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Domestic Violence Cases in California

You Need an Expert to Help You

The consequences of domestic violence cases vary tremendously in California depending upon what statute you are charged with. Some are felonies, some are misdemeanors and some can be either. You need an expert to make certain that all defenses are explored, that the charges are either dismissed, reduced or eliminated by a successful trial.

What is “Domestic Violence” in California?

There are a number of different statutes that can be broadly defined as forms of domestic violence. They include offenses against a spouse, a person with whom the defendant is cohabiting, a person who is the parent of the defendant’s child, a former spouse, fiancé or fiancée, or a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship. Some of the domestic violence statutes include:

  • Penal Code Section 273.5, corporal punishment against one of the persons listed above. It is probably the most commonly charged domestic violence charge and is what is known as a “wobbler”, i.e. it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. It carries two, three or four years in state prison as a felony or up to a year in county jail as a misdemeanor, along with fines, restitution to the victim, probation and possibly a restraining order against contact with the victim for up to 10 years. The severity of the injury determines whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. It is a “priorable offense” which means that repeated instances result in greater jail time. The district attorney must prove specific intent to harm the victim and actual injury.
  • Penal Code Section 243, battery against one of the persons listed above. It is similar to 273.5 above but does not have to create an actual injury. An illegal touching, such as pushing a spouse, is sufficient. It is a misdemeanor with up to 1 year in county jail, summary probation, enrollment in a “batterers program”, restitution and fines unless a “serious bodily injury” is inflicted on the person, which means it becomes a felony and can result in either two, three, or four years in the state prison.
  • Penal Code Section 422, criminal threats against a person or his or her immediate family. This is often charged when a defendant gets angry at a person listed above and threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as threat, even if there is no intent of actually carrying it out. It is a wobbler and is often used when someone in anger has said threatening words even when they do not mean to actually harm someone.
  • Penal Code Section 646.9, stalking and harassing another person such as one of the persons listed above. This is a misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail unless it occurs after a conviction of one of the above Penal Code Sections or is a violation of a previously enacted restraining order after which it becomes a felony punishable by two, three or four years in the state prison. There are also fines and other penalties possible.

How Can These Types of Charges Arise and What Can Happen?

Often an argument between spouses or boyfriends and girlfriends can escalate to the point where there are threats made or touching occurs. In some cases, these instances can escalate to the point where the police are called by one of the parties or perhaps a neighbor who has overheard the fight. Law enforcement, especially since the O.J. Simpson case, do not ignore these situations and feel compelled to arrest and try to have prosecuted at least one party to the argument. These arrests can be escalated quickly especially if there are any visible injuries, no matter how minor. There is essentially a zero-tolerance policy for any physical altercations or threatening between couples. If you have been involved in a domestic violence altercation, you need an experienced attorney to head off the filing of any domestic violence charges or to get them reduced or dismissed.

Because of the seriousness of these potential charges (including jail and state prison sentences, long term restraining orders, limitations on possession of guns in felony charges, as well as fines, restitution, batterer’s classes and possible impact on work and professional licenses) it is absolutely imperative that an experienced counsel, such as Kenneth H. Lewis, be contacted immediately to protect your legal rights.

Kenneth H. Lewis can help you! Call for a NO COST CONSULTATION at (213) 255-3011.

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