What is Domestic Violence?

California has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the United States of America. More than 32% of the female and 27% of the male population has experienced some form of domestic violence in California. These are just the numbers that make it to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) statistics. Domestic violence has serious implications on both the victim and the instigator. 

What California Law Says about Domestic Violence

The California Penal Code makes Domestic violence illegal under sections 243 and 273.5. Domestic Violence includes stalking, abandonment, criminal threats, damaging property of the victim, or causing physical injury to the protected person. Section 273.5, which is the most common of domestic violence across the state and country, states:

“Any person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim described in subdivision (b) is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction, thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of up to six thousand dollars ($6,000), or by both that fine and imprisonment…”

Subdivision (b) describes the protected victim as:

  • A spouse or a former spouse
  • A cohabitant or a former cohabitant
  • A fiancé/ a former fiancé/ or someone the offender was previously engaged to or in a dating relationship
  • A parent to the offender’s child

When applying domestic violence charges, prosecutors will use Sections 243(e) 1) and 273.5 since their implications are relatively similar. The only difference between domestic battery and inflicting corporal injury law is that the former does not require evidence of physical injury. According to section 243, the crime of domestic violence is committed when you willfully inflict force or violence on someone you are currently or was once in an intimate relationship. It should be noted that domestic violence charges don’t only apply to intimate partners. The same law still protects children and the elderly who are under the care of the offender.

Consequences of Domestic Violence for Offenders

Like similar crimes, the penalties for domestic violence depend on each case and criminal charges. Violating section 243 (e) 1) is a misdemeanor that carries up to one year in county jail and a maximum of $2,000 in fines. For section 273.5, this could be a wobbler case. This means that the prosecution could apply either a misdemeanor or felony charges. If prosecution goes for misdemeanor charges, penalties could include a maximum of one year in county jail and $6,000 in fines. A felony conviction carries maximum sentencing of 4 years in state prison and/or fines of $6,000. A domestic violence violation perpetrated against children or the elderly is also considered wobbler cases with similar penalties. 

Other than facing possible time in jail and fines, other consequences of a domestic violence conviction may include:

  • A mandatory batterers treatment for no less than a year
  • Probation or a minimum of 30 days
  • Payments to battered women’s shelter of up to $5,000
  • Restitution to the victim such as counseling fees or any other expenses deemed reasonable by the court
  • Loss of child custody
  • Deportation
  • restraining order from the victim 

Possible defenses

To make a strong case against offenders, the prosecution has to prove that:

  • The defendant inflicted bodily injury with physical force
  • The injury resulted in a traumatic condition
  • The defendant willingly used physical force or violence
  • The victim was a current or former spouse, cohabitant, or intimate partner
  • The incident was in no way a form of self-defense

With this in mind possible defenses for domestic violence may include:

  • Self-defense – if you were acting to defend yourself or another, self-defense is a very plausible legal defense. With self-defense, the courts will also be driven to assess whether the force used was reasonable for someone in such a situation.
  • False allegations – One can also try and prove that they did not commit the crime of domestic violence. For example, the alleged victim might be trying to pin the incident on you when in reality someone else committed the act.
  • Accidental – Unless you willfully inflicted corporal injury or used physical force against someone, you are not guilty of domestic violence. Accidentally dropping something on your partner’s foot does not count as domestic violence.

Domestic violence charges can have long-term and serious repercussions like a criminal record and losing custody of your children. If you have been charged with domestic violence, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Criminal Defense Hero. 

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