Batterers’ Intervention Program – What is it? How does it work?
A batterer’s intervention program, or BIP, is a rehabilitation program for people convicted of certain domestic violence offenses. Participation can be voluntary, although enrollment under a court order is more common. Defendants are typically requited to complete a BIP as a part of their sentence. Different states use different programs, though they all focus on education and rehabilitation.
What is a batterer’s intervention program?
A batterer’s intervention program is a rehabilitation and education course for people accused or convicted of domestic violence. It is often imposed as a part of a defendant’s sentence. It is a common aspect of a pretrial diversion program for domestic violence cases.
Different states have different requirements for the courses. Some require certain topics to be covered. Most require the program to last at least a certain number of hours. Generally, states have a certification process for courses. Only certified BIPs can be used to satisfy a court order.
In California, for example, BIPs consist of 52 domestic violence classes. Participants meet once a week for 2 hours. The program lasts a year. In Massachusetts, though, it is called an Intimate Partner Abuse Education Program (IPAEP). The Program lasts for 80 hours, with weekly sessions of 2 hours each.
To become a certified batterer intervention program, providers have to comply with the state requirements and monitoring. Many batterers’ intervention program providers are non-profit organizations.
Generally, participants are responsible for paying program fees. There are often sources of financial assistance for those who cannot pay on their own.
How does it work?
Generally, a batterer’s intervention program is an education program that provides counseling services. These services often rely heavily on group therapy sessions. Many BIPs are a part of the Duluth Model to combat domestic violence.
In California, for example, all batterer’s programs in the state are legally obligated to:
- use an initial intake that defines abuse, including emotional, sexual, and economic abuse, as well as techniques for stopping them,
- assess whether the program would benefit the defendant, and refuse enrollment if it would not,
- require a written referral, including the minimum number of sessions, from the court or from a probation department before enrolling the defendant,
- use a sliding fee schedule based on the defendant’s ability to pay,
- provide strategies to hold the defendant accountable for the violence in his or her relationships,
- require defendants’ sober participation in ongoing group sessions,
- require a written agreement from the defendant acknowledging the terms of attendance and consenting to removal if the defendant is not benefiting from the program or is disruptive to it,
- have the defendant sign a confidentiality agreement, prohibiting the disclosure of information about other program participants,
- inform the victim of available resources, as well as the requirements for the defendant’s participation in the program,
- provide education programs that cover gender roles, socialization, violence, power dynamics, and the effects of abuse on children and others, as well as cultural and ethnic sensitivity,
- exclude couple or family counseling,
- employ program staff members that have specific knowledge regarding the dynamics of family violence and physical abuse, criminal law and the legal system, and the nature of spousal, child, sex, and substance abuse and dependency,
- encourage staff to use local domestic violence centers, and
- update the probation department of the defendant’s enrollment, progress, payment history, program compliance, and final evaluation.1
The content of these programs can come in the form of:
- group discussions, and
- both individual and group counseling.2
The focus of this content is on:
- the causes of domestic violence,
- the effects that the physical domestic abuse has on a victim,
- strategies to promote nonviolence, anger management, and the safety of potential victims, and
- the changes that must happen to prevent future domestic violence incidents.
The goal of the BIP’s content is to stop domestic violence.3
Participants in California are limited to only 3 absences. Each absence has to be authorized. Participants have to show good cause for each absence from a counseling session.
At the end of the program, participants receive a certificate of completion.
Many BIP programs are a part of the Duluth Model approach. The Duluth Model aims to address domestic violence by creating a coordinated community response from various law enforcement and supportive agencies, like counseling centers and other treatment programs. It focuses on victim safety and makes the community provide that safety, rather than the victim. The Model holds the abuser accountable and does not blame the victim for the abuse. A core understanding of the Duluth Model is that domestic violence is a form of control. It aims to rectify abusive behavior by educating abusers of their role in the abuse and the negative effects they have on others. It aims to rehabilitate abusers by providing strategies and initiatives for anger management and de-escalation techniques and for resolving underlying mental health issues.
The Model is named after the small town in Minnesota where it was first used to reduce the use of violence against women in the 1980s.
What happens if I fail the program?
Batterer’s intervention programs are usually either a part of a defendant’s probation or pretrial diversion. If BIP is a part of the defendant’s probation, then failing the program is a violation of probation. The defendant may be sent to jail to serve the rest of his or her sentence. If BIP is a part of a pretrial diversion, then failing the program will put the case back in criminal court.
When defendants are sentenced to probation, they must comply with the terms of probation. The strictness of these terms can depend on the underlying offense. The precise terms of probation imposed will depend on the criminal offense committed. Some common conditions of probation include:
- refraining from committing a crime while on probation,
- regularly reporting to a probation officer or to the court,
- paying victim restitution, and
- performing community service.
For defendants sentenced for a crime of domestic violence, completing a BIP is a common term of probation. In some states, like California, it is a required condition of probation.4 In that state, the period of probation must be at least 3 years long, regardless of whether the offense was a misdemeanor or a felony.5
Failing to complete a term of probation, including BIP participation, is a probation violation. Probation officers who suspect a violation can arrest the probationer. A probation violation hearing will be set. At the hearing, law enforcement will present evidence that the probationer failed his or her BIP obligations. A criminal defense attorney can help the probationer show that:
- there was no violation,
- the violation was justified, or
- the violation was minor and should not be punished harshly.
After hearing the evidence, the judge will decide whether to:
- revoke probation and send the defendant to jail for the rest of his or her sentence,
- modify probation by imposing new or tighter terms and conditions, or
- reinstate probation under its existing terms.
If the batterer’s intervention program is a part of a pretrial diversion program, failing the program will resurrect the criminal case. What happens next would depend on whether the defendant pled guilty in order to take pretrial diversion or not.
If the defendant had to plead guilty to be eligible for diversion, then failing a BIP will send the case back into the criminal justice system. However, the case would go straight to sentencing. The defendant cannot raise exculpatory evidence because he or she will have already pled guilty.
If the defendant did not plead guilty, the case would return to criminal court for resolution. The defendant would be able to raise legal defenses to the charge. The prosecutor would have to prove that the defendant committed domestic violence.
Is a defendant’s participation in a program confidential?
Generally, no, a defendant cannot expect his or her conduct at a BIP to remain confidential. Many states require batterer’s intervention programs to inform the court and probation department of the defendant’s progress. Disruptive behavior in counseling and missed sessions will be reported.
However, defendants usually have to sign a confidentiality agreement, promising not to disclose information about other participants in the BIP.
What is a crime of domestic violence?
Generally, a crime of domestic violence is a violent offense perpetrated on an intimate partner. Certain other potentially violence offenses are often included, as well.
Violent crimes are usually offenses like:
- battery, and
- sexual assault or sexual abuse.
Other potentially violent crimes that can amount to domestic violence in some states are:
- child endangerment,
- criminal threats, and
When the victim in any of these offenses is an intimate partner, it becomes a crime of domestic violence. Different states define “intimate partner” differently. Some may use a different term, like “family or household member.” However, they generally include the same people as California’s law, which covers:
- current and former spouses,
- current and former domestic partners,
- current and former fiancés,
- current and former cohabitants or live-in romantic partners,
- the other parent of the person’s child, and
- someone with whom the person is seriously dating or with whom he or she has had a dating relationship.6
Violent crimes or potentially violent crimes carry higher penalties if they are crimes of domestic violence or intimate partner violence. They often lead to restraining order, a loss of gun rights, and increased jail time. source
- California Penal Code 1203.097(c)(1) PC.
- California Penal Code 1203.097(c) PC.
- California Penal Code 1203.097(c)(1) PC.
- California Penal Code 1203.097(a)(6) PC.
- California Penal Code 1203.097(a)(1) PC.
- California Penal Code 13700(b) PC.
Section 6343 – Participation in batterer’s program
California Penal Code 1203.097 describes specific sentencing requirements after a defendant has been placed on probation for domestic violence.
Under PC 1203.7, defendants sentenced for domestic violence must be placed on probation for at least three years. Also, the court is required to issue a criminal protective order that protects the victim from:
- further acts of violence,
- abuse, or
The court could issue a “level one” protective order that would allow peaceful contact with the victim, but might require a full stay-away no contact order prohibiting any type of contact with victim.
Penal Code 1203.097 requires a $500 fine that can be reduced based on ability to pay. The victim must also be informed of the disposition of the case.
The defendant will also be required to complete a 52-week batterers’ intervention program and complete community service hours or even some jail time as a condition of probation.
Any defendant who is not placed on probation could serve up to one year in county jail for a misdemeanor conviction, or up to three years in a California state prison for a felony.
COMMON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRIMES AND PENALTIES
The most common California domestic violence crimes are domestic battery, corporal injury, criminal threats, and child abuse. Some of these crimes are filed as a misdemeanor, but others are a felony.
Most domestic violence crimes are a “wobbler” that can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony. The prosecutor will base their decision on the specific circumstances of the case, level of victim’s injuries, and the defendant’s prior criminal record. there are some filed as a felony.
Below is a list of the common domestic violence crimes and penalties.
California Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery is described as inflicting force or violence on an intimate partner, but there is no requirement of any visible injuries. Domestic battery is a misdemeanor crime that carries up to one year in a county jail, and fine up to $1,000.
California Penal Code 273.5 corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant is described as inflicting harm that results in a physical injury to an intimate partner. This is a “wobbler” and the penalties can include up to one year in a county jail, or up to four years in a California state prison for a felony.
California Penal Code 422 criminal threats is described as threatening someone with serious harm and also a wobbler that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor criminal threats carries up to one year in county jail. A felony criminal threats carries up to four years in prison and a “strike” under California’s “Three Strikes” law.
California Penal Code 646.9 stalking is described as repeatedly harassing or threatening another person to a point where they are in fear of their own safety, or safety of their immediate family. Stalking is also a wobbler carrying up to one year in county jail for a misdemeanor, or up to three years in state prison for a felony.
California Penal Code 368 elder abuse is described as inflicting physical or emotion abuse, neglect or endangerment on a victim 65 years or older. PC 368 is another wobbler that carries up to one year in county jail for a misdemeanor, or up to four years in a California state prison for a felony.
California Penal Code 273d child abuse is described as inflicting corporal punishment or injury on a child, but excludes a reasonable spanking. This is another wobbler that carries up to one year for a misdemeanor or up to three years in state prison for a felony.
California Penal Code 273a child endangerment is described as willfully allowing a child in one’s custody to suffer harm or have their safety endangered. If the child is at risk of great bodily injury (GBI), it’s a wobbler, but normally a misdemeanor that carries up to six months in a county jail.
Other domestic violence crimes include:
- California Penal Code 591, damaging a telephone line,
- Penal Code 601 aggravated trespass, and
- Penal Code 647(j)(4) revenge porn.
COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Anyone convicted of domestic violence in California could also face numerous life-changing collateral consequences. Most domestic violence cases are considered a crime involving moral turpitude.
If you are an undocumented immigrant, then a domestic violence conviction could lead to deportation from the United State, or a denial of naturalization.
Also, a domestic violence conviction means you will lose the right to own or possess a firearm. A misdemeanor conviction will result in a 10-year firearm ban. A felony conviction will result in a lifetime firearm suspension under federal law.
A domestic violence conviction could also have major consequences of certain types of employment.
For example, it can result in a professional license suspension or a revocation. source