In California, it is illegal to commit acts of domestic violence. Domestic violence, or domestic abuse, is defined as inflicting bodily injury on your cohabitant, current spouse, parent of your child or former spouse. Depending on the seriousness of the alleged abusive act, the offense may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If you are facing allegations of domestic abuse, it is important for you to get help from an Orange County criminal defense attorney as soon after you have been charged as is possible.
California Penal Code §§ 242 and 243(e)(1): Misdemeanor domestic battery
A majority of domestic violence cases in California are charged as misdemeanor offenses under the statutes criminalizing domestic battery. Under California Penal Code § 242, a battery is defined as an unlawful and willful use of violence or force that is directed towards another person. Section 243(e)(1) specifically makes it a criminal offense to commit a battery on your intimate partner.
Any force that is illegal is enough. The law doesn’t require that your partner was injured. Instead, the contact itself is criminalized. Physically contacting another person, his or her clothing or something he or she is holding is enough to constitute the element of contacting another under the statute. This means that doing something such as snatching a cell phone out of your partner’s hand, snatching a hat of his or her head or grabbing his or her shirt could all be charged as a battery if it was done in a way that was offensive. Actions that people think of when they think of battery also can be charged, including slapping, punching, pinching or any other such action.
Penalties for misdemeanor domestic battery in California
If you are convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery, you could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $2,000, be placed on misdemeanor probation for up to 3 years and ordered to serve a jail sentence of up to 1 year.
California Penal Code § 273.5(a), (b) and inflicting corporal injury
Domestic abuse of a spouse may be charged as a felony when the victim is a current or former spouse, a current or former dating partner, a current or former fiance or a current or former cohabitant. Qualifying acts for felony charges include any of the following:
- The victim suffered a serious bodily injury
- The victim was a minor who suffered either a sexual assault or bodily harm
- The victim suffered a sexual assault
- You have previous convictions for domestic violence
- You have previous convictions for other offenses
When you are accused of committing an act of domestic violence in California, you could be facing charges of corporal injury to your spouse, cohabitant, dating partner, parent of your child or fiance. Corporal injury on a spouse or other intimate partner is a felony offense under California Penal Code § 273.5. You may also be charged with misdemeanor domestic battery as a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors use a degree of discretion in determining whether to charge you with the felony offense or with the misdemeanor. If the injuries you caused resulted in trauma, then you could be charged with the felony offense. Under the law, a condition that is traumatic includes an injury or a wound. This means that even light bruising is enough to qualify as a traumatic condition. Prosecutors also must prove that you had the intent to commit the offense in order to meet their burden of proof.
Penalties for domestic violence as a felony
If you are facing felony domestic violence charges, you could serve 4 years in prison. If the injuries are very serious, your sentence could be longer, and you could face additional charges. People convicted of felony domestic violence are also required to complete domestic violence courses.
If, in the past 7 years, you have been convicted of committing assault with a weapon, attempted assault, other acts of domestic violence or sexual assault, you may be sentenced to serve up to 5 years in prison and be ordered to pay fines up to $10,000. Judges may also consider other factors that might exist in your criminal record when they determine the sentence they will impose. If the bodily injury on the victim was severe, the judge could sentence you to serve prison sentences consecutively for each count of conviction.
How a criminal defense lawyer might help
If you have been charged with an act of domestic violence, an experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to help you in several ways. It is possible for a lawyer to negotiate a favorable plea offer to a lesser offense involving no prison time or less time than you might otherwise face. In some cases, attorneys are able to negotiate a plea offer for probation with counseling in lieu of jail or prison sentences.
A lawyer may also identify defenses to the charge, such as your acting in self-defense, your being accused falsely or that what happened was an accident and not intentional. If your attorney identifies one of these defenses, he or she may be able to present mitigating evidence to the prosecutor in order to secure a dismissal of your charges.
In California, victims do not need to report an incident for charges to be brought against you. Even if the victim doesn’t want you to be prosecuted, the state is still likely to proceed with its case against you. Getting the help of a good criminal defense lawyer for domestic violence charges is almost imperative. We are the leading criminal defense law firm in Orange County and are equipped to help you with your case. Call us today to schedule a time to come in and to learn more about how we might be able to help you.