Recent Arrest of UFC Fighter Highlights Complexity of Domestic Violence Law

The recent arrest of retired UFC fighter Chris Leben in San Diego in connection with an incident between the fighter and his estranged wife serves as a cautionary tale of the seriousness of domestic violence charges in California.

Mr. Leben was arrested on multiple charges, including the violation of a restraining order.  Though Mr. Leben’s recent arrest was not based on charges of assault or domestic violence, the restraining order obtained by his wife makes reference to physical violence. However, Mr. Leben has strongly denied any and all charges of domestic violence and claims that, in fact, he has been the victim of years of domestic violence at the hands of his wife. In a recent interview, Mr. Leben highlighted how charges of domestic violence pose a significant threat to his character and his livelihood.

Domestic Violence in California

There are three main domestic violence charges in the state of California:

Domestic Battery – CA Penal Code 243(e)(1)

The charge of “domestic battery” is broad and is defined as a “battery” committed against a current or former intimate partner (for example, a spouse, former spouse, fiancé/fiancée, a person you are living with, or a person you currently or previously dated or were engaged to).

Battery does not require that the victim suffer some sort of physical injury. To successfully prove a battery, all the prosecution must show is that:

  • You purposefully or willingly touched another person,
  • That touching was harmful or offensive, and
  • The person you touched was a current or former intimate partner

Aggravated Battery – CA Penal Code 243(d)

The charge of “aggravated battery” is similar to domestic battery, except it requires that “serious bodily injury” have been inflicted on the other person. In addition, unlike domestic battery, aggravated battery applies to more than just intimate partners – anyone you purposefully or willingly touch in a harmful or offensive manner can accuse you of aggravated battery.

Corporal Injury on a Spouse, Cohabitant, or Fellow Parent – CA Penal Code 273.5

Under Penal Code 273.5, you can be charged if you willfully inflict “corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition” on your current (or former) spouse, person you live with, person you are dating or engaged to, or the mother or father of your child.  Like aggravated battery, the “traumatic condition” required for this charge means that there must have been an actual injury inflicted on the other person.


Depending on the particular situation, domestic violence charges under California law can be either misdemeanors or felonies. Under certain circumstances, these charges are punishable by imprisonment of up to four years in jail.

San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being accused of domestic violence is a serious charge. The charges discussed above are only some of the potential charges you could face if involved in a domestic violence incident. If you have been charged with or arrested for spousal abuse or a similar domestic violence charge, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend you. The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all types of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases in San Diego County, including domestic battery and other related domestic violence charges.  Contact our office today and ask for a free, private consultation to see how we may be able to put our experience to use to help you.

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