Several generations ago, domestic violence was something whispered about in hushed tones and downplayed in public. But today, with many high-profile celebrities, athletes, and political figures coming forward with their own stories of domestic abuse, this topic is at the forefront of the collective consciousness. Just about every state has enacted laws to differentiate between plain battery and domestic battery, and these laws often require different sentencing standards and probationary programs for those who are convicted of or plead guilty to domestic battery. Read on to learn more about what transforms the act of battery into domestic battery, and a few of the defenses available for those who are charged with this crime.
When Is Battery Classified as Domestic Battery?
Although each state defines this criminal offense a bit differently, in general, domestic battery is battery (a deliberate touch, shove, or other action that causes injury to another person) perpetrated on someone with whom the alleged batterer is in a close relationship. Some states' laws extend the "domestic" label to anyone sharing a household with the alleged batterer, regardless of relationship; others provide that domestic battery can only be perpetrated on the alleged batterer's child, spouse, or significant other.
Those who are charged with and convicted of domestic battery may be required to undergo anger management or domestic battery-specific programs as a term of their probation. These programs are designed to highlight the specific risks of domestic battery and lead the alleged batterer to make better decisions in the future.
Are There Any Defenses to Domestic Battery?
Being charged with domestic battery is a serious situation. But an arrest and arraignment don't necessarily mean you'll be convicted. There are several potential defenses you may be able to use.
One of these is self-defense. Often, domestic-battery situations involve escalating tensions on both sides, and if (for example) you grabbed the alleged victim's arms or shoved them away to prevent them from striking you, this may be considered self-defense that's permissible under law. Because self-defense is an affirmative defense, once it's raised, the prosecutor will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you weren't engaged in self-defense in order to sustain a conviction.
Another potential defense is mistake. These situations are frequently "he-said, she-said," so establishing that the facts being alleged are false or that the alleged victim's injuries were self-inflicted (or inflicted by another person) can lead to dismissal of the charges.
For more information and tips, work with a local domestic violence attorney.