California Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a broad legal term used to describe a criminal offense in which a person willfully inflicts physical force or violence on a member of his or her family or household. This can include a current or former spouse, dating partner, domestic partner, fiancé or cohabitant, a co-parent, or any other family member, blood relative or household member. Domestic violence is a very real and very serious problem affecting roughly 10 million people in the United States every year. However, there are some domestic violence cases that are based on false allegations of abuse, and in the state of California, there are little to no repercussions for those who file false claims of domestic violence. If you have been arrested for domestic violence in California, you could find yourself facing devastating criminal charges. The best way to protect yourself against these charges is to consult a reputable California domestic violence defense attorney.
California Domestic Violence Laws
Although domestic violence may seem like a relatively straightforward offense, the crime can actually be charged and punished in many different ways, depending on the circumstances surrounding the domestic violence, the nature of the relationship between the accused and the alleged victim, the accused’s criminal history and other important factors. In California, the three main statutes that cover domestic violence offenses are as follows:
- Penal Code § 273.5 PC – Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Inhabitant
- Penal Code § 243(e)(1) PC – Domestic Battery
- Penal Code § 245 PC – Assault with a Deadly Weapon
Threats, Harassment and Intimidation
Most people know that California domestic violence laws cover acts of physical violence perpetrated by one domestic partner against another, but it is important to know that these laws also cover the fear of physical injury or violence. If you are accused of willfully and maliciously harassing your spouse or domestic partner and making a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her own safety or the safety of his or her immediate family members, your behavior may constitute domestic violence under California’s anti-stalking law, Penal Code § 646.9(a) PC.
Consequences of Domestic Violence
If you are involved in a domestic violence situation, it is imperative that you understand the consequences of domestic violence accusations, arrests and convictions in the state of California. If the police show up at your home on a domestic violence call and believe that you abused or threatened to abuse your spouse or domestic partner, you could end up being arrested and charged with the crime of domestic violence. In domestic violence situations where criminal charges are filed, there may be a civil case and a criminal case occurring at the same time as a result of the same alleged abuse. If you are convicted on charges of domestic violence in California, you could end up facing jail time, hefty fines and other harsh criminal penalties. Less serious domestic violence offenses, like Penal Code § 243(e)(1) PC (Domestic Battery), may be charged as misdemeanors, while more serious offenses, like Penal Code § 273.5 PC (Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Inhabitant) are charged as felonies. Some domestic violence offenses are considered “wobblers,” which means the decision to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or felony is in the hands of the prosecution.
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
If you have been accused of domestic violence and the police are called out to your home, your accuser may ask for, or agree to, an emergency protective order, which is a type of domestic violence restraining order that can last up to one week. A restraining order is a court order initiated by a person who believes he or she has been the victim of domestic violence and is seeking protection from the abuse. Most people assume that emergency protective orders are meant to be initiated by female victims against male abusers, but that is not always the case. Any victim of domestic violence, female or male, can ask for a domestic violence restraining order against any abuser, male or female.
In this situation, the alleged domestic violence victim then has the option of going to court and filing paperwork to obtain a temporary restraining order, which, if the court grants the request, will be in effect until the date of the court hearing. At that hearing, depending on the specific circumstances of the case, the judge may extend the restraining order, in which case it can stay in effect for up to five years. If you are charged in criminal court, a restraining order can be put in effect until the conclusion of the criminal proceeding, and if you plead guilty or you are found guilty at trial, the restraining order can be extended for another three years.
Your Rights Regarding Restraining Orders
If you have a restraining order against you for domestic violence, you should be aware of the numerous consequences you could face. Depending on the conditions of the domestic violence restraining order, a judge may order you to:
- Stop the violence and/or abusive behavior
- Refrain from contacting your accuser
- Keep a certain distance from your home
- Refrain from possessing or purchasing a firearm
- Pay child support and/or spousal support (if you are married)
- Pay certain family bills
- Attend a batterer’s treatment program or counseling service
The most devastating consequence of a domestic violence restraining order is that it may require you to leave your home, if you live with the person who initiated the order, even if you own the home or pay rent to live there. If you have children together, you could also be barred from getting custody of or visitation with your children as a result of a domestic violence restraining order.
Seek Legal Help from a Skilled Domestic Violence Attorney
In any California domestic violence case, the stakes are extremely high. If you have been accused of abusing your spouse, a household member, the other parent of your child, or someone related to you by blood or marriage, you will want to seek legal guidance from a reputable California domestic violence defense lawyer. Accusations of domestic violence, an arrest, criminal charges, or a conviction can have serious consequences that can follow you for the rest of your life, and a knowledgeable domestic violence defense attorney can help ensure that you have a clear understanding of the law in California as it pertains to your case and of your rights as a criminal defendant. Things can move quickly in a domestic violence situation, especially when criminal charges are involved, so don’t want to call. Contact our experienced domestic violence legal team today.