Our client, age 37, and his wife, age 38, often argued and usually, it ended with her hitting him. She knew he could not hit her back because she would then call the police and he would be arrested no matter what he said about she hitting him. She even told him this, defiantly. He filed for divorce, but then withdrew the petition because of their three kids, ages 19, 17 and 5.
This frustrated him endlessly and led him to drinking as a way to escape, if for only a few hours.
One evening, he returned home late at night, drunk, to their home in Gardena. It was a warm evening and so before going inside the house, he sat down on a chair outside on their home’s patio.
His wife noticed him due to their home’s surveillance cameras and so she came out to berate him for drinking, yelling at him that he was a drunk. She then asked him why he was sitting outside and he said that he was just trying to relax for a few minutes. She told him that since he was so drunk, he would probably fall asleep and sleep for hours outside. Our client ignored her.
Being ignored greatly angered his wife, so she fetched a glass of water from the kitchen and came back outside and tossed the cold water on our client, telling him, “this will sober you up!” He pretended not to be angered, but he was. She then threw two more full cups of cold water on him, thoroughly soaking him from head to toe.
After the third cup of cold water, he got up and his wife quickly retreated into the house, shutting the door and locking him out of the house. The door into the home was locked and unlocked by use of a numerical code entered through an electronic keypad. Our client then entered the code to enter the house, but as quickly as our client unlocked the door, his wife would immediately turn the lock back into place. This little “game” was repeated a few times until our client just pushed the door in forcefully, banging his wife in the lip with the door’s edge as she again stood by the door trying to turn the lock. The wife’s lip bled a small amount.
As might be expected, our client was angry at his wife and grabbed her, pushing her across the kitchen. The push was recorded on a security camera inside the kitchen, which police downloaded when they came to the home and, as our client’s wife correctly predicted, arrested him.
Police asked our client, “why did you punch your wife in the mouth?” Our client, who was not a U.S. citizen and whose English was certainly a struggle, did not answer with “I did not punch her in the mouth.” Instead, he answered, “she poured water on me.”
The police asked the wife if her husband punched her in the mouth, as the injury suggested. She answered that she did not know how she got the injury.
Bail for our client was set at $50,000 for felony domestic violence because the injury was visible.
Our client’s wife bailed out our client, as he needed to work to pay the family’s bills. The client soon called our office.
The client explained what had happened and asked if he would be deported if convicted of Penal Code § 273.5(a), even as a misdemeanor. Greg explained that § 273.5(a) was regarded by federal immigration court as a crime involving moral turpitude because it required defendant to cause a traumatic injury to a spouse, former spouse, girlfriend, parent of a child in common or former girlfriend.
Greg explained, however, that a conviction for misdemeanor domestic battery, a violation of Penal Code § 243(e)(1), was not a crime involving moral turpitude because such a conviction did not require defendant to cause a traumatic injury.
Greg then described how it might be possible to show the wife’s cut, bloody lip was caused by the edge of the door, not our client’s fist, and that our client did not know his wife was playing with the lock on the other side of the door, as the door had a drape that blocked him from seeing his wife standing on the other side of the door. Our client believed the electronic lock system was malfunctioning, which is why he applied force, not because he wanted to overcome his wife. He did not know his push of the door would be likely to, or could possibly, injure her.
In court, over a few appearances, Greg discussed the immigration consequences with the Torrance District Attorney assigned to the case. After a few months of discussing the facts, the DA agreed to allow our client to enter a plea to 243(e)(1) as a misdemeanor.
In entering the plea, Greg entered it pursuant to People v. West to avoid an admission of such conduct by the client that could cause him to be deported. He and the DA also agreed by stipulation on the record that the police report could not be used outside the pending criminal proceeding and that our client did not cause a traumatic condition to his wife.
These all protected our client in immigration court.
Our client was very happy with this resolution.
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