Domestic Battery (Penal Code § 243)

Domestic Battery in Violation of Penal Code Section 243

In California, the crime of battery is the use force or violence on another person. The act of battery must be unlawful (for example., not in self-defense) and willful (on purpose). The California Penal Code specifies that the crime of battery committed against a spouse, a cohabitant, a person to whom one is engaged or is dating, or a person with whom one has had a child (the specified relationships may be current or former) as any willful and unlawful touching of that person in a harmful or offensive manner.

When the touching is committed in self-defense or by accident, it is not a crime. But like all domestic violence offenses, this can get tricky as usually these charges arise when an intimate relationship goes awry. As with other domestic violence allegations, a person may use the law in retaliation or for manipulation. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer such as William Weinberg who has been defending domestic violence charges in Orange County for 30 years.

Simple Battery

A battery is considered a “simple battery” when no serious bodily injury is inflicted. Even the slightest touching can be a simple battery. (Penal Code §243(e)(1).) In fact, the crime of simple battery does not require that any injury be inflicted at all.

A good example of what might be charged as a simple domestic battery is a girlfriend angrily poking at her boyfriend’s shoulder. Even soft pokes would be considered battery because they were done in anger. Another example might be a husband grabbing the wrist of his wife during an argument, even though the grab causes the wife no pain or injury. When the touching is caused indirectly, for example by throwing an object at another person, or telling someone else to touch the other person in an offensive or angry manner, it is still battery although the person charged never directly touched the victim.

Here is a simple battery example: A neighbor calls the police to report screaming and yelling next door. The police arrive and find Wayne and his ex-wife in a loud argument. Upon questioning, Wayne’s ex-wife complains that he grabbed her wrist. Wayne tries to tell the police that he only grabbed his ex-wife’s wrist because she was attempting to slap him across the face. Even though his ex-wife has no red marks or evidence of the wrist grab, the police issue an emergency protective order anyway and cite Wayne for domestic battery.


If Wayne is telling the truth, he did not commit domestic battery because he acted in self-defense. But how does Wayne defend this charge on self-defense grounds if no one witnessed the incident? Perhaps Wayne’s attorney might interview others and learn whether Wayne’s ex-wife has slapped Wayne before. Or perhaps his defense attorney can prevail on Wayne’s wife after things cool down to concede she did attempt to slap him. Or Wayne’s attorney may present evidence that impugns his ex-wife’s credibility.

Defense to these charges may also be that the touching was not intended or willfully done. Another way a defense attorney can attack this charge is to argue that there is insufficient evidence that the crime was committed.


Even though simple domestic battery is only a misdemeanor, it can be punished by up to a year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.00 plus the conviction will be a part of the defendant’s criminal record. Even if convicted, an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer may successfully advocate for a sentence of probation rather than jail time and/or the defendant’s participation in domestic violence prevention counseling or courses.

Battery with Serious Bodily Injury

When a domestic battery causes a serious bodily injury, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony (a “wobbler” offense). (Penal Code §243(d).) As with simple battery, the same elements apply with the additional requirement that the victim suffered an injury that is life-threatening or painful and debilitating. Some examples of such bodily injury include: loss of consciousness, loss or impairment of a body part or organ, a wound that requires multiple sutures, or a broken bone.


If the injury was caused by accident or was a result of self-defense, there is no crime. But, as discussed above, this is sometimes difficult to prove and defend. Occasionally the defense of this charge hinges on the question as to whether the injury is serious. For example, how many stitches are required to make an injury serious? Is a broken finger a serious bodily injury? Orange County domestic violence defense attorney, William Weinberg, has many years of experience representing defendants charged with these crimes and he leaves no stone unturned in the discovery and development of any available defense.


A felony conviction on domestic battery with serious injury can result in a prison sentence of two, three, or four years. A misdemeanor conviction is punishable by incarceration of up to one year in county jail.

Domestic Battery Defense Attorney William Weinberg can Help

Whether you have been charged with simple domestic battery or battery that caused a serious injury, Attorney Weinberg can explain your options. He offers a complimentary consultation regarding your matter. You may contact him at his Irvine office by calling (949) 474-8008 or by emailing him at

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