Domestic battery is one of California's domestic violence offenses. Battery is a misdemeanor charge. Although misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, there are certain things that can increase the seriousness of a battery charge. In light of such aggravating circumstances, the offense can be charged as aggravated battery. But aggravated battery is not a domestic violence offense specifically. Thus, it's important to understand how your domestic battery case can change in light of aggravating circumstances.
Battery vs. Aggravated Battery
Aggravated battery is not a domestic violence offense. The alleged victim could be anyone. For a battery to be “aggravated”, however, the victim must have suffered a serious injury. If the victim were an intimate partner, the defendant would most likely be charged with corporal injury to a spouse. Similar to aggravated battery, the victim must have suffered a serious injury. Unlike aggravated battery, corporal injury to a spouse is considered a domestic violence offense.
The essential element in corporal injury to a spouse cases is the victim's injuries. California domestic violence laws define a traumatic condition as:
“A condition of the body, such as a wound, or internal or external injury, including, but not limited to, injury as a result of strangulation or suffocation, whether of a minor or serious nature, caused by physical force.”
In other words, a traumatic condition is an injury. Injuries can be proven using 911 call recordings, police reports, witness testimony, and, most importantly, medical records. In these types of cases, medical records play a crucial role.
Whether or not the defendant willfully and with intent caused the injury is sometimes arguable. These cases can also grow in complexity if self-defense was involved. This is why it's so important to work with an attorney when facing such charges. It is all too common for a victim to claim the defendant inflicted an injury when he or she may have been acting in self-defense. If you accidentally injure someone, it is not corporal injury to a spouse. To be convicted of corporal injury to a spouse, you must have willingly and with intent inflicted an injury on an intimate partner.
The second most important element that needs to be proven is the relationship between the defendant and the accuser. To be charged with corporal injury to a spouse or domestic battery, the victim must be a:
- Current or former spouse
- Current or former fiancé
- Current or former girlfriend or boyfriend
- Current or former cohabitant (someone you lived with)
- Someone whom you have a child in common with, or
- Someone to whom you are closely related through blood or marriage
Unless the victim falls under one of these categories, you cannot be charged with a domestic violence defense. Instead, you would likely be charged with aggravated battery (if the victim suffered a traumatic condition) or battery (if he or she did not.)
Now, while aggravated battery is not an exclusive domestic violence offense, some domestic violence battery charges can be reduced to battery charges. When this happens, the defendant avoids some of the serious consequences of a domestic violence conviction, but the court still gets a conviction. Such consequences that are specific to domestic violence offenses include loss of gun rights, loss of custodial rights, batterers' intervention classes, or even deportation. Conversely, a plain misdemeanor battery charge does not necessarily result in these specific consequences.
Aggravated battery is a wobbler offense. California wobbler offenses are unique in that they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the prosecuting attorney's discretion and the court's approval. The specific facts and circumstances of your case and your prior criminal history will affect how you are charged. If you committed domestic battery, and the victim suffered a traumatic condition, you will likely be charged with corporal injury on a spouse. Again, some domestic battery charges can be reduced to battery, but this is less likely if you seriously injured the victim.
Speak with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney if you are facing domestic violence charges. Many factors can influence how you are charged, so it's in your best interest to work with an attorney to ensure those facts are argued in your favor.
If you are facing domestic violence charges in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area, call experienced domestic violence defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you fight your charges and clear your name. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Martens is ready to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.