Domestic violence is an unfortunate reality in California. To protect victims, the government has taken a hard line stance on domestic violence. State law ensures that those convicted of domestic violence face harsh penalties. Local police and sheriffs’ departments are quick to arrest anyone who they view as the primary aggressor in an argument that got physical. Prosecutors work hard to ensure they get convictions on all domestic violence cases. When emotions run high in a relationship, claims of domestic abuse can be falsified and exaggerated. If you are arrested for domestic violence, it is an uphill battle to clear your name and stay out of jail. It is imperative that you have an experienced domestic violence attorney to fight for your rights and be your voice in the courtroom.
In California, domestic violence means any criminal offense committed against a spouse, former spouse, person who you have a dating relationship with or formerly had a dating relationship with, or the parent of your child. Domestic violence can be battery, assault, threats, vandalism, kidnapping, sexual assault, false imprisonment, or stalking. The most common domestic violence cases involve domestic battery. Battery is simply an offensive touching, even if there is no injury and the touching leaves no mark or bruise. If the battery causes any injury or mark, you can be charged with a felony.
What Are The Consequences Of A Domestic Violence Charge?
A person could be sentenced to up to one year in a county jail even for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge. Even if no jail time was ordered, they would be placed on domestic violence probation, which would be formal probation, or else they would be supervised by a probation officer. They would have to do 52 weeks of anger management classes as well as pay supervision fees and report preparation fees. They would be monitored in the domestic violence court for at least a year, and would have to come to court on a regular basis to have reviews in front of the judge.
Some cases could even result in a state prison sentence. Additionally, any domestic violence conviction, even a misdemeanor, would result in the loss of the person’s firearms rights. California law states that a person is not able to own or possess firearms for 10 years after a domestic violence conviction, although the federal laws under the Brady Bill prohibit anybody from ever having a firearm for even a misdemeanor domestic violence case, which would essentially mean it was a lifetime ban.
Does The Seriousness Of The Crime Depend On Who Is Involved Or Just The Crime Itself?
It would all be treated the same in the eyes of the law, whether someone was formerly married or currently married. It would all be considered domestic violence and it would be punished the same.
Self Defense Scenarios
Self-defense would be an available option in DV, or domestic violence cases, although the person could still be arrested. They would have to sort that out in court later. Officers who came to the scene could actually arrest both parties, although whether or not someone was charged would be up to the District Attorney. Whether or not the self-defense option was available would be something for which the person would need to consult with their attorney and then it would ultimately be decided by a jury.
What Are The Grounds For A Domestic Violence Arrest?
If a neighbor or somebody else called because they heard fighting or a loud noise so that the police had to come out, then the police could end up arresting someone if an accusation was made that some abuse was committed during that argument. If the person who called the police alleged there was hitting, pushing, slapping or that anything was vandalized, then even if the alleged victim was not the one who called the police, the other person could end up being arrested and charged.
How Serious Are Domestic Violence Allegations?
Domestic violence allegations are very serious. The person would not be held without bond and bail would be set. They might also be booked on felony domestic violence even if it was ultimately charged as a misdemeanor so the person would be forced to be held on a higher amount of bail before they could bail out.
Please note: I do not file or assist in the preparation of any type of restraining order. I only defend against allegations in criminal court that someone has violated an order. I do not handle temporary restraining orders (TROs) or any other type of civil order.
California Penalties For Domestic Violence
A misdemeanor charge of domestic battery can be punished by up to one year in county jail.
A felony charge can be punished by up to four years in state prison, five years if a person has a prior conviction and even more if you have a prior conviction for domestic violence or if the alleged victim suffered great bodily injury.
Mandatory anger management classes :
For both felonies and misdemeanor domestic violence charges, the judge can place you on formal, supervised probation for up to five years and order you to attend 52 weeks of anger management classes. The judge will order you to pay hefty fines and fees to the court and the probation department.
Loss of the privilege to own firearms or ammunition :
A person convicted of any felony cannot own or possess firearms or ammunition for the rest of his or her life. Even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction will result in a 10 year ban on owning or possessing any firearms or ammunition.
The law is tough on those convicted of any form of domestic violence. Penal Code section 1203.097 outlines the mandatory conditions of probation for those convicted of any domestic related charge.
What to do if you are arrested for domestic violence
If you were served with any type of protective order, DO NOT violate it. Violation of a protective order will result in a new criminal charge against you. Do not see, call, text, or have any contact whatsoever with the other person involved. Also, do not have any third person, friend or family member contact the other person. Third party contact will also result in a new criminal charge against YOU. If you have any marks, bruises, or injuries on you, take photographs of your injuries, even if the police already did.
Fighting domestic violence charges or getting the charges “dropped.”
The alleged victim in a domestic violence case cannot “drop the charges.” Only the district attorney can dismiss a domestic violence case. The district attorney can proceed with a criminal case against you, even if the alleged victim does not want to pursue the case.
When Can An Attorney Intervene In A Domestic Violence Case?
A defense attorney would be able to get involved in a case right away, even before the first court date. After someone was arrested, the police would write a report and forward it to the District Attorney’s office, where the District Attorney would assign the report to a Deputy District Attorney, who would typically be assigned to the Domestic Violence Unit to review the case. They receive dozens of these reports each week and not all of them are filed and some of them are filed with lesser charges.
An attorney would be able to intervene in the case by contacting the district attorney’s office, finding out which deputy was reviewing the case and they could then try to convince them to either not file the case, or file lesser charges. The District Attorney would not talk to the person who was arrested because they are expressly prohibited from doing so, although they would be able to talk with their attorney.
Contact an Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney
There is really no such thing as a minor domestic violence charge because even a domestic violence charge where nobody was injured, not even a scratch, nor a mark, could still result in a misdemeanor domestic violence case that would be punished the same as if there were a mark or a bruise or some type of injury. It would have the same punishment and consequences.
The earlier someone consulted with an attorney, the earlier they would know their rights, their options and the possible consequences. The attorney would be able to start working on the case right away because an investigation might need to be done quickly while the incident was still fresh in the minds of both the person and any witnesses. An attorney would also be able to contact the DA to try to prevent the charges from being filed or to get lesser charges filed.
I have been representing clients accused of domestic violence in Sonoma County for almost 16 years. In that time, I have defended hundreds of cases, ranging from misdemeanor domestic violence all the way up to very serious felony domestic violence, which could result in state prison sentences.