Prosecutors in California take domestic violence seriously, so anyone accused of carrying out such crimes will need a legal advocate. While the actions involved in domestic violence-related crimes might be a crime when carried out against anyone, including a stranger, specific laws apply when the accused and the alleged victim are involved in certain relationships.
Two state statutes, Penal Code 243(e)(1) and Penal Code 273.5, refer to domestic violence crimes. PC 243(e)(1) refers to the domestic battery, while PC 273.5 references the infliction of injury on a partner.
Victims of Domestic Violence as California PC 243(e)(1) and PC 273.5 Define
Domestic violence crimes are specific to family members and relatives that fit the state statute's definition. According to California law, an alleged victim of violence against an intimate partner must fall into one of the below categories for prosecutors to charge a suspect with domestic violence:
If the victim does not fall into the above categories, there still may be charges that will apply to the actions in which the alleged abuser engaged.
Types of Criminal Abuse of an Intimate Partner
PC 243(e)(1) outlaws the use of force or violence against a person's intimate partner. A suspect could face charges for this crime even if the alleged acts of violence left no visible signs of injury. In contrast, PC 273.5 involves cases the alleged victim suffers a physical injury due to the accused's actions. Notably, the visible injuries need not be severe for prosecutors to charge the suspect under PC 273.5 rather than PC 243(e)(1). Even minor injuries qualify for the purposes of the statute.
Consequences of Domestic Violence Charges in California
While domestic battery and infliction of injury on a partner are similar, there are essential differences in sentencing between these two offenses. Domestic battery is a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. PC 273.5 can be a felony, and the sentence for a first-time offender may include four years in prison. Felony charges are more likely in cases where the victim sustained serious injuries.
The consequences for a domestic violence conviction extend beyond prison time and fines. Some of the additional penalties are as follows:
If the convict is an immigrant, the court may order deportation and prevent that individual from entering the United States in the future.
Defenses Against Domestic Violence Charges
There are several possible ways to defend against domestic violence charges in California. Individuals facing such charges need to remember that the law presumes their innocence until proven guilty and that they have the right to obtain legal counsel. A California criminal defense lawyer is best suited to evaluate a case’s details and develop a defense strategy tailored to their client's needs.
Some possible defenses that may apply in these cases include:
Even if the accused lacks a strong factual defense, their attorney may negotiate for a less severe sentence.
How a Plea Bargain Can Help
Pleading to a lesser offense can provide the defendant a pathway for avoiding a domestic violence conviction's most severe consequences. Perhaps it will be possible to plead guilty of disturbing the peace of criminal trespass in exchange for the prosecutor dropping the more serious charges.
The advantage of taking this course of action is that the defendant may avoid deportation, the loss of their custody rights, and could retain their right to own a firearm.
There may also be an opportunity for the defendant to enter into a pretrial diversion program that will involve mental health assistance and a batterer intervention program that will allow the accused to avoid sentencing. The ability to enter that program will depend on several facts, including the specific charges, where the accused and accuser reside, and whether the accused has a criminal record.
The correct course of action will always vary depending on the facts of the case. Given the severity of a domestic violence conviction, it is vital that anyone facing an accusation contact a lawyer right away.
Other Domestic Violence-Related Charges
Domestic violence-related offenses include attacks on other members of a family as well. If the alleged victim is a child, the accused may face child abuse or child endangerment charges. Elder abuse is also illegal and may lead to significant legal consequences. Other related offenses include stalking and criminal threats.
Anyone facing domestic violence charges should take the allegations seriously. The relationships involved in these cases are often complex, and the facts may not always be clear. An attorney can help a person understand their rights and defend themselves.