Domestic violence situations can arise suddenly and escalate quickly and, before you know it, the police knock on the door and you’re taken away for questioning.
Often, a charge of domestic violence is the first experience that the defendant has of the criminal justice system in California — and it can be very intimidating. Not only are your personal relationships at stake but the charge can have knock-on effects on your freedom, employment, child custody, and so on.
Many domestic violence charges end up being dropped or dismissed but not without significant anguish and stress for those involved.
The likelihood of successfully fighting a charge increases by working with an attorney who has experience in such cases.
Encino domestic violence lawyer, Ruzanna Poghosyan of RP Defense Law, will help you navigate the justice system, seek the best possible outcome, and limit the impact of unfortunate domestic events on your future,
Defining domestic violence in California
Domestic violence is outlined in Section 13700 of the California Penal Code. It occurs when a person emotionally or physically abuses or threatens to abuse an alleged victim with whom he/she is in a special relationship.
More specifically, abuse is defined as:
“intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent, serious bodily injury to himself or herself, or another.”
Domestic violence usually relates to the following individuals:
- A spouse or former spouse
- A fiancé
- A cohabitant or former cohabitant
- A person who shares a child with the accused
- A person who has or has had a dating relationship with the accused
So, domestic violence cases are not limited to family members as they can be brought against dating partners and roommates — and can be perpetrated against adults or minors.
How to identify domestic abuse in California?
If you are accused of any of the types of behavior by any of the people mentioned above, you could face a domestic abuse charge:
- Physical assault
- Sexual assault
- Verbal abuse
Domestic battery vs. corporal injury
Under California law, multiple types of domestic violence charges can be brought against an individual. The two main types of charge are:
- Domestic battery
- Corporal injury
While both offences are serious criminal charges, corporal injury is considered the more serious of the two.
- No bodily harm to the victim is necessary for the prosecution to secure a conviction.
- Willful touching of a partner that is offensive or harmful is enough to charge someone.
- The offense is usually charged as a misdemeanor in California.
- The maximum sentence is one year in a Los Angeles County Jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
A couple that is engaged to be married becomes involved in a heated argument. The bride-to-be tries to leave the house but the groom-to-be forcibly restrains her by grabbing her arm and not letting go. This could be enough to constitute “offensive or harmful touching” and a charge of domestic battery could be filed if the bride-to-be calls the police to report the incident.
The crime of corporal injury is outlined in California Penal Code Section 273.5, with the following provisions:
- Proof of bodily harm to the victim is required for the prosecution to secure a conviction (rather than just contact).
- The injury must be “willfully inflicted” and be considered a “traumatic injury” to the victim.
- Only spouses, former spouses, and those who have been in an intimate, personal relationship with the offender qualify as potential victims for this charge to be filed.
- The offense is considered a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
- The nature of the charge will depend on the circumstances of the case and the offender’s criminal history.
- A misdemeanor offense can result in a maximum sentence of one year in a county jail and a fine of up to $6,000.
- A felony conviction can result in a term of four years in a California State Prison and a fine of up to $6,000.
What other charges relate to domestic violence?
Other domestic violence-related charges exist in California besides domestic battery and corporal injury.
Domestic violence cases may lead to the following charges:
- Stalking (see California Penal Code 646.9)
- Criminal threats (see California Penal Code 422)
- Damage to a telephone or cable line (see California Penal Code 591)
- Dissuading a witness from reporting a crime (see Penal Code 136.1)
- Restraining order violations (see Penal Code 273.6)
- Aggravated trespass (see California Penal Code 601)
- Elder abuse (see California Penal Code 368)
- Battery (see California Penal Code 242)
- Assault (see California Penal Code 240)
- Child abuse and child endangerment (see California Penal Code 273(a))
Defenses to domestic violence in California
To successfully defend domestic violence charges, you need a robust defense from an experienced domestic violence lawyer.
Your lawyer will generally apply one of the following common defenses:
- Self-defense: the defendant only used force because the alleged victim posed a legitimate threat to his/her personal safety.
- The alleged violence was accidental: domestic arguments can easily escalate and, in the heat of the argument, accidental contact was made and unintentional injuries were caused.
- Problems with evidence/witness testimony: if the alleged victim or key witness is shown to have ulterior motives for claiming that domestic violence occurred, this can be a legitimate defense and derail the prosecution’s case. A good example might be a mother who is claiming domestic violence to advance her case for child custody.
Contact an experienced domestic violence attorney
If you or a loved one has been charged with or arrested for any domestic violence offense, it’s important to go through the particulars of your case with Encino domestic violence lawyer, Ruzanna Poghosyan, as soon as possible.
She and the team at RP Defense Law will plan a defense strategy and prepare a case that provides the best chance of a positive outcome.
If case dismissal is not possible, we can attempt to negotiate the best possible plea deal with the prosecution for you and limit the consequences for the future.
Schedule a consultation in Encino, CA or Ontario, CA today.