San Diego Felony Domestic Violence Attorneys Advocating for the Accused
Being accused of a crime is never pleasant, but when you’re being accused of perpetrating violence against someone you once loved, it can be even harder to understand. Allegations of domestic violence are a frequent occurrence, and these cases can be especially complicated, with only the two parties involved really knowing what happened. However, because of California’s laws, domestic violence allegations often end up with someone going to jail. If you’ve been charged with felony domestic violence, keep reading to find out what this means, what your defense options are, and what your next steps should be.
Relationships can be difficult, and it’s normal for there to be arguments and disagreements. But when one party alleges that those disagreements turned violent, it can result in serious criminal charges. If you’ve been arrested for felony domestic violence, you need a criminal defense attorney immediately. Call our San Diego office today to speak to a member of our legal team and find out how we can help.
What Is Required for a Felony Domestic Violence Charge?
In the state of California, most domestic violence charges are considered misdemeanors. However, there are some situations where the charge can rise to the felony level. Corporal injury is a felony charge, and domestic battery can be charged as a felony if there are serious injuries or there is a history of multiple offenses. In general, the prosecution needs to have two things to be able to charge domestic violence at the felony level:
- Relationship with the victim: The accused must have a domestic relationship or have had a relationship with the alleged victim. This can include marriage, living together, or having a child together.
- Significant injury: The law requires that a “traumatic condition” must have resulted from the altercation, which can include external or internal injuries due to force or strangulation.
To bring forward a felony domestic violence charge, the prosecution will generally have strong evidence of physical injury to the victim. This could be pictures that were taken when the police responded to the call or hospital records. There will also usually be a victim statement — and possibly those from witnesses — but it’s important to be aware that it is not necessary for the victim to cooperate or be willing to testify for the case to continue forward.
Do Officers Have to Arrest Someone at a Domestic Violence Call?
California is what is referred to as a “mandatory arrest state,” and this is very important to understand. This means that if officers are called out to an alleged domestic violence incident and they have reasonable suspicion that an act of violence did occur, they are legally required to arrest one of the parties. This is true even if it was a third party who made the call.
Reasonable suspicion usually includes at least one party having visible injuries, such as scratches, bruises, or other signs of trauma. However, it could also include other signs of a fight, such as broken glass or damaged property. The officers will arrest whoever they believe to be the main perpetrator. If both parties have injuries, but a witness points to one person as the aggressor, it could sway the officer’s decision.
It’s very common when there is a physical altercation between two people that both people are involved to varying degrees, which is why the police are tasked with investigating and determining who is the main aggressor. This can end up being an important point later on when a defense attorney is making their argument, particularly if it is based on the person having acted in self-defense.
If you are arrested at the scene of a domestic violence call, it’s important that you comply with police and don’t resist arrest. However, you also shouldn’t give any information or offer any explanation to officers about what happened until you have had a chance to speak with an attorney.
What Are the Potential Consequences of a Felony Domestic Violence Conviction?
Any time you are faced with criminal charges, it’s important to put forth a strong defense. But to do this, you need to be aware of what the potential penalties are if you were to be convicted. Criminal penalties usually fall into two main categories of jail time and fines. Felony charges mean that the potential jail sentence is more than one year. Below, you can find more information on what the legal consequences can be for a felony domestic violence conviction.
California penal code states that the potential sentence for a felony domestic violence is “imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or five years.” The exact length of the sentence depends on the severity of the injuries and whether there is a previous history of domestic violence or other violent offenses. In some cases, the sentence could be even longer — especially if there are other charges brought at the same time.
The law also allows for the sentence to include having to pay a substantial fine. The fine can be up to $10,000, but the exact amount will be at the discretion of the judge or jury who is deciding the sentence.
Protective orders are designed to ensure the safety of those at risk for domestic violence. A protective order states that one party is not legally allowed to come within a certain distance of the other party and is not allowed to make contact, such as through phone calls, texts, or coming into the protected person’s workplace.
If you are convicted of domestic violence, you may find that the other party has been awarded a protective order. In some cases, the judge will wait to issue the order until any jail time has been served because the risk of a repeat offense is low while the person is serving their time. Violating a protective order is a misdemeanor in California and is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine of $1,000. However, repeat offenses can result in felony charges, which carry the harsher penalties of up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
What Are Some Common Defense Strategies?
The right defense strategy for your case depends on the circumstances surrounding the charge. It’s extremely important that you be 100 percent honest with your defense attorney. Anything you say is privileged information and can’t be used against you, but it can help your attorney decide which defense strategy is in your best interests. Here are some common defenses that are used against these charges.
The Incident Didn’t Happen
It’s not unusual for someone to use accusations of domestic violence as a manipulation tactic. This can happen as revenge for ending a relationship or may be used as a way to gain an advantage in child custody or divorce cases. If you have an alibi or are otherwise able to provide reasonable doubt that you were at the scene or committed the act, this might be an option to discuss with your attorney. Keep in mind if there aren’t any witnesses, this can turn into a he-said-she-said case, which can be difficult for either side to win.
Someone Else Caused the Injuries
In some cases, a person who was assaulted may not want to name the real perpetrator. Instead, they may choose to name a current or ex-partner in hopes of shifting blame or possibly even protecting the true assailant. If you didn’t cause the injuries in the case, your attorney may be able to use this to provide an alternative explanation or show that it’s more plausible that the victim was injured by someone else.
When an argument gets out of hand, it’s common for both parties to say or do things they might regret. If you were attacked first during the fight and caused the injuries as you were protecting yourself, you might be able to claim that it was in self-defense. This strategy can be easier to use if you also sustained injuries or there were threats made to you prior to the altercation that gave you reason to fear for your safety.
Lack of Intent
If you didn’t intentionally cause the injuries, and they happened by accident, this may be able to be used as part of your defense. While it may not be likely to get the charges dropped or win an acquittal, it could give your attorney some room to attempt to negotiate the charges down or get a plea deal that could change the charges to a misdemeanor.
Issues With the Investigation or Arrest
In some situations, the right defense strategy involves arguing not that you didn’t commit the act but that the arrest was unlawful because of issues with procedure that violated your rights. For example, if the officers questioned you before ensuring you were aware of your Miranda rights, it could mean that any information they got from you after that isn’t admissible in court as evidence. This could make it much harder for the prosecution to prove their case, and finding procedural issues can be one way to attempt to get the prosecution to drop or lessen the charges.
Taking a Plea Bargain
Pleading guilty is usually last on the list of what a defendant wants to do, but felony domestic violence charges are very serious, and you could be facing multiple years in prison. If the prosecution’s case is strong or you want to avoid a trial, it may be an option to work out a plea deal. In exchange for pleading guilty, you can sometimes get the charges reduced or get a lesser sentence, such as probation instead of jail time.
Depending on the circumstances of the charge and whether you have any prior record, you may be able to agree to participate in a diversion program in lieu of being sentenced. Domestic violence charges generally require anger management classes. If there was a substance involved, you may also be asked to attend a substance abuse program or submit to random alcohol or drug tests. In some cases, you can have the charge dropped after you successfully complete the program.
How Does a Felony Domestic Violence Conviction Affect My Future?
We’ve already talked about the legal penalties if you are convicted of felony domestic violence, but there can also be significant repercussions in your personal life. Below are some of the ways that a conviction can affect your life even after you’ve served your time.
It may be difficult to find or maintain relationships if you are convicted. A domestic violence incident usually means that two people aren’t compatible and shouldn’t be together. However, having that conviction on your record can also impact future dating opportunities or make it harder to find roommates who are willing to live with you.
Child Custody Cases
The family court system takes domestic violence charges very seriously, and having a felony domestic violence conviction on your record can have a major impact on any current or future child custody proceedings. If the conviction was for an incident with the child’s other parent, you may have to do custody exchanges through a third party or at a police station — especially if there is a protective order in place. In some situations, the conviction can also impact whether you are able to maintain custody of your children or how and when you spend time with them. The court’s first priority is the safety of the children, and if they believe that a history of violence could put the children in danger, they could end up with supervised visitation.
Many employers conduct background checks after they extend a job offer but before you actually start the position, and a conviction can impact whether you can proceed with the job. Some employers are prohibited by law from hiring those with domestic violence convictions, and having a felony record can make it harder to find employment. For example, jobs that involve working with vulnerable populations, such as children or the elderly, often require that you don’t have any violent convictions on your record. This could keep you from being able to work in hospitals, care facilities, schools, and other places.
It’s clear that being convicted of felony domestic violence can have a major impact on your life now and your future opportunities. Protect your rights by working with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Kersey Law, we understand how serious these charges are and have the knowledge to help you navigate the court system, and we will do everything we can to fight for you. Call us today at 619-432-3712.