California Domestic Violence Laws - PC 247 (e)(1), 273.5

Criminal Defense Picture

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:

  • The accused's spouse or former spouse
  • The accused's domestic partner or former domestic partner 
  • The accused current or former cohabiting romantic partner 
  • The accused fiancé or former fiancé
  • A person with whom the accused shares a child
  • A person the accused seriously dated or is seriously dating

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:

  • The court may require the accused to attend a mandatory intervention program
  • The law may bind judges to sentence a defendant to a mandatory prison term
  • The accused may file a restraining order that will limit the perpetrator's actions
  • The loss of custody of minor children
  • The court can order payment of victim restitution
  • The loss of the right to own or possess a firearm
  • A permanent criminal record

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:

  • Self-Defense: In many cases, an alleged abuser may have only used force to defend themselves because the alleged victim carried out a physical attack. If this is the case, an attorney will help the accused demonstrate the circumstance that led to the defendant's use of force.
  • Defense of Another Person: The permits people to step in to defend another person. If the alleged victim attacked another person, such as a child, and the accused used force to protect that child, this may serve as a strong defense against the charges. 
  • False Accusations: Unfortunately, many cases will involve false accusations of abuse. Sometimes a person will make such claims as an act of vengeance. Other times a false claim could be a way for the accuser to gain the upper hand in a custody or divorce case.
  • Accidental Injury: If the alleged case of abuse stemmed from an accident and not an intentional attack, the accused would want to use that information when building their defense strategy.

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.