In California, there are three levels of domestic abuse charges. The lowest is 243(e)(1) which is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a $2000 dollar fine and up to one year in jail. Because this is the least severe form of domestic abuse, it is the most common arrest type for domestic violence in California. What, exactly, constitutes domestic abuse under this statute? In order to be found guilty of domestic abuse under this statute, the prosecutor must prove that you willfully touched someone who qualifies as a domestic partner and that touch was harmful or offensive.
Let’s break those conditions down a little bit. First, the touch has to be willful. In other words, you have to deliberately touch someone. For example, if you throw a plate at a wall and a piece of the plate breaks off and hits your partner, that isn’t a willful touch. You certainly did cause the injury from the broken plate, but you did not intend to touch your partner with the plate. However, if you grab your partner by their wrist and they dislocate it trying to break your hold, you have willfully touched them, even if you did not intend to hurt them or the dislocation isn’t directly caused by you.
Qualifying the Victim
Next, let’s look at the qualifying victim category. In order for an assault to classify under 243 (e)(1), it has to be committed against a partner or a former partner. In other words, someone you are dating or are involved in a romantic relationship of any sort with or someone whom you used to do is dating or involved in a romantic relationship with. The parent of your child also counts as a domestic partner or former domestic partner, as does anyone that you are living with or have ever lived with.
Tripping and Punching
These broad guidelines mean that there are many different people that could qualify as a domestic violence victim. If you trip your ex-wife, that counts as domestic violence. If you punch your ex-wife’s new boyfriend, that does not, because even though you were angry about a romantic relationship, the person you injured does not meet the specifications. In most cases, the actions that result in an arrest under 243 (e)(1) are minor ones and result from a fight with a current partner or recently terminated relationship partner.
This brings us to the last qualification for an arrest under 243 (e)(1), that the touch is offensive or harmful. This is a vague guideline. The touch does not need to cause an injury, just that it be offensive. As a result, any willful touch against a domestic partner or former domestic partner can be considered to be harmful or offensive under this statute. Here are some examples of minor injuries that result in an arrest under this statute.
During a fight with your partner, you throw something that hits them. This happens very frequently during domestic fights, and even if what you threw was small or soft and did not cause an injury, it constitutes an offensive or harmful touch and you can be arrested.
Another common scenario is that during a fight one partner might try to leave the house and the other partner might try to restrain them. This can be done for various reasons, and it’s possible that the restraining partner wants to resolve the situation peacefully. However, if they willfully touch their partner to restrain them, that is enough to constitute an offensive or harmful touch under the statute. A variation of this scenario is one in which one partner grabs a partner by the arm or shoulder in order to stop them from moving or in order to hold them, someone. Yet another variation involves holding your partner against a wall. All of these can result in an arrest under this statute.
The last most common form of domestic abuse under this statute is hitting a partner or former partner. This takes many forms, but the common theme is that one partner hits the other. One example can be if one partner slaps the other partner on the face or head. Another example can be if one partner punches the other. Even pushing of one partner by the other is enough to trigger an arrest under this statute. Any form of directed violence from one partner to the other constitutes an offensive or harmful touch under this statute.
The Power of Intent
The statute allows for arrests even if the partner was not touched, as long as something close to the partner was touched. For example, if you grabbed your partner’s shirt and it ripped as they pulled away, you could be arrested under 243(e)(1) because you willfully committed an offensive touch, even though you never actually touched the person’s body.
However, it is worth noting that there are limitations to this statute. Even if you hit your partner, you might be charged with a more severe form of domestic violence. This is because of the limiting factor for 243 (e)(1) is that it does not cause severe injury. As such, it is used for minor incidents only. Any domestic violence situation that results in injury is likely to be charged under the higher level domestic violence statutes.
If you have been arrested and charged with domestic violence under 243(e)(1) you should know what the guidelines are regarding this statute. A successful defense against this charge involves proving that one of the three required guidelines do not apply. In other words, you need to prove that you did not mean to touch your partner, that the person hurt was not your partner or former partner, or that the touch was not harmful or offensive.
Those facing charges can call to obtain a free case evaluation from Attorney Randy Collins. Mr. Collins previously worked as a District Attorney Prosecutor and has assisted countless defendants, helped to dismiss charges and obtained numerous not guilty verdicts. Contact us today to get your case evaluated and find out what an attorney can do for you.