Actress Stacey Dash, perhaps best known for her role in the movie Clueless, was recently arrested for domestic battery. According to reports, Dash called 911 to report that she’d been abused by her husband. However, when police showed up to the scene, it was her husband who had visible injuries. It’s believed that Dash physically assaulted her husband, leaving several deep scratch marks up and down his arms.
Dash was taken into custody and arrested on suspicion of domestic battery. However, it seems like the case might not be so clear. Sources close to the situation suggest that Dash may have been acting in self-defense.
Even Minor Injuries Can Lead to Charges for Domestic Battery
Dash was arrested for domestic battery in Florida. However, had the same events occurred in California, she could have also been charged with a crime. In California, battery is the crime of willfully and illegally inflicting physical injury upon another person.
Domestic battery, as defined in Penal Code 243(e)(1), occurs when a person commits a battery resulting in a traumatic condition against “a spouse, a person with whom the defendant is cohabiting, a person who is the parent of the defendant’s child, former spouse, fiancé, or fiancée, or a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship.”
In other words, domestic battery must involve two people who share a special intimate or familial relationship.
Here are the important takeaways:
Behavior must be willful. Charges for battery or domestic battery can’t succeed if the defendant physically injured another person by mistake. The action must be done on purpose.
There must be a traumatic condition. What exactly is a traumatic condition? In California, any “wound or other bodily injury, whether minor or serious, caused by the direct application of physical force” can be considered a traumatic condition. So, even scratches or scrapes on the arm can be enough to warrant criminal charges for domestic battery.
The traumatic condition must be a result of an injury. The traumatic condition must also be a result of the battery-related physical injury. This can only happy if:
- The traumatic condition was the natural and probable cause of the injury
- The injury was a direct and substantial factor in causing the traumatic condition, and
- The traumatic condition wouldn’t have occurred had the alleged victim not been injured.
Would it be reasonable to suspect that the traumatic condition suffered by the alleged victim is a likely consequence of the type of injury they suffered? That’s what the state has to prove.
Is Domestic Battery a Felony?
Not usually. In California, domestic battery is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense. However, the penalties for domestic battery are more serious than those applicable to crimes of simple battery. Generally speaking, a domestic battery conviction in Los Angeles is punishable by a maximum of:
- $2,000 in fines
- 12 months in a Los Angeles County jail, and/or
A person convicted on domestic battery charges will, however, also face collateral consequences in addition to these criminal penalties. Collateral consequences are social and civil penalties that exist because you’ve been convicted of a crime. You’ll face additional hardships and challenges because you have a criminal record.
Potential collateral consequences for domestic battery and other crimes of domestic violence can include:
- Restraining orders
- Family law repercussions, including the potential loss of child custody and visitation rights
- Loss of the right to own or possess a gun
- Possible deportation for non-residents
- Difficulty keeping or finding a job
- Challenges finding a place to live, and
- Loss of professional job licenses.
A conviction can have far-reaching consequences on nearly every aspect of your life. It’s important to fight criminal charges aggressively with the help of an experienced defense attorney.
Defendants Can Raise an Affirmative Defense to Stop a Conviction
There are times when you might need to use physical force that is usually unlawful. For example, let’s say that Stacey Dash’s husband began to physically threaten her and prevented her from leaving their home. She might feel the need to use physical force and scratch her husband to get away. If this were the case, Dash could argue that she acted in self-defense.
Self-defense is what is known as an affirmative defense. When raising an affirmative defense you admit that you engaged in behavior that, under normal circumstances, is against the law. However, you provide a legal justification for those actions. That justification can allow you to escape criminal charges and consequences for your actions.