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Domestic Battery Law & Defense

PC 243(e)(1)

Information on the crime of battery against a spouse or cohabitant, also known as misdemeanor domestic violence, is found at California penal code section 243(e)(1).

PC 243(e)(1) Law

To prove that the defendant is guilty of misdemeanor domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant the district attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all of the following:


  • The defendant committed abuse or violence against another person (abuse and violence defined below)

  • The defendant and the alleged victim were in a domestic relationship at the time of the alleged abuse or violence (domestic relationship defined below)

  • The defendant abused or committed violence against the alleged victim without legal justification (See defenses below for legal justification)


Abuse or Violence Defined

Per 243(e)(1), abuse or violence means the defendant applied physical force, or offensive touching,  against the alleged victim, and there is no legal justification for the defendant's actions.


Note: Per 243(e)(1), the applied force or offensive touching does not have to cause pain or injury as long as the touching was done in a harmful or aggressive manner and without legal justification. Common


For example, if the defendant grabbed a phone the alleged victim without the alleged victim's consent and during a heated argument between the two, then the defendant may have committed domestic battery.

Domestic Relationship

For the crime of domestic battery against a spouse or cohabitant to be properly charged the prosecutor must prove that the defendant and the alleged victim were either legal spouses (or former legal spouses), or, lived together as roommates (or former roommates). PC 243(e)(1) defines a cohabitant as ‘a person who is not of family relationship to the defendant.’

PC 243(e)(1) Punishment

Jail Sentence: The crime of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1)) is classified as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of PC 243(e)(1), the defendant may face up to one year in the county jail (not state prison). Any actual in custody jail sentence is subject to fifty percent (50%) good conduct credits. This means that for every day the defendant is in jail, and he or she is on his or her good behavior, he or she will receive credit for two days off his or her jail sentence.

Probation Sentence: Probation is a period of supervision in lieu of a jail sentence. Probation sentences come with terms of probation that must be followed in order to avoid further penalties,  including actual jail. Probation terms for PC 243(e)(1) generally include mandatory domestic violence classes, criminal protective orders, fines, penalties, substance abuse treatment (if drugs or alcohol is alleged in the facts of the case), restitution for medical bills or damaged property, and more. A probation sentence for a PC 243(c)(1) cases is not supervised by a probation officer; rather, the probation is informal and a defendant will be found in violation of his or her probation upon subsequent misdemeanor or felony conduct or otherwise failure to obey the terms of his or her probation.

Work Release & House Arrest: If found guilty of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1)), and the defendant is sentenced to probation in lieu of jail, the defendant may usually serve his or her jail sentence on work release or house arrest. Work release is picking up trash, usually around a San Bernardino jail or freeway; house arrest is also known as electronic monitoring and requires the defendant to wear a angle monitor.

Immigration: Misdemeanor domestic battery on a spouse or a cohabitant is considered a crime involving moral turpitude and a crime of domestic violence. A crime involving moral turpitude is a crime that involves dishonesty or is morally wrong. Both crimes of moral turpitude, and crimes involving domestic violence, can have severe negative consequence for non U.S. citizens under current U.S. immigration law. A  non U.S. citizen convicted of PC 243(e)(1) could face deportation, or denial of reentry into, the United State.

Professional License): Any professional or occupational license may be negatively affected by a criminal conviction of PC 243(e)(1). A professional or occupational license includes any license granted by a California Bar, Commission, or Board. This includes, but is not limited to, the following professions: Nursing, lawyers, doctors, dentist, therapist, barbers, pharmacists, psychologist, and more. A negative impact means that the defendant’s profession or occupational license could be suspended, revoked, placed on probation, or more.

Additional Penalties for PC 243(e)(1): If found guilty of domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant, the defendant may face any of the following additional punishments: fines, civil lawsuits, discharge or denial of entry into the military, insurance premiums raised, restraining orders (criminal protective orders [CPS]), DMV issues (for DV cases that involve the use of a vehicle), mandatory domestic violence classes, loss of the right to receive spousal support, loss of firearm rights, and more.

Note: If the defendant and the alleged victim are married at the time of the alleged domestic violence incident, the defendant is likely to face a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) in family law court. In addition, the family law court may deny spousal support to any person found guilty of domestic violence against the supporting spouse. Also, any statement made in criminal court or family law court may be used against the defendant in either court.

Defense to PC 243(e)(1)

Any defense to a charge of domestic battery against a spouse or cohabitant will depend on the facts of the individual case and the circumstances of the defendant. With that said, common defenses to PC 243(e)(1) charges include: self-defense, defense of others, insanity, consent to touching, alibi, statute of limitations (1 year from the date of incident), insufficient evidence, mistake of fact, police misconduct or failure to properly investigate the alleged incident, coerced confessions or statements, Veteran's Court Diversion and more.

Plea Bargains: A plea bargain is an agreement between the district attorney and the defendant wherein the district attorney agrees to lower the criminal charge, or the sentence, associated with the domestic battery, or both, in exchange for the defendant's promise to plead guilty or no contest in a case. In PC 243(e)(1) cases, a plea bargain often includes a plea to disturbing the peace, trespass, or simple battery. Whether the district attorney or the court is willing to enter into a plea bargain in any PC 243(e)(1) case depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

If you have been charged with misdemeanor domestic battery on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1), contact our domestic violence criminal defense lawyers without delay and for a free consultation. Our domestic violence defense lawyers have successfully representing hundreds of clients in DV cases in the County of San Bernardino. Call today!


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