The Crime of Domestic Battery

Aug 5, 2008Updated 8 months ago

A battery is an intentional, harmful or offensive unpermitted touching of another person. If one person touches another on purpose and without permission that is a battery. A domestic battery is the unconsented touching of one family member by another.

A husband may be arrested for domestic battery when he has barely touched his wife. Barely touching your spouse, in a manner that she does not permit, is a battery. In many states the husband charged with misdemeanor domestic battery could be sentenced to jail for up to a year. There are some circumstances that could lead to felony charges, which may result in years in prison.

Police Action in Domestic Violence Situations

Family arguments can escalate to dangerous levels. These situations may lead to a 911 call. Sometimes, the caller hopes the police will intervene and calm the situation down. Police officers are not counselors, or social workers, and should not be employed as such.

When police arrive on the scene of an alleged domestic battery, they cannot know how volatile the situation is at that moment, or what it was prior to their arrival. There are standard procedures for the officers, but nearly all the time, someone is going to be arrested.

The officers cannot know what may happen if they leave the parties together. Often a situation will have cooled down during the moments it takes for a response to a 911 call. The officers have only one real power, the power to arrest, and the only way the police can be certain nothing will happen between the parties after they leave, is to take one of them away.

It is unwise to expect the police to arrive and act as mediators or counselors. Someone will be arrested. That brings the argument between family members to a new location, the courtroom, with one of them as a criminal defendant.

Court Action in Domestic Violence Cases

The legal process for a domestic battery is no different than any other criminal case. Details about the process are in the Domestic Battery Fact Sheet. The person who called the police, thinking because she was a victim, believes that if she wishes the case to be dismissed, then it will be. That is not the situation. Once it gets to a courtroom, the case belongs to the prosecutor.

The title of the case in the courtroom is “People of the State versus Defendant”. Whether the case goes forward is the prosecutor’s decision. The prosecutor is in the same position as the police officer. He is neither counselor nor mediator. His job is to seek justice for criminal activity. Thinking the prosecutor can intervene to make things better in a home situation that has become violent is a mistake.

Often, once in court, an alleged victim regrets having her significant other being a criminal defendant. The victims are hoping their partner will get counseling to avoid future problems. They are seeking help. In many instances the judge can and does order such counseling. The orders come at a price.

Generally, the only way a judge can issue orders involving counseling for matters like domestic violence, substance abuse or anger management is if there has been a finding of guilt in a criminal matter. This gives one party a criminal record, and that can cause further relationship problems. In some instances judicial intervention for counseling may be available with an Order of Protection.

Get Counseling Before Getting Arrested

If there appears to be a potential for violence in a relationship between people who care about each other, they should try and resolve the matter before it becomes a criminal case. Neither the police, nor state’s attorneys nor judges are geared to be social workers or counselors. Those law enforcement professionals try to work with the tools that they are given. The tools are those of coercive state power. It is better for the parties to work things out if they can, and get counseling before someone winds up in jail.