In California, domestic violence is a broad term that covers more than one type of domestic violence. It could involve assault and/or battery against a significant other. Getting arrested for domestic violence means that you could be sentenced to jail or prison, along with other potential sentences. Call an experienced attorney to help provide you with the best defense possible to make sure that you protect your freedom.
Potential Victims of Domestic Violence
When discussing the different types of domestic violence, you have to consider who is affected and who is protected under California Law. In most cases, it is when a partner or former partner accuses you of violence towards them. This might mean your spouse, domestic partner, ex-relation, or anyone who you have dated or are currently dating.
Domestic violence charges can also pertain to children and other relatives, including grandparents and in-laws. Essentially, if the victim is a family member or a partner or ex-partner, then a charge could be considered domestic violence. In many cases, there is a misunderstanding or a difference of opinion regarding the charge. It could be that the accused did not mean harm to the victim, or that their actions, while violent, were relatively mild, such as pushing someone out of the way to leave the home.
Types of Domestic Violence
There does not have to be actual “violence” for the police to lay domestic violence charges. For example, threats or assault can also be considered domestic violence. Telling a child that they will get punched or worse for misbehaving is also domestic violence. Domestic violence can also include acts that are not violent at all, such as yelling at somebody in an aggressive way where the alleged victim believes there may be imminent harm.
Property damage is another common type of charge under the domestic violence umbrella. For instance, an ex-spouse may be staking out the home of their former lover, and when they get no response to their knocks at the door, they may smash the door, windows, or anything else on the property in anger. This can also include throwing an object at a wall. Even if it was not aimed at anyone, it can still be considered putting someone in danger.
Most Common Criminal Charge for Domestic Violence
In California, most criminal charges for domestic violence are categorized under California Penal Code section 273.5. This covers people who are injured by an intimate partner or family member. No matter the severity of the injury, the consequences can still be substantial. Domestic violence charges where the victim was injured can either be a felony or a misdemeanor. If it is considered a misdemeanor, then the maximum sentence is one year in county jail. If it is considered a felony, then the penalty could be 4 years in state prison, along with potential fines. These penalties can of course increase if the accused is a repeat offender, if there is great bodily injury involved, or if the person is on probation with the court.
However, a domestic violence charge does not have to mean a loss of freedom. A good attorney can help an accused earn a lesser penalty, such as a suspended sentence, deferred entry of judgment, or probation. This might also involve completing domestic violence or anger management classes along with paying for the cost of counseling for the alleged victim. There are other options beyond prison time. However, if you have more than one charge of domestic violence, it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid jail time without an experienced attorney by your side to tell your story.
Less Common Domestic Violence Charges
The less common types of domestic violence charges include those offenses where the alleged victim is not actually injured. In those cases, being convicted can mean a maximum of one year in a county jail along with a fine. In these cases, the accused will often have to complete some sort of treatment and counseling program along with fines to the court or victim-offender program.
When the victim is a child or children, then you could be charged with child endangerment. This can also be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the nature and severity of the alleged act. This might mean up prison time if charged as a felony. If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, then drug testing may be a part of your sentence.
If there was harm to the child from physical contact, that can be constituted as child abuse. There is a misdemeanor classification for child abuse, as there is also a felony classification. If charged as a misdemeanor, a person may be looking at county jail time. If charged as a felony, the consequences are much harsher because state prison may be involved.
Like most states, California has protections built into the law for vulnerable populations that are not children. This includes the elderly and the disabled. For instance, defrauding and elder could be considered elder abuse. The punishments for elder abuse will depend on the amount of money stolen. Threats and violence also constitute elder abuse and come with similar penalties to domestic violence against partners and children.
Even when the accuser isn’t injured, a charge of domestic violence can still be applied. You cannot threaten a domestic partner, family member, or vulnerable person. There does not have to be proof that you intended to follow through on the threat, just that the threat was made. Threats can be made over the phone, in person, or online, and they are still illegal. A threat that makes someone feel unsafe could land you in jail for up to a year. Stalking can even be considered a type of threat. Following an ex-partner, for instance, is a common offense. Being convicted for stalking can come with prison time of up to four years.
If you make a threat, and then do something that makes it seem like you intended to follow through on it, then the penalty can be even more severe. For instance, if you threaten someone, and then show up at their home or place of work, you may be charged with criminal threats or trespassing. The penalty for this could be up to three years if it is charged as a felony.
The rise of social media means that it is now easier than ever to say or do things online that you may not be willing or able to say or do in person. Online revenge can take many forms, including making threats. One of the more common forms of online revenge is putting an ex-partner’s personal information or photographs online in an attempt to embarrass them or put them in danger. It is against the law in California to publish things like the email address, home address, or picture online without consent if the victim can reasonably claim that it made them fear for their safety. You also cannot post videos of photos of someone else that can be considered intimate, private, or nude.
Defending Yourself Against Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence situations are messy, complicated, and emotional. If you are charged with domestic violence, it can have an immediate impact on your life. You may be prevented through a restraining order to go home, or even to see your children. Many people who are convicted with domestic violence often face child custody issues in family court if they are divorced or currently separating from their spouses. Jobs may be at risk if a conviction of a serious or violent felony is against company policies.
That is why it is so important to take action quickly. There are several possible defenses that an experienced attorney can use to help get the charges dropped or reduced. It might be that you were defending yourself when the incident occurred or that an injury happened before or after the alleged altercation. The important thing is that you consult with a professional who can look at the merits of the case and mount your best defense to secure the best outcome possible.
If your specific case borders on being either a misdemeanor or a felony, then a good attorney can help you resolve your case with the lesser of the two through negotiating, which is something difficult for a layman to do. That way, you can avoid a criminal record that affects everything from your job prospects, custody arrangements, child support, or even credit rating.
Do not take chances if you are charged in a domestic violence situation. Call an experienced and knowledgeable domestic violence attorney right away.