Your Guide to Domestic Violence Charges in California [2023]

A General Overview of California’s Domestic Violence 2023 Laws?

Domestic violence in  California and all over the U.S. is a critical matter, and domestic violence cases are rising. The crime of domestic violence includes an assortment of violent acts perpetrated by varied violent acts that one spouse (or partner) carries out upon the other.

It’s vital to note that these aggressive or violent acts must not always be physical and could involve financial exploitation, emotional or psychological abuse, physiological distress, consistent sexual harassment, and more.

Regrettably, hundreds (if not more) of domestic abuse charges are filed in California each year. As a result, you must be aware of the many ways you can be charged with domestic violence and that most of these charges involve dire and, at times, life-changing penalties. The crime of domestic violence is clearly defined in the California Penal Code Section 273.5 (a) PC: Corporal injury to spouse.

In California, domestic violence is often called “DVPA” (The California Domestic Abuse Prevention Act). This Act defines domestic violence and provides legal rules pertaining to the charging and remedies the state offers for governing domestic abuse cases.

So, notably, you could commit and be charged with domestic abuse with other people other than your spouse. This list included both current and former roommates, domestic partners, cohabitants in your home, and more.

Domestic violence in California (and most states) is defined as mistreating your spouse, child, or anyone with whom you reside and have a close relationship. This “mistreatment” may sometimes be apparent, but at times, a “hidden” crime.

 For example, physical abuse may leave marks, bruising, or scars and be noticed by relatives and possibly medical personnel who treat the victims. However, currently, many more types of domestic abuse are psychological, involving verbal abuse, intimidation, consistent demeaning of your partner, and more. This type of abuse is increasingly recognized, but it is much harder to prove and sometimes charge when committed. Psychological abuse, though, which goes on for months or even years,  can do significant, permanent, and life-altering damage to the victim and is more frequently charged as domestic violence.

Psychological abuse can be shocking. You and your partner can have a seemingly innocuous disagreement with your partner, but emotions heat, and things escalate to severe and harsh or threatening words. You may be totally surprised, but if your partner (or a relative or another) calls the police, you may find yourself arrested on domestic violence charges. For example, if you made verbal criminal threats of harm but never touched your partner, you still may end up in jail.

But, in California, could you be convicted of domestic violence in such a situation? Yes, you could, depending on the circumstances involved in your specific incident.

So, you ostensibly could be charged with domestic violence of a physical, mental, or verbal nature, probably something that never crossed your mind.

The question also arises: are there ways to determine or identify domestic violence in its early stages?

California recognizes that if a perpetrator is charged with abuse, they may utilize varied methods to keep control and influence over their victims. Except in outright physical abuse cases, this makes recognizing the initial indications of other types of domestic violence extremely challenging to identify.

However, there are five common “red flags” that the authorities will look for, they are:

  • If the accused abuser has a history of being overly possessive or jealous.
  • If they ignore or verbally neglect their partner.
  • If all household financial matters are totally under their control.
  • If their partner is noticeably physically abused and suffering physical harm.
  • If their partner is being harassed, demeaned, or has violent threats made against them.

California has strict laws and guidelines pertaining to domestic violence of any kind. Whether physical, emotional, or psychological, domestic violence is a serious crime and can inflict harsh punishment on you, including fines and possibly lengthy prison time.

If you’re charged with domestic violence, it could shatter your family and impose dire life-changing events. Time is not on your side, and you must obtain professional legal advice immediately. An experienced  San Diego domestic violence lawyer will diligently guide and assist you at every stage of confronting the consequences of these dire charges and guide you through the legal maze you find yourself in.

Some Vital Facts to Know About California’s Domestic Violence Laws.

When a heated argument escalates, a domestic violence arrest can surprise you or, at times, is a more frequent occurrence. However, certain factors contribute to you being arrested, they are:

  • Who was the first to call 911?
  • Who was more upset in the argument?
  • Who received more physical harm (or other abuse) in the incident?

Also, other factors are sometimes involved, such as gender bias. Some abusers work a domestic violence arrest to their advantage.

Also, your spouse, relative, or friend may call 911 to calm the situation, but the problem ends with a domestic violence arrest.

The nature of Penal Code 273.5 also can contribute to the situation. There are two main things the authorities look for before making a domestic violence arrest according to this law, they are:

  • Did the abuser willfully or intentionally harm their partner or another family member?
  • Did this action and harm traumatize the victim?

Admittedly, and in the heat of the moment, determining these facts can be objective, and the police will probably make an arrest even if they doubt what occurred.

Also, the police will attempt to determine whether the Act that caused harm was intentional and whether it had a natural and probable consequence of the victim being harmed.

Let’s say you pushed your partner down, and they broke or sprained their wrist or ankle; it’s clear to conclude that your action was a substantial factor that led to their injury.

You may not have wanted to harm your partner, but your actions caused their injury, which was intentional and thereby resulted in their harm; this could trigger your arrest.

You may also not realize exactly who is considered an “intimate partner,” and generally, the following fall under that category and, if harmed, can get you arrested for domestic violence:

Your current or former spouse, of course.

  • Any cohabitant or former cohabitant, such as a roommate.
  • Your fiancé or fiancée, or anyone you have or have had a former relationship with.
  • The mother or father of your child, even if you are sometimes not together.
  • Grandparents, parents, and other relatives living with you, and more.

Sometimes domestic violence arrests are a repeated offense, and due to the specifics of each case, are allowed, by law, to continue. However, even in families where nothing of this kind ever occurred, an argument (possibly fueled by alcohol, resentment, and more) can escalate to you being arrested.

The simple truth is once you call 911 (and this may be justified), you never really can be sure of the outcome. If you are arrested for domestic violence, you first need professional legal help.

Depending on your case’s specifics, your family, relationships, and even your life may never be the same.

You can best resolve this dire legal matter by obtaining professional, knowledgeable, and skilled counsel from a  San Diego domestic violence lawyer.

Is Domestic Violence a Misdemeanor or Felony in California?

Legally, depending on the circumstances of your case and its severity, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony domestic violence charge. Although both can be dire and severe, a felony domestic violence charge can cause you much more harm and face much more severe penalties.

The most common charges that occur with domestic violence in California are:

  • Corporal Injury – Under California Penal Code 273.5, you can be charged with corporal injury to a spouse, cohabitant, child (or more) anytime you cause them physical injury.
  • Domestic Battery – This is another form of domestic violence charge (also falling under California Penal Code §243) and is charged if you inflict force or violence against the victim. You must note that “force or violence” does not necessarily mean harm or injury. Simply, it means that you had unlawful physical contact. Domestic battery is usually a misdemeanor, but depending on the circumstances, it can result in felony domestic battery.

In most cases, the usual difference is that most felony charges will carry a possible sentence of more than one year. Felony domestic violence charges will impose more and harsher consequences, such as higher fines and restitution to the victim.

Misdemeanors are commonly lesser crimes that impose a sentence of one year or less in jail.

However, most experienced domestic violence lawyers will explain that these cases may often be designated as “wobblers.” The state prosecutor may have the latitude to charge you with a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge.

There are no set rules to follow for deciding wobblers, but the state prosecutor may consider:

  1. Any prior criminal record you may have (domestic violence or otherwise).
  2. All the circumstances and specifics of your crime, including whether you used a weapon, etc.
  3. Most always, the severity of injuries that resulted from your attack.

However, even if the state prosecutor decides to charge you with a felony, there are times when the court can reduce your charge to a misdemeanor. This is a critical example of why you need professional counsel immediately.

Your aggressive and skilled domestic violence lawyer will work to ensure that, if there is even a possibility of getting your charges reduced, they will act rapidly and fervently to do so, whether this be with the state prosecutor of the court.

You do not want to be charged or receive the penalties for a felony domestic violence charge in California, as the penalties can be life-changing.

You may suffer:

  • A life-long criminal record.
  • Jail time, and payment of high fines and restitution to the victim.
  • Having to participate in a domestic violence intervention program.
  • Loss of gun rights, and possibly loss of child custody, and much more.

So, by obtaining a free case evaluation with a qualified and winning San Diego domestic violence law team, you have the best chances, by far, of having your charges and subsequent penalties mitigated downward and your rights wholly protected and upheld.

What Conditions May Cause Me To Be Charged With Felony Domestic Violence

Felony domestic violence is far more severe than a misdemeanor charge, and you must be professionally prepared to mount a defense strategy as soon as possible.

Many situations can get you charged with felony domestic violence, but some of the most common are:

  • You inflict corporal injury on your family member, resulting in a traumatic or even life-threatening result.
  • You are accused of domestic violence and have specific prior battery convictions in the last seven years.
  • You are accused of domestic violence and have prior domestic battery convictions in the previous seven years.
  • By committing domestic violence, you cause severe injury to your partner or family member.
  • You commit domestic violence with sufficient force that it’s possible to cause significant harm to another family member.
  • You must be aware that you can commit corporal injury ( as detailed under Penal Code 273.5) by causing any physical damage or traumatic condition, minor or severe.

“Traumatic condition” is defined as causing a wound or bodily injury by directly applying physical force to your victim.

Most domestic violence crimes in California, where injury is involved, are charged as felonies, and punishments that may begin with and include:

  • Being incarcerated in state prison for two, three, or four years or more.
  • Being jailed in county jail for up to one year.
  • $6,000 in fines or restitution and upward from there.

If you have specific prior assault or battery convictions within seven years of a new crime, your penalty could be increased immediately to:

  • Two, four, or five years or more in state prison.
  • One year or more in county jail.
  • $10,000 and more in fines or restitution to your victim.

Even if you can receive probation on a domestic violence conviction, the court usually always imposes specific and detailed probation conditions that will significantly impact your life,
These conditions may include:

  • Three years (minimum) of probation or more.
  • Invoking a criminal protective order (CPO) that protects your victim from further violence, threats, abuse, and harassment.
  • Mandatory enrollment and successful completion of a “batterer’s” program.
  • Varied types and guidelines for community service.

Also, any domestic violence conviction in California will result in losing your Second Amendment right to own a firearm.

You must also realize that you can be charged with felony domestic violence by inflicting even minor injuries on your partner or family member.

In the court’s eyes, the relationship between you and the victim distinguishes felony domestic violence from types of felony assault and battery crimes. So, at times, the severity of the victim’s injuries may not seem significant, but your charges can still be imposed as a felony crime.

What Are Some Defenses Against My California Domestic Abuse Charge?

You must have an immediate and thorough professional legal defense when you face domestic violence charges. Also, time is not on your side, and if your defense is to be successful, it must begin on, or very near, the day you are charged. In that way, your lawyer can begin by comprehensively evaluating the police report of what occurred and immediately strategize your defense and get ahead of the prosecution.

Your skilled and thorough San Diego domestic abuse law team will begin by studying the police report in detail. Your lawyer’s first duty will be to come up with answers to some or all of the following questions:

  • What did you say to the authorities, and is there evidence substantiating the case, such as a recording of a 911 call that supports or challenges that information?
  • Did anyone else witness the incident, and does their report support your claim or your accusers?
  • How recent and severe are your partner’s injuries?
  • What was your emotional state at the time of the incident and when the police spoke with you?
  • What was the exact emotional and physical state of the victim involved?
  • Are there significant signs on your clothes (or that of your victim) or in the immediate vicinity that a physical struggle had occurred?
  • Do you have any history of reported domestic violence incidents or any other violence filed against you by your partner or anyone else?
  • Were you or the victim drunk or on drugs at the time of the incident?

These are only a few things that the police may ask, and also a vital reason you should say as little as possible at the scene. As per your rights, say nothing until you’ve had the opportunity to meet with your lawyer or, at the least, have your lawyer by your side in any interrogation.

By analyzing your case’s facts, your skilled, experienced, and aggressive domestic violence lawyer will decide whether the charges against you are significant and precisely how to fight them.

Some defenses that are commonly used, such as:

  • I didn’t do it – Were you at the scene at the time, do you have an alibi? Even a recording may be your voice, but were you just nearby then? Many issues may be able to be legally countered.
  • My partner or spouse is lying – Is it possible that the entire incident was made up or greatly exaggerated? Are there injuries to support this accusation, or are the injuries inconsistent with the details of the crime?
  • The whole thing was an accident – You don’t deny that your partner was injured, but the entire thing was an accident. Your lawyer can investigate the details and possibly confirm this was the case.
  • You were defending yourself – Your lawyer will thoroughly review the police report for admissions by your victim that they have used violence before and find out why. Was your victim afraid of you and instigated the violence?

Also, it’s critical to remember that any crime of domestic violence must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. This is always at the core of almost all successful defenses and one your lawyers are highly skilled at using.

I Have Been Charged With Domestic Violence; What Should I Do Immediately?

If you are charged with domestic violence, whether a misdemeanor or felony charge, always consult with a qualified, thorough, and winning San Diego domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible.

In all these cases, although their details vary, the ultimate success of any defense will vitally depend on using all the resources and immediate cooperation with your domestic violence law team.

Always be honest and upfront with every detail of your case with your law team, as this will significantly and positively affect the outcome of your case and make the entire process much more manageable. If you don’t give your lawyer all the vital information they need, it could ultimately make the difference between your freedom and going to prison.

The San Diego-based firm at Kersey Law has a long and winning history of advocating and tirelessly protecting the rights of domestic abuse clients. They know that your freedom and legal rights are two of the most valuable things you must protect. If you don’t act quickly enough, or worse, do nothing, your chances of going to jail for a domestic violence charge increase significantly.

They will work immediately so that you fully understand your charges and begin to collect information and strategize a winning legal defense. Call them today at (619) 432-3712 and obtain a free case evaluation. Don’t hesitate; your future, family, career, and freedom may depend on it.

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