California Domestic Violence can be charged under several different sections of the California Penal Code, depending on the circumstances of the alleged incident and the relationship between the people involved.


California Penal Code 243(e)(1) defines domestic violence battery as any willful and unlawful use of force or violence on a current or former intimate partner. PC 243(e)(1) outlines who qualifies as intimate partners, and the list is much longer than just legally recognized relationships (e.g. married, children in common). You do not have to be living together, or even have a sexual relationship. 


California Penal Code 273.5 defines domestic assault as the willful infliction of corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon an intimate partner. The difference between domestic violence assault under PC 273.5 and domestic violence battery under PC 243(e)(1) almost always comes down to whether there is a visible injury. The injury does not have to be serious, and the injury could even be invisible to the naked eye!


Most police calls for a domestic disturbance in California result in an arrest. The law is written in such a way that police officers have little choice in the matter, even when they can tell the evidence could never prove guilt in court. The law made sense at the time it was written – police were selectively enforcing the existing law – but it has caused an increase in California domestic violence arrests that is divorced from the facts of each specific case. Early intervention by a domestic violence defense attorney may ensure that the worst night of a couple's life only ended in arrest, and did not end up in court.


Domestic battery under California Penal Code 243(e)(1) and domestic assault under California Penal Code 273.5 carry significantly different penalties. PC 243(3)(1) battery is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a two thousand dollar fine.  PC 273.5 assault can be prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor, with punishments as high as four years in prison and a six thousand dollar fine. Enlisting the services of an experienced California domestic violence attorney could determine whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, or even if the case is dismissed.


Whether the case is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony, there are several additional punishments associated with domestic violence convictions. A defendant convicted of a domestic violence crime will generally have to pay penalty fines, attend a 52-week in-person domestic violence class, and the conviction could serve as grounds for losing visitation rights, or ever obtaining even partial child custody.

Even without a conviction, clients experience significant hardships from mere accusations alone. Courts have determined that a domestic violence accusation can functionally suspend vital constitutional protections, including those enshrined in the Bill of Rights. A talented domestic violence defense attorney like Peter James Chambers can help shorten the timeline and work to resolve client matters without unnecessary delay.


Domestic violence accusations can be devastating for anyone without full United States citizenship, even when they have legal authorization to be in the country. While U.S. citizens will not suffer the same consequences as non-citizens, domestic violence convictions can have unexpected international consequences for anyone. Domestic violence convictions can appear during visa applications and immigration interviews, and this type of “moral turpitude” crime can form the basis for the denial of their entry into a foreign country for business or even vacation.


Crimes of domestic violence have a particular stigma attached. Even an accusation can feel like a conviction. But as a former domestic violence prosecutor, Attorney Peter James Chambers knows that not every allegation of domestic violence is supported by the law or the evidence. Don't let an accusation feel like a death sentence – Defend Yourself.

Self Defense

Someone cannot be convicted of domestic assault or domestic battery if they can prove they acted in self-defense. A skilled defense attorney can help someone accused of domestic violence prove this through pre-trial investigation – Did the police conduct a thorough unbiased investigation? Did the supposed victim later admit their role?  Is the evidence consistent with the allegations? Police are often discouraged from arresting two people for a single battery, which means the first determination of self-defense can come down to whomever the police spoke with first. Don't let the first word be the final one.

False Allegations

People fake accusations of domestic violence for many reasons: to gain leverage in a divorce or custody battle, to evict a former boyfriend or girlfriend after a break-up, to get revenge. In most cases, one person is trying to use the authority of the court to gain power and control over the other. Every prosecutor should perform a vigorous independent investigation, but there is often little desire to investigate against the narrative – false domestic violence accusations are likely one of the least investigated or prosecuted crimes in the country. A dedicated domestic violence attorney can help show your innocence through early intervention and investigation, and surgical advocacy in court.


Consider the following scenario: AJ and Blake are married and live together. Both spouses have been under serious stress lately, and they are arguing more, but this is the worst argument so far. In frustration, Blake picks up a golf ball from the nearby table and throws it at the floor, but the ball ricochets off the floor and hits AJ in the face, causing a bloody nose. AJ shouts, “I think you broke my nose!” A neighbor calls 911 and reports what she heard. Police arrive to see AJ with a bloody nose, but assume AJ is trying to cover for Blake by claiming it was an accident, and Blake is arrested. Here, Blake needs a dedicated domestic violence attorney to show the prosecutor, or possibly even a jury, that Blake was acting lawfully and had no criminal intent to harm, or even touch, AJ. Under these circumstances, Blake did not willfully cause the golf ball to injure AJ, and would not be guilty of a crime.


Hiring an experienced domestic violence defense attorney, especially early in the process, can mean the difference between being charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, and a bold advocate can even convince the prosecution to drop the charges without ever having to go to court! If you have been charged with a domestic violence battery or domestic violence assault in California, Contact the Law Office of Peter James Chambers immediately for a free evaluation of your case.