How Many Domestic Violence Charges Begin
In most cases, alleged domestic violence incidents stem from intense, emotionally charged arguments between romantic partners. Whether they should or not, many times, one of the two people in the fight begins at some point to feel physically threatened, and then calls the police.
Police arrive with one goal in mind: defuse the situation and prevent any physical harm from occurring. From their perspective, it makes sense to simply "play it safe" and arrest and jail the suspect without taking a lot of time to do a thorough, fair-minded investigation.
The accused person often gets no chance to present his/her side of the story, and police are worried about liability that could apply if they don't "take action."
This kind of scenario can easily lead to false charges being taken seriously without scrutiny and to a presumption of the guilt of the arrestee.
But at Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we understand that many domestic violence allegations are fabrications, misunderstandings, or greatly exaggerated. We know how to get at the truth of the matter and bring it out in the courtroom.
How Is "Domestic Violence" Defined in California?
While domestic violence can be the same as assault, battery, and other violent crimes in all other ways, the distinction that makes it "domestic" violence is the relationship that existed between the perpetrator and the victim at the time of the crime.
For an incident to fall under the legal category domestic violence, in California, the offense must have been committed against:
- One's current/former spouse.
- One's current/former fiancee.
- A current/former romantic cohabitant.
- A current/former girlfriend/boyfriend.
- The mother/father of one's child.
Note that one can have multiple "romantic partners" simultaneously, for the purpose of domestic violence law, at least.
"Cohabitating" in the statute involves living in the same house for a significant period of time while maintaining a "substantial" relationship with sexual and/or emotional intimacy. To "cohabitate" also involves an intention for the relationship to be long-term (but not necessarily that it actually turned out to be such.)
"Dating relationship" is used to mean relatively frequent and intimate meetings/interactions that are done primarily to express affection or for sex.
Types of Domestic Violence Crimes
There are a number of different specific crimes that count as domestic violence. Which one you are charged with, along with the specifics of your case and any past criminal history you may have, will determine the potential sentence, and thus, it is important to distinguish among different types of domestic violence allegations.
Here are three of the main kinds of domestic violence crimes on the books of the California Penal Code:
- Domestic Battery (PC 243.e1)
Domestic, or "spousal," battery is the least egregious of the three offenses we will cover. It is also the most common of them. PC 243.e1 (domestic battery) is a misdemeanor and is only applicable when no actual injury was inflicted, though physical contact did take place.
An example of domestic battery might be a man who slaps his wife's face but without causing any injury. But technically, any touching at all can count as battery if it is offense and unwanted (including sexual/affectionate touching.)
The elements of the crime include:
- The defendant touched his spouse or other "domestic partner."
- The defendant touched him/her "willfully."
- The touching was harmful/offensive.
Note that "willful" just means the defendant's actions were intentional. It need not include intending to hurt or to break the law.
- Corporal Injury of a Spouse (PC 273.5)
PC 273.5 deals with acts of domestic violence wherein a person actually causes injury of a current or former spouse/romantic partner. It is more serious than domestic battery (PC 243.e1) but less serious than aggravated battery (PC 243d).
This crime can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the details of the case and the defendant's past criminal record. More serious injuries would tend to be charged as felonies.
Note that to be convicted of PC 273.5, the injury must have been intentionally inflicted, not merely an accident.
The injury must also bring about a "traumatic condition;" but that term is used much more broadly in "legalese" than in ordinary conversation. Strangulation, suffocation, serious wounds and bruises, or internal injuries can all count, but even relatively minor injuries can count as "traumatic" also.
- Aggravated Battery (PC 243d)
When battery against a person (whether or not a spouse/domestic partner) causes "serious" bodily injury, it can be charged under PC 243d as "aggravated battery."
PC 243d can be a misdemeanor or a felony. Even here, it still depends on the degree of injury and other factors and is not an automatic felony.
Breaking someone's nose after hitting him/her or breaking a bone in his/her finger after squeezing the other person's hand, might be examples of aggravated battery.
Possible Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction
A conviction for domestic battery can result in jail/prison time, heavy fines, victim restitution, mandatory counseling, a restraining order, and other serious consequences.
At Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we know how to undermine the prosecution's case and win you a dismissal, acquittal, or a reduced charge or sentence. But you still want to be aware of the potential penalties you could be facing.
Domestic battery (PC 243.e1) is a misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to 12 months in county jail.
- Three to five years of probation.
- Up to 12 months of domestic violence counseling.
- A maximum fine of $2,000.
Corporal Injury of a Spouse/Romantic Partner (PC 273.5), as a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 12 months in jail. As a felony, it is punishable by 2 to 4 years in state prison. Either way, you also face 12 or more months of mandatory counseling sessions, 3 to 5 years of probation, and a fine of up to $2,000.
Aggravated Battery (PC 243d), as a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 12 months of jail time. As a felony, it can be punished by 2 to 4 years in prison. Either way, you face the counseling, fines, and probation sentencing elements as well.
A repeat offense on PC 243e, aggravated battery, within 7 years of a first offense, is more likely to be a felony and incur the maximum or something closer to the maximum sentence.
Besides the already severe penalties attached to domestic violence crimes, there are other potential negative impacts that a conviction can have.
First, a domestic violence conviction on your criminal record will make it difficult to find a steady, good-paying job.
Second, it can subject you to professional discipline if you hold a state-issued professional license. You may end up losing your license or being denied your license if you are still in the application process.
Third, immigrants can face possible deportation or other serious immigration consequences if convicted of domestic violence.
Fourth, you will lose your Constitutional right to keep and bear arms for 10 years.
Fifth, you may be issued a court order barring you from contacting the victim and children of the victim, or even entering the house where the incident took place.
Sixth, a domestic violence conviction is a "strike" under California's "Three Strikes Law," which will result in increased sentencing should you get a second or third strike later on.
Emergency Protective Orders
Often, upon a domestic violence arrest, an "emergency protective order" will be issued against the defendant by a police officer. This order can last as long as 7 days, and when it expires, a new protective order can be requested by the victim.
The order will require the alleged perpetrator to stay a specific distance away from the alleged victim, normally 100 yards (a football field away.) It will also order the arrestee to refrain from purchasing or acquiring a firearm during the duration of the protective order.
If the alleged victim has moved, the person restrained by the order must not acquire or even attempt to acquire his/her new address. The person restrained may also be forced out of his/her home, and the person being protected will have custody of any children they share during the order's duration.
Do not violate an emergency protective orders, not even to try to "make up" with your accuser. To do so risks severe penalties if caught and convicted for violating the order. And any meeting with the alleged victim may be seen as an act of witness intimidation.
Defending Against a Domestic Violence Charge
At Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we will fight tenaciously and skillfully in forming a strong defense against the charge(s) you face. We know how to expose weaknesses in the prosecutors case and uncover any violations of your rights that may have taken place. We also know how to cross-examine witnesses to expose false or exaggerated stories.
Here are some of the elements we will look at in deciding how best to defend your case:
- Was the police search, interrogation, and arrest done legally and according to police protocols?
- Is the police report, the alleged victim's, or other relevant testimony, accurate and complete?
- Was the defendant given a fair chance to give his/her side of the story to police before being arrested?
- Did police overlook evidence in your favor during their investigation?
- Does the "victim" have a history of violence? Could it be the defendant was actually defending him/her self?
- Even if a domestic violence or other violation took place, would a less serious charge better fit the facts of the case?
One of the most common defenses against a domestic violence charge is self-defense. If you were actually defending yourself against a reasonable and genuine fear of physical harm coming to you, and if you responded with an appropriate amount of force to defend yourself, you are not guilty.
False accusations are common in domestic violence cases. Many times, the plaintiff had a grudge against the defendant and fabricated a story of domestic violence to get revenge. Or, it could be a strategy to gain full custody of a child in a divorce or child-custody-battle situation. Sometimes, it even happens that the plaintiff called the police simply to scare the defendant into treating him/her better.
Contact Us Today For Help
At Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys, we stand ready to help you win your domestic violence defense case. We have deep knowledge of the California Penal Code relative to domestic violence crimes and longtime familiarity with local, Long Beach and Southern California court processes.
Our team of legal experts will work "hard and smart" in your best interests from day one. We know how to build a solid defense against any and all domestic violence charges because we've done it many times before and have a long track record of success.
For a free consultation on the details of your case, call us anytime 24/7/365 at (562) 308-7807, or meet with us for an in-person consultation at our office located at 1234 Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach, CA.