In recent decades, states like California have taken steps to expand legal protections for survivors of domestic abuse. According to the most recent statistics, intimate partner violence affects more than 12 million people every year. Acts of domestic violence can cause severe injuries (and, in extreme cases, fatal ones) to survivors, and victims’ rights advocacy groups have brought this issue into the spotlight. However, although these legal protections do empower many survivors to get out of dangerous living situations, those accused of domestic violence can find themselves facing serious criminal charges—even if the allegations are exaggerated or unfounded. California law enforcement officers take all allegations of domestic violence seriously, so finding yourself facing criminal charges based on someone else’s words can be overwhelming and daunting. As soon as you learn that someone has accused you of domestic abuse, reach out to an experienced and knowledgeable Palmdale criminal defense lawyer to discuss the details of your case. FORMER DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY and FORMER JUDGE PRO TEM David M. Wallin has over 35 years of experience helping people just like you enforce their legal rights. As a certified criminal law specialist, David Wallin is prepared to offer you the high-quality defense services you need during this stressful time. Our office offers free consultations and flexible payment options, so call the Law Offices of David M. Wallin today to get started. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the penalties for domestic violence crimes in California and how working with a skilled criminal defense lawyer can maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.
How California Defines Domestic Violence Crimes
Many people are surprised to learn that there is not an exact criminal offense called domestic violence in the California penal code. Instead, crimes relating to acts of domestic violence are usually charged as either domestic battery (Penal Code 243(e)) or inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner (Penal Code 273.5). Both of these offenses make it unlawful to harm (or threaten to harm) a current or former spouse, cohabitant, co-parent, dating partner, or intimate partner. In some cases, causing harm to parents, children, or relatives can also constitute domestic violence.
Domestic Battery Offenses
Domestic battery is defined as inflicting force or physical violence on an intimate partner. It’s important to understand that this definition does not require the alleged victim to demonstrate visible injuries. In some cases, prosecutors must only establish that the defendant threatened the safety of the victim. Domestic battery is typically considered a misdemeanor offense, although the charge may escalate to a felony offense if the incident causes a serious injury.
Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Intimate Partner
California law makes it a criminal offense to wilfully inflict corporal injury on a spouse or intimate partner that results in a traumatic condition. For example, if the defendant punches or kicks their spouse, which results in a broken bone, bruising, or head wound, prosecutors may charge the defendant with corporal injury to a spouse. These crimes are considered “wobbler” offenses, meaning that prosecutors may choose to file the charge as a misdemeanor or felony offense.
Understanding the Penalties for Domestic Violence Convictions
Domestic battery, which is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense, is punishable by up to one year in county jail, a maximum fine of $2,000, or both. In some cases, the judge may determine that probation is a more appropriate punishment. If the judge grants probation, the defendant will need to complete a court-approved batterer’s intervention program or counseling program. The judge may also issue a protective order forbidding you from contacting, harassing, or stalking the alleged victim. Violating the terms of the protective order can result in fines or even criminal penalties, so it’s essential to understand and adhere to every aspect of the protective order.
If you are facing a felony charge involving corporal injury to a spouse or partner, the potential penalties tend to be more severe than those for misdemeanor crimes. A felony conviction carries a state prison sentence of two, three, or four years, a fine of up to $6,000, or both. However, if you are convicted of an offense, and you already have a domestic assault-related conviction on your record from the last seven years, you could face up to five years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Other Penalties For California Domestic Violence Convictions
In addition to potential imprisonment, fines, and probation, you will likely face several restrictions and limitations on your freedom. Even after you have served the terms of your sentence, you may find it difficult to find employment or housing because of your criminal record. Domestic violence convictions strip you of your gun rights, regardless of whether the conviction was for a misdemeanor or felony offense. Parents convicted of these types of crimes may lose child custody and visitation rights as well. Unfortunately, even those who are not convicted of domestic violence may suffer losses, as the allegation itself—regardless of its merit—may be strong enough to damage your reputation and relationships. As difficult and bleak as things may seem at this moment, you do not have to go through this harrowing time alone. Enlisting the support of a trusted and knowledgeable Palmdale criminal defense lawyer is the best way to defend your rights and keep your future as bright as possible.
California imposes weighty penalties on those convicted of domestic violence. If you are facing domestic violence charges in Palmdale or Lancaster, FORMER DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY and FORMER JUDGE PRO TEM David M. Wallin is prepared to uphold your rights and secure the best outcome possible. As a certified criminal law specialist with over 35 years of experience, you can trust that he has the tools and knowledge necessary to assist you. Call the Law Offices of David M. Wallin today at (661) 267-1313 to arrange a free consultation with a seasoned and trusted criminal defense attorney.