10 Things You Should Know About Domestic Battery

Updated January 17, 2024
11 min read
10 Things You Should Know About Domestic Battery


If you have ever been involved in a fight with a family member, you know that it can be scary. When that fight becomes violent or physical, it becomes a legal issue. Whether you were the victim of abuse or wrongly charged, there are ten important things you should know about domestic battery. Still, before we dive in, we need first to define domestic battery.

Meaning of Domestic Battery

Let's start with the domestic battery definition. Domestic battery is a legal term used to describe a situation whereby someone uses unwanted force or touch in any domestic relationship. When people think about domestic battery meaning, they might believe it only refers to when one spouse hits the other and causes injuries like broken bones or bruises.

However, even things like angry touches, shoving, pushing, tripping, kicking, punching, or rude gestures, which don't necessarily cause broken bones but still create a hostile living environment, qualify as domestic battery. Besides, domestic battery may occur not only between family members but also between partners who have signed a domestic partnership agreement

In short, a domestic battery charge means you have been charged with unwanted, violent physical contact.

Domestic battery is slightly different from domestic assault in that domestic assault only refers to a situation where the victim feels threatened and knows that injury or violence may occur. As such, domestic battery, where the actual physical acts of violence have been carried out, is a more serious charge. 

In some cases, domestic assault can escalate to domestic battery. For instance, someone found guilty of domestic assault charges in the past may act upon the threats they have elicited on their partner or loved one. They would then be charged with and face domestic battery charges.

What does domestic battery mean when you fight with your spouse?

Arguments and conflict are typical occurrences in any relationship. As such, you might think that it's no big deal when conflict turns into fighting and violence with your spouse. You may also believe that if you are in a relationship with a vengeful spouse, you are allowed to get into fights, yell at each other, threaten each other, and hit each other. You should be aware that the law says otherwise.

Fighting with a spouse, ex-spouse, family member, or anyone living in your home can result in a domestic battery case where you may need a state attorney to help you in court. 

Is Domestic Battery a Misdemeanor or Felony Crime?

What does battery mean in law? If you have been accused of domestic battery, this can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the situation and your criminal history. Domestic battery is typically a misdemeanor for the first and second charges, but the third charge of domestic battery is a felony. 

For example, if this is the first time you have gotten in a fight with your family member, no weapons were used, and your spouse wasn't severely harmed or injured, then you might face a first-degree misdemeanor charge.

Penalties for a Domestic Battery Charge

In most cases, the penalties for a first-time domestic battery charge include a maximum fine of up to $1,000, community service, up to one year in jail, and domestic violence counseling. Penalties for felony charges can include years in prison and a maximum fine of up to $10,000. The same penalties will vary based on your location.

Are there defenses available for a domestic violence battery charge?

Working with a qualified attorney can help you develop a sound defense strategy that applies to your situation. For instance, there are plenty of circumstances where a domestic violence charge is laid against you because you caused bodily harm to another family member, but you did so in self-defense.

For example, John and Tina get into a heated debate. Their marriage has been fraught with trouble, and they usually yell at each other in arguments several nights each week. But, on this occasion, John takes out his gun during the argument and begins taking it apart and cleaning it. While he doesn't hurt Tina, his demeanor and activities are threatening. Tina is scared for her life and for her children. John continues to yell at Tina as he re-assembles his gun and then pushes her into the wall. So, Tina fights back. 

Tina begins to hit John with anything she can find with the goal of getting herself and her children into the car and away from John. The police have been called, and when they arrive on the scene, all they can see is Tina causing bodily harm to John using unlawful touching.

In the example above, the police can only work with what they see when they arrive, but they will make statements based on what happened before they arrived. An attorney can work with someone like Tina to create common defenses like "self-defense" after establishing reasonable doubt that Tina and her children were safe in the environment of John cleaning his gun and pushing her.

False allegations are another excellent defense. In such a case, you may have an ex-spouse who is simply attempting to seek revenge by falsely accusing you of domestic battery when there is no proof of it occurring. 

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Domestic Battery

Do you fully understand whats domestic battery? There's a common misconception that household altercations, be it with your spouse or kids, are private affairs and hence not criminal. This is far from the truth. Domestic battery is a serious offense that carries severe penalties. To help unpack the many intricacies of this legal subject, we've compiled a list of the top ten key things you should know about domestic battery. From legal definitions and potential consequences to ways it can potentially affect you, these insights will provide a comprehensive understanding of domestic battery in the legal setting.

1. Domestic battery is a crime

What is domestic battery meaning in terms of the criminal law? Many people mistakenly believe that fighting with your spouse or your children is perfectly acceptable. Domestic battery is a crime. Using aggression, force, violence, any form of unlawful touching, or even creating a hostile living environment using threats of violence or aggression is a crime.

2. Domestic battery isn't restricted to a spouse

Domestic battery is often associated with a spouse. When we think of domestic violence, we often think of a husband physically abusing his wife. However, legally, domestic battery refers to any unwanted violence, aggression, or unlawful touching of any family member. If you have a household that includes children, your spouse, your brother, and your parents, you can be charged with domestic battery for assaulting any of those family members.

3. Just because you are arrested or charged for domestic battery does not mean you will be convicted

There are many situations where a spouse or ex-spouse is falsely accused of domestic battery or cases where an individual is arrested and charged, but they were acting in self-defense. For these reasons, if you are charged with domestic battery, hiring an attorney is essential.

4. Domestic battery charges can be a misdemeanor or felony

Depending on where you live, specific laws carry a mandatory sentence if convicted of domestic battery. The first offense is typically a misdemeanor as long as no weapons were involved and serious injuries were not sustained. But the third domestic battery offense is deemed a felony.

5. A battery domestic violence charge can be sealed

In many states, if you are charged with and convicted of domestic battery, after going through the waiting period, following the completion of your jail time, probation, and fines, you can have that conviction sealed. However, you must wait for a 7-year period before having it sealed on your permanent criminal record.

6. Firearm possession is impacted

If you are charged with domestic battery, you are not allowed to own a firearm. There are no exceptions to this rule, even if you are in the military, law enforcement, or employed as a security officer.

7. Domestic violence impacts child custody

What's domestic battery effect on child custody? A domestic battery charge will impact child custody. For instance, if you are undergoing a separation or divorce and currently litigating for child custody, a judge will consider the best interests of your children, and any charge or accusation of previous domestic battery, even if it was false, can impact the judge's decision.

8. The state governs domestic battery charges

If you are involved in a domestic battery case, you will need the help of a state attorney. In such cases, only the prosecutor is allowed to drop the charges because the state governs charges of domestic battery, and the charges are brought against the perpetrator by the state. This means that any alleged victims may be ordered to testify, and the alleged victim is not legally allowed to drop the charges against their perpetrator in court.

9. Penalties will vary based on injuries sustained and weapons used

If you are involved in a domestic battery case, you are more likely to have the charges converted to a misdemeanor if there were no weapons involved and no serious injuries sustained. In cases where a deadly weapon is used, the maximum fine and prison time will increase. However, if the person with whom you were fighting sustained serious injuries, easily visible wounds, broken bones, fractures, or visible lacerations, this can incur additional years in prison and additional fines.

10. The three-strike rule applies

Even though most states have slightly different rules regarding domestic battery laws, almost all states have what is called the three-strike rule. With each new conviction of domestic battery, your punishments get worse. In some states, the first conviction is a misdemeanor, but the second conviction is a felony, and the third conviction is mandatory prison time with no option for parole.


So, what is domestic battery? It is a severe crime that refers to any situation where unwanted physical contact, aggression, or force is used against another family member. Penalties for a domestic battery conviction vary depending on where you live but can include a misdemeanor or a felony charge with up to one year in jail or mandatory prison time. There are defenses to domestic battery charges if you acted in self-defense or were wrongly convicted.

However, domestic battery charges are a state matter, meaning that charges of domestic battery are brought against you by the state, not by the victim. As such, if you are involved in a domestic battery case, you will need to work with a state attorney who can help you cultivate a good defense.

Article by
Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Product Content Manager at Lawrina. Yevheniia creates user interface copies for Lawrina products, writes release notes, and helps customers get the best user experience from all Lawrina products. Also, Yevheniia is in charge of creating helpful content on legal template pages (Lawrina Templates) and up-to-date information on US law (Lawrina Guides). In her spare time, Yevheniia takes up swimming, travels, and goes for a walk in her home city.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the product or UX content for Lawrina, feel free to contact Yevheniia directly at y.savchenko@lawrina.org or connect with her on LinkedIn.