Often than not, conflicts may escalate in relationships, and sometimes, you may have to involve law enforcement officers. California has laws that protect people experiencing domestic violence. You face domestic violence charges when you cause harm to an intimate partner or aggressively touch your relatives or child, even when the touch doesn’t result in physical injury.
Domestic violence charges have far-reaching repercussions that will affect your life. It is, therefore, essential to seek the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney who will walk with you, advise you and ensure that you receive the best possible outcome in your case. Additionally, you should consult California Criminal Lawyer Group when the police or law enforcement officers arrest you for a domestic violence charge.
Legal Definition of Domestic Violence
Under Penal Code 13700, you will face domestic violence charges when you attempt or abuse an intimate partner. You can achieve this when you recklessly or intentionally threaten or use physical force against someone you have a personal relationship with. Some of the people who the law recognizes as private partners include:
- Current spouse,
- Live-in romantic partner,
California recognizes the fact that not all domestic violence victims happen to be intimate partners. At times a domestic violence victim could be:
- The victim’s child,
- Family members,
- Someone related to you by blood like:
- step-brothers and sisters,
- Nieces and nephews.
Types of Domestic Abuse
You will realize that domestic violence includes a series of abusive behavior against one partner in a relationship. One partner uses this abuse against the other to have control over them. Some of these abuses include:
When you are charged with physically abusing someone, you will have done one or some of the following actions:
- Burning, pinching,
- Denying someone medical treatment, or
- Forcing someone into drug and substance abuse.
You will face sexual abuse charges when you attempt or coerce a person to have sexual contact with you against their consent. This can be achieved through marital rape, forced sex following physical abuse, telling sexual jokes at the expense of someone else, touching someone’s intimate parts against their will, or when you demean someone sexually.
Emotional abuse comes into play when you invalidate or deflate another person’s self-worth, making them feel inadequate or has low self-esteem. For example, you will abuse someone emotionally when you constantly criticize, injure someone’s relationship with their children, start name-calling them, or when you interfere with their ability to perform their duties.
Cyberstalking takes place online where you cause another person emotional distress by sending them emails repeatedly.
Economic abuse takes place when you make another person economically reliant on you. This can take the form of you withholding their access to resources, taking total control of the victim’s finances, or when you deny them the right to work or attend school.
Stalking occurs when you continuously follow, harass, spy, make phone calls, send gifts, gather information, leave messages, or show up at a victim’s workplace or home. These acts are legal individually, but when you carry them continuously against a person, they can accuse you of stalking, which is a crime.
When it comes to psychological abuse, you will have to invoke fear in another person through physical injuries to that person or their loved ones, pets, children, destroying their property, or even denying them from working or going to school.
California Domestic Violence Crimes
Domestic violence includes a wide range of offenses, including abuse, neglect, battery, and threats. The law treats most of these crimes as wobbler offenses which means that you can obtain a felony or misdemeanor conviction. Though the prosecution may charge you with a felony charge which has harsher penalties, the court may end up convicting you with a misdemeanor depending on the following:
- The seriousness of the victim’s injury,
- Your previous criminal history,
- The circumstances leading to the crime.
Domestic Battery PC 243.1
California defines domestic battery as a crime where one person uses force against their intimate partner. When you face domestic battery charges, it means that you willfully and unlawfully used violence or intimidation against an intimate partner or a family member.
Elements of Domestic Battery
For a domestic battery charge to hold in court, the prosecution must prove the following elements:
- You willfully touched someone against their will in an offensive manner,
- The alleged victim was your intimate partner,
- The act wasn’t self-defense for either you or for someone else.
Domestic Battery Penalties
California treats domestic battery as a misdemeanor offense, and a conviction will lead to:
- Imprisonment of up to one year in county jail,
- Pay a fine doesn’t exceed $2,000,
- Attend a batterer’s program,
- Have your right to own a gun banned for ten years,
- Issuance of a restraining order.
Corporal or Physical Injury to your Spouse PC 273.5
It is a crime in California to inflict physical injury to your spouse or a cohabitant. Therefore, when this charge is raised against you, the victim must have suffered some bodily harm.
Corporal injury to your Spouse Penalties
Under PC 273.5, Corporal injury is a wobbler offense which means it will either be a felony or a misdemeanor conviction. When you receive a misdemeanor conviction, you may end up spending up to one year in county jail or paying fines that don’t exceed $ 2,000. If the court convicts you on a felony charge, you may face county jail imprisonment for a period ranging from two up to four years or pay a fine of up to $10,000.
You should note that corporal injury to your spouse can affect your immigration status as it is also a deportable crime. When it comes to deportable crimes, you may be deported even when legally in the United States.
Aggravated Battery Leading to Serious Body Injury PC 243(d)
The law defines this crime as the offense where you touch or strike someone in an offensive manner leading to severe bodily injury. Aggravated battery is a wobbler, and depending on the circumstances of the crime, you may face felony or misdemeanor charges.
Aggravated Battery Penal Code 243(d) Penalties
When the court issues a misdemeanor conviction, you may end up spending up to one year in county jail or paying a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000. However, if the court convicts you on a felony charge, then your penalty will be harsher with imprisonment that ranges from two up to four years in county jail or payment of a fine that doesn’t exceed $10,000.
Elder Abuse PC 368
It is a crime in California to willfully neglect or inflict mental suffering or physical harm to an older person. You will also face these charges when you also exploit an older person financially. An older person is someone who is aged 65 years and above.
Penalties for Elder Abuse
Penal Code 368 treats elder abuse as a wobbler offense which means that depending on the circumstances of the crime, the prosecution will either charge you with either a misdemeanor or felony offense. If you receive a misdemeanor conviction:
- you will end up spending up to one year in county jail,
- pay up to $6,000 in fines, or
- Payment of restitution.
If you end up receiving a felony conviction, your penalty will be harsher where you may end up facing up to four years imprisonment in state prison. Your sentence may include paying fines that go up to $10,000 and even pay the victim restitution. If your victim obtained severe bodily harm, you might end up adding seven more years to your sentence.
It is important to note that a felony conviction could also affect your immigration status. You end up being deported if you are a non-citizen or marked as inadmissible. Apart from this, you will end up losing your right to own a gun since the law states that it is illegal for felonies to either possess or own guns.
Child Endangerment Penal Code 273(a)
Penal Code 273(a) defines child endangerment as the act of willfully exposing a minor to danger, risk, or unjustifiable suffering. You should note that you may face these charges even in a situation where the child doesn’t suffer actual physical injury.
Penalties for Child Endangerment
Under PC 273(a), child endangerment is classified as a wobbler offense, and a conviction will depend on the risk you exposed the minor to. If your actions don’t expose the minor to the possibility of death or cause them severe bodily injury, then you will end up with a misdemeanor conviction.
A misdemeanor conviction will mean that you may end up facing up to one year in county jail, informal probation, or paying a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000.
When your penalty involves informal probation, the minimum period a judge can sentence you is four years, and the probation will involve:
- Successfully attending and completing a child’s abuser counseling program, which mostly lasts for one year.
- You may receive a restraining order which aims at protecting the minor from more harm. The restraining order may require you to stay away from the child’s home even if it is your home as well.
- If you committed the act while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the court will require you to stop using the drugs and alcohol during your probation.
- The court may order for random alcohol and substance use tests.
If your action exposes the minor to possible death or causes them severe bodily injury, you will face a felony charge. A felony conviction will lead to imprisonment in state prison for a period ranging from two up to six years. Sometimes you may end up paying fines up to $10,000 or be put on formal probation.
You should note that sometimes you may end up receiving additional sentence enhancement to your felony conviction when your actions lead to severe bodily injury on the minor. A sentence enhancement leads to extra prison time to your felony conviction as follows:
If you harm the minor personally, you will receive an additional prison sentence ranging from three up to six years, depending on the extent of the injuries on the victim and the child’s age.
If your negligence or actions lead to the child’s death, then you may end up serving an additional four years once your sentence is up.
Child Abuse PC 273(d)
You will face child abuse charges when you abuse a minor, directly injuring them in the process. This charge doesn’t require the element of severe bodily injury to take place for it to hold in court.
Child Abuse Penalties
Child abuse is a wobbler offense, and you will receive your conviction depending on the nature of the crime. When you face misdemeanor charges, your conviction will lead to one-year imprisonment in county jail or payment of $6,000 in fines. If you end up facing felony charges, then your conviction could lead to imprisonment in state prison for a period that ranges from two up to six years. The court may also require you to pay $6,000 in fines.
Child Neglect PC 270
You will face this charge when you fail to provide necessities like food, medical care, clothing, and shelter to your child.
Penalties for Child Neglect
This is a less severe charge which the law treats as a misdemeanor offense with a conviction leading to one-year imprisonment in county jail or payment of $2,000 in fines. It is important to note that you will face wobbler charges with penalties including more than one-year imprisonment in state prison if you are convicted for another child neglect offense.
Criminal Threats PC 422
Under California law, you will face criminal threats charges when you threaten to cause severe bodily injury or death to another person. The intention of these threats may be to install fear in the victim or their loved ones.
The prosecution will have to prove that:
- you intentionally threatened to cause harm to another person,
- you threatened the other person by sending written messages either electronically or verbally,
- the victim believed the threat in its entirety as a threat, and
- The victim feared for their safety and that of their loved ones.
Penalties for Criminal Threats
Criminal threats are a wobbler offense depending on the nature of the threats and any criminal history, and you can face either a misdemeanor or felony charges. When you face a misdemeanor charge, a conviction will lead to one year imprisonment period in county jail or payment of $1,000 in fines. A felony conviction will:
- land you in state prison for a period not exceeding three years,
- have you pay up to $10,000 in fines
- have your gun rights revoked,
- earn you a strike,
- make you face deportation,
- Have you face professional discipline.
Sometimes, you may end up with additional jail time on your sentence when; you communicate your threat by using a deadly weapon, threatening several people, or threatening the victim severally. You will face these charges individually, and every threat will have its penalty.
Stalking PC 646.9
Penal Code 646.9 defines stalking as harassing, threatening, and following another person to a point where this person gears for their safety and that of their loved ones. Sometimes you can face stalking charges, but the law will find you not guilty of the crime when you engage in an activity protected by the constitution, like exercising your freedom of speech, assembly participation, and protesting legally.
Stalking conviction will lead to either criminal or civil penalties.
You may end up in a civil court if the person accusing you of stalking them sues you for damages resulting from your stalking actions. All that a person accusing you of stalking needs to have a damage lawsuit hold in court against you is:
To prove that you harassed, followed, and alarmed them by your actions, they can prove this.
- Your actions made them fear for their safety and that of their loved ones,
- You continued with your stalking habit even after they asked you to stop, or
- You violated a restraining order.
If the court finds you guilty, you will have to pay the victim either punitive, compensatory damages, or in some instances, both.
The law treats stalking as a wobbler offense which means that you can either face misdemeanor or felony charges. When you face misdemeanor charges, your conviction will be:
- One year imprisonment in county jail,
- Misdemeanor probation,
- Payment of $1,000 in fines.
When facing a felony charge, a conviction will lead to:
- An imprisonment period that goes up to five years in state prison,
- Forma, or felony probation,
- Payment of $1,000 in fines,
- Gun right revocation,
- Deportation for non-citizens.
Legal Defenses against Domestic Violence Charges
When you are facing a serious charge like domestic violence, there are several legal defenses that you and your attorney should explore to obtain your freedom. Some of these defenses include:
It was An Act of Self-Defense
This defense will only work when you acted believing you were in danger or someone was in imminent danger. Your actions, therefore, were aimed at stopping the threat, and the level of force you used was necessary for the act of self-defense.
You Were Falsely Accused
Sometimes, you may face domestic violence charges due to false allegations. For example, in most intimate relationships, intense emotions may lead to one partner accusing the other of domestic violence. Your attorney will have to prove that the person accusing you is doing so out of anger, their desire to revenge against a wrong they believe you did, or jealousy.
The Act Was Not Willful
For a domestic violence charge to hold, you will have committed the act willfully. You may end up hurting your domestic partner, but this hurt or injury was not done deliberately. For instance, you and your wife could be arguing, and out of frustration, you throw a vase at the wall. If this vase breaks upon contact with the wall and one of the broken pieces injures your wife, you can use this defense to have the court dismiss your case.
You Did Not Intend to Cause Harm or Fear
You may argue that you had no intention to harm or cause them fear even though you threatened your partner. Sometimes due to the intense emotions involved in a relationship, you said something you had no intention of carrying out.
The Victim’s Fear was Unreasonable
For some domestic violence charges to stick, the element of fear is crucial. The victim must feel threatened and at the same time have a reasonable fear that you would carry out your threats. In a court, the fear must be both real and reasonable. Therefore if the victim didn’t feel threatened, then the charge cannot hold. You can argue that even if the victim feared your threat when it was not within reason to do so, the court could dismiss your case.
Misinterpretation of Facts
You may face domestic violence charges due to misinterpretation of facts from your intimate partner. This happens primarily due to mandatory law, which California enforces on professionals like teachers and doctors. Under this law, any professional is obligated to report any suspected child abuse or endangerment situations. If these professionals don’t report, they could end up facing misdemeanor charges. For example, your son may come home from school with an injury he tells you he sustained while on a skateboard. You realize the injury is not healing and decide to take your son to the doctor. If the doctor doesn’t believe your son’s story and then reports the incident, you could end up facing child endangerment charges until your lawyer can prove your son’s story to be true.
Contact a Criminal Attorney Near Me
When it comes to domestic violence charges, its effects are far-reaching and can even break your family apart. Whether you committed the crime due to intense emotions or facing these charges while you are innocent, you will need to work hard to clear your name. What you need to do is to seek the services of an experienced attorney, someone who understands the law surrounding domestic violence.
With the harsh penalties that most domestic violence crimes receive, it is critical to have someone walk with you through the entire process. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, our qualified attorneys will handle your case and work hard to ensure you receive the best possible outcome. So, kindly contact us at 714-766-0965 and book your consultation today.