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Domestic Battery Law & Defense

Penal Code 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).

There are several felony domestic violence crimes listed in penal code PC 273.5, but this page is dedicated to a summary of misdemeanor domestic violence under PC 243(e)(1). For information on other domestic violence crimes please contact our criminal defense attorneys.

The law of PC 243(e)(1)

To prove the defendant is guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence under PC 243(e)(1), the district attorney must prove that:

  • The defendant wilfully touched his or her spouse, or cohabitant, in a harmful or offensive manner, and
  • The victim is the roommate, former roommate, spouse, or ex spouse, of the defendant, and
  • The defendant had no right to self-defense, or defense of others, during the harmful or offensive touching of the victim. 

A cohabitant under PC 243(e)(1) is defined as "a person who is not of family relationship to the defendant."

The touching does not have to cause pain or injury to the victim as long as the touching was done in a harmful or aggressive manner. In fact, under PC 243(e)(1), the touching does not even have to be directly on the skin of the victim. For example, grabbing an object out of the hand of the victim in an angry manner may qualify as a harmful or offensive touching under PC 243(e)(1).

Sentence & Penalty for PC 243(e)(1) Battery

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. Alternative sentences may be availlable in some cases (alternative to actual in-custody jail). Alternative sentences can include electronic monitoring and work release.

Misdemeanor domestic violence, or battery against a spouse or cohabitant, is considered a moral turpitude crime. Moral turpitude crimes carry negative consequences for immigrants and defendants with professional licenses (doctor, dentist, therapist, nurse, etc.).  

In addition to any possible jail time, convictions of PC 243(e)(1) can lead to other penalties, such as: fines, restraining orders, civil lawsuits, firearm restrictions for at least ten years, restitution, mandatory anger management classes, and more.

Defense to PC 243(e)(1)

The most common defenses to a charge of domestic violence under PC 243(e)(1), include: 

  • insufficient evidence: in many domestic violence battery cases there is no evidence of injury, and usually the defendant and the victim are the only witnesses to the alleged crime.
  • self-defense: a defendant is privileged to use force against another person to defend himself.
  • defense of other people: a defendant is privileged to use force against another person to protect his or her family from violence.
  • severe intoxication: if intoxication is so sever that the defendant did not understand what he or sher was doing it could be a defense to PC 243(e)(1).
  • mistake of fact: if the defendant truly believed he or she acted with consent to the touching it could be a defense to battery against a spouse or cohabitant.
  • statute of limitations: the district attorney is barred from prosecution misdemeanor domestic violence if the DA does not prosecute the case within a year of the event that lead to criminal charges.
  • coerced confessions: if the defendant's confession was coerced it could lead to a suppression of that confession, which could provide a strong defense to the defendant.

If you have been charged with misdemeanor domestic violence against a spouse or cohabitant, or battery against a spouse or cohabitant (PC 243(e)(1)), contact our successful team of criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultations. Learn your rights and arm yourself with a strong defense. Our attorneys are available seven days a week. Call today!


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PC 243(e)(1): Battery against a spouse or cohabitant

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PC 243(e)(1): Misdemeanor Domestic Violence (Battery Against Spouse or Cohabitant)

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 Crimes related to PC 243(e)(1) domestic violence:

  • PC 273.5(a): Corporal injury to a spouse (felony domestic violence)
  • PC 273.5(f): Corporal injury to a spouse with a prior for same (felony domestic violence)
  • PC 245: Assault with a deadly weapon
  • PC 422: Criminal Threats

Domestic Violence PC 273.5, 273.5(a), 273.5(f), 273.5(e)(1), and 243(e)(1)


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