Injuries

A defendant might jam their finger into their spouse’s chest during a heated argument. Even though this might not result in documentable injuries, it still counts as domestic battery. A smaller spouse might push a larger spouse to the point where the alleged victim barely notices any physical pressure. This would also constitute a domestic battery.

Examples of Indirect Physical Contact

The most obvious example of indirect physical contact is a thrown object. For example, a defendant might throw an inflatable pool toy at their spouse. Even if the toy bounces off the victim’s head without causing any injuries, this counts as domestic battery. Another example might include a third party that stumbles and falls into the alleged victim. A defendant might advance toward their spouse in a threatening manner. A third party, such as a concerned teen or a dinner party guest, might attempt to constrain the defendant. In the process, they might be thrown backward into the victim. This would also constitute domestic battery, as the physical contact was triggered by the advancing defendant.

Defining “Dating Relationships”

When determining whether an alleged incident should fall under PC 243e1, it is important to define “dating relationships.”

According to Family Code § 6210, a dating relationship involves “frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations.”

The Family Code highlights several requirements under this definition:

  • Frequent and Intimate Associations


  • Affection


  • Sexual acts without financial consideration

As you can see, these definitions are anything but straightforward. If you are struggling to understand the exact nature of your charges, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer for guidance.

What Counts as “Domestic Violence” under PC 13700?

The same definition of “dating relationships” for domestic battery applies to domestic violence under PC 13700. However, the definition of “cohabitants” is equally important in the context of PC 13700.

“Cohabitants” are unrelated adults living in the same household for a “substantial period of time.” PC 13700 outlines several examples of cohabitation:

  • Adults living together while engaging in sexual intercourse

  • Sharing income or expenses

  • Joint ownership or use of property

  • Adults who present themselves as spouses (even if they are not)

PC 13700 does not explain what “a substantial period of time” means. However, it is safe to say that this definition encompasses most adult roommates – regardless of whether they were romantically involved. As long as you live with someone for an extended period and share the cost of rent, you both become cohabitants and subject to domestic violence laws in California.

What Are the Best Defense Strategies for Domestic Violence?

Several strategies may be effective for defendants fighting domestic violence charges.


If someone is attempting to harm you, self-defense is justifiable. California recognizes the right to self-defense, and you may escape domestic violence charges if you can prove you were trying to protect yourself, your property, or someone else. California’s Castle Doctrine means that there is no duty to retreat when you are in your own home. Even in public, you are allowed to stand your ground.

No Willful Act

If you lacked the intent to commit domestic violence, you cannot face charges under Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1) & Domestic Violence PC 13700. The physical contact may have been purely accidental.

False Accusations

Many domestic battery charges are based on false allegations. The burden of proof lies with the accuser in California, and the prosecution must show “beyond reasonable doubt” that you committed the offense. If they cannot achieve this goal, you cannot be convicted.

No Dating Relationship

The definition of a “dating relationship” under Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1) & Domestic Violence PC 13700 means that unwanted acts committed in certain types of relationships cannot be considered domestic violence. Associations must be both frequent and intimate to meet the requirements of this definition.

A one-night stand, for example, might be “intimate” – but it is not “frequent.” Meeting a work colleague for coffee every week might be “frequent,” but it is not “intimate.” Note that Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1) involves previous dating relationships regardless of frequency. In other words, you may face charges for alleged domestic violence against an ex whom you had not seen for several years.

How Does a Prosecutor Prove Domestic Battery?

To prove that domestic battery occurred, a prosecutor must establish several factors:

  • Intentional, unwanted physical contact occurred “beyond reasonable doubt”

  • The alleged victim and the defendant have or had a domestic relationship according to definitions under Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1) & Domestic Violence PC 13700

  • The defendant did not act in self-defense

Is Domestic Battery a Felony in California?

Domestic battery is a misdemeanor in California. However, this only applies to domestic violence that involves physical contact with no injuries. In other words, it must meet the requirements of “simple battery” under California Penal Code 242.

Related Criminal Offenses in California

Even if they avoid domestic battery charges, defendants may face several similar defenses. We discuss some of the most commonly associated charges below.

Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant – PC 273.5

If domestic battery results in an injury, defendants may face charges under Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant – PC 273.5. Under this section, a corporal injury can be anything that causes a traumatic condition. This does not apply to psychological trauma, such as PTSD, emotional distress, depression, or anxiety. PC 273.5 provides several examples of these injuries:

  • Wounds

  • Any external or visible injuries

  • Any internal injuries

  • Injury caused by strangulation/suffocation

This offense can lead to either misdemeanor or felony charges. Misdemeanor penalties include up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $6,000, or both. Felony penalties include two, three, or four years in state prison and a fine up of to $6,000.

If the defendant has certain prior domestic violence convictions on their record within seven years, they may face up to five years in prison under PC 273.5 and a heightened fine of up to $10,000. Prior offenses may also lead to mandatory minimum jail sentences.

Aggravated Battery – PC 243d

Even if the alleged battery is not defined as domestic violence, you still face heightened penalties under PC 243(d) if it results in serious bodily injury. Also known as “aggravated battery,” this may result in felony or misdemeanor charges. If convicted of a misdemeanor under this section, you face up to one year in jail. A felony conviction will result in two, three, or four years in prison.

Elder Abuse – PC 368

If the alleged battery involves a senior victim, you may face additional penalties under PC 368. You will face consequences under this section if you commit simple battery or assault against a senior. You can also face consequences if you simply endanger the senior. The penalty is either a misdemeanor with a sentence of up to one year in jail, or a felony with a maximum sentence of four years.

If the victim is under the age of 70, you will face an additional prison term of three years. If the victim is over the age of 70, you will face an additional prison term of five years. Anyone over the age of 65 counts as an “elder” in this context, as well as certain dependent adults below the age of 65. In addition to imprisonment, you may face additional fines for elder abuse.

Domestic Battery FAQs

Domestic battery charges are complex, and it’s normal to have lots of questions about your charges. The best way to get a firm grasp on your legal predicament is by partnering with an experienced criminal defense attorney in California. In the meantime, read through the answers to a few of our most frequently asked questions.

• What are the consequences of domestic violence for noncitizens?

Noncitizens face the same consequences as citizens for domestic violence – with the added threat of deportation. Non-citizens may also struggle to re-enter the United States once they have been removed, and they may find it impossible to obtain a green card in the future. Even being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence can trigger an automatic “immigration hold.” Also known as an “ICE Hold” or a “detainer,” this involves an additional 48 hours of jail time, potential transfer to a federal facility, and ultimately deportation.

• How long does domestic violence stay on your record in California?

A domestic violence conviction in California will stay on your record indefinitely, whether it is a misdemeanor offense or a felony. Unless you get a pardon or an expungement, it may affect you for the rest of your life.

• How will domestic violence affect my gun rights?

Generally speaking, all felons are prohibited from owning firearms in California – and this includes felonies related to domestic violence. However, even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction can prevent you from owning firearms for the next ten years. After that 10-year period expires, a lifetime federal ban still applies after any domestic violence conviction. Even if you were never convicted of a crime, a domestic violence protective order can prevent you from owning firearms.

• What if the accuser wants to drop charges after domestic violence?

Once someone accuses you of domestic violence in California, there is no going back. Law enforcement is legally obliged to investigate any allegations, and there is no option to drop charges. If there is sufficient evidence, prosecutors will move for a conviction – often using the accuser’s witness testimony in the process.

• Can you be charged with domestic battery if there was no injury?

As with all forms of simple battery, you may face a conviction under Domestic Battery PC 243(e)(1) even in the absence of physical injury. The only requirement is the use of physical force.

Contact a California Domestic Battery Defense Lawyer

It is one thing to learn about potential defense strategies, but executing them effectively is an entirely different matter. If you or a loved one is facing domestic battery charges, a California domestic battery defense lawyer can help you decide on an appropriate, targeted course of action based on your unique circumstances.

Your defense lawyer can represent you in court, help you refute evidence, negotiate with prosecutors, and much more. Schedule a consultation with our law firm today to approach your domestic violence case with efficiency and confidence.

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