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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGES IN CALIFORNIA - A QUICK LEGAL GUIDE

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CHARGES IN CALIFORNIA – A QUICK LEGAL GUIDE

According to the California Penal Code 13700, the term “domestic violence” refers to any form of abuse that is perpetrated against an intimate partner. Under this definition, “abuse” is considered to occur when an individual intentionally or recklessly employs physical force against their intimate partner or threatens to do so.

Common Domestic Violence Crimes in California

Domestic violence is a serious crime, and the penalties for committing domestic violence crimes can vary depending on the nature and severity of the offense. Here are some common domestic violence crimes in California:

  • Domestic battery
  • Domestic abuse
  • Corporal Injury
  • Violating a restraining or protective order
  • Criminal Threats
  • Child Neglect
  • Child Abuse
  • Child Endangerment
  • Elder abuse
  • Aggravated trespass
  • Stalking
  • Revenge Porn
  • Posting harmful information on the Internet
  • Damaging a phone line
  • False imprisonment

Some of these offenses are misdemeanors. Others are felonies. The majority of these offenses in California are classified as “wobbler” offenses. A “wobbler” offense is a crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on various factors. These factors may include:

  • The nature and severity of the offense
  • The extent of any injuries suffered by the alleged victim
  • And the defendant’s criminal history

Ultimately, the decision of whether to charge a “wobbler” offense as a misdemeanor or felony will depend on the specific circumstances of the case at hand.

The following is a brief discussion of some of the most common domestic violence offenses in California.

California Penal Code 273.5, Corporal Injury To A Spouse Or Inhabitant

Definition

Penal Code 273.5 is a law in California that prohibits the infliction of physical harm on an intimate partner, resulting in any form of physical injury, even if the injury is seemingly slight. This law criminalizes what is commonly referred to as “corporal injury” inflicted upon a domestic partner.

Example: A typical example of a PC 273.5 corporal injury to spouse case in Los Angeles County may involve a married couple who get into a heated argument over their finances. During the argument, the husband punches his wife in the face, causing her to suffer a broken nose. The wife contacts the Los Angeles Police Department and reports the incident. The responding officers observe the visible injury and arrest the husband for corporal injury to the spouse. In this scenario, the husband can be charged under PC 273.5 because he deliberately caused harm to his wife, resulting in a traumatic injury. It is essential to note that even if the wife later regrets her decision to report the incident and wants to drop the charges, she cannot do so. Once the police become involved, the decision to file domestic violence charges is in the hands of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

Elements

To convict a defendant for the crime of causing injury to a current or former spouse, cohabitant, or fellow parent that results in a traumatic condition, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant committed the act of intentionally and unlawfully inflicting physical injury upon their current or former spouse, cohabitant, or parent of their child.
  • As a direct result of the defendant’s actions, the victim suffered a traumatic condition.
  • The defendant’s actions were not done in self-defense.

Penalties

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor corporal injury on a spouse offense, the legal penalties may include:

  • Up to one year in a Los Angeles County jail
  • A fine up to $6,000
  • Misdemeanor summary probation

If you are convicted corporal injury on a spouse as a felony charge, the legal penalties may include:

  • Up to 2,3, or 4 years in a California state prison
  • A fine up to $6,000
  • Felony formal probation

Defenses

  • Self-defense: Our criminal defense attorney can argue that you used force against your partner because you had a reasonable belief that you or another person was in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm. To prove self-defense, we may present evidence of any injuries you sustained during the incident and demonstrate that you used no more force than was necessary to defend yourself.
  • False accusation: False allegations of domestic violence can occur due to jealousy, revenge, or other motives. Our lawyer may be able to prove that the accusations against you are false by gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses.
  • Accident: To be convicted of inflicting injury on a spouse, cohabitant or fellow parent, the prosecution must prove that you willfully caused the injury. Cyrus as a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer may present evidence to demonstrate that the injury was an accident and that you did not intend to harm the victim. This defense may be applicable if the injury occurred during a heated argument or if any intoxication was involved.

California Penal Code 243(e)(1), Domestic Battery

Definition

Penal Code 243(e)(1) is California’s domestic battery law, which criminalizes the use of force or violence against an intimate partner. This offense is classified as a misdemeanor, and unlike Penal Code 273.5, does not require a visible injury in order to be considered a violation of the law. It’s important to note that the mere use of force, regardless of whether or not an injury is sustained, can result in a charge of domestic battery under this law.

Example: A man and his wife have an argument over household chores, which escalates quickly. In a fit of anger, the man shoves his wife forcefully against the wall, causing her to hit her head and fall to the ground. Although the wife does not sustain any severe injuries, the husband’s actions can still be prosecuted as domestic battery under California law. The physical contact was harmful, offensive, and intended to cause physical harm to his spouse.

Elements

In order for a prosecutor to prove domestic battery, the following elements must be established:

  • The defendant intentionally and unlawfully touched the victim in a way that was harmful or offensive.
  • The victim must be the current or former spouse, cohabitant, fiancé, co-parent, or someone with whom the defendant had a previous dating relationship.
  • The term “cohabitant” refers to two people who are not related but have been living together for a significant period of time. This may include factors such as a sexual relationship, joint ownership of property, sharing of expenses, and length of the relationship.
  • The law does not discriminate between same-sex and heterosexual relationships and can be applied to both.
  • Domestic battery includes any type of harmful or offensive touching and does not require the victim to have sustained any injuries.

Penalties

Domestic battery, which is a violation of Penal Code 243(e)(1), is classified as a misdemeanor offense. The penalties for this crime can include:

  • a fine of up to $2,000
  • and/or a sentence of up to one (1) year in county jail

Please note that the exact punishment may vary depending on the circumstances of the offense and the discretion of the judge presiding over the case.

Defenses

  • False accusation: Many individuals are falsely accused of domestic battery, and police may arrest based solely on the word of the accuser. In some cases, the accuser may make false allegations to gain an advantage in a child custody case or out of anger, jealousy, or revenge.
  • Lack of willful touching: You cannot be convicted of domestic battery if you did not willfully touch the alleged victim. It may be possible to show that the touching was unintentional, and therefore not a criminal act.
  • Self-defense: It may be possible to prove that you acted in self-defense. This involves showing that you had a reasonable belief that you or someone else was in imminent danger of bodily harm, and that you used only the amount of force necessary to defend yourself.

California Penal Code 273d, Child Abuse

Definition

In California, there is a law called California Penal Code 273d PC that deals with child abuse. This law makes it illegal to physically harm a child or inflict any kind of injury on them as a form of punishment. However, spanking that is reasonable is allowed and not considered abusive. If the punishment is cruel or causes harm, then it is considered child abuse and is against.

Example: A father is frustrated with his 8-year-old son who keeps disobeying him and being disrespectful. One day, after repeated warnings, the son still disobeys and talks back, and the father decides to spank him with a paddle. The spanking causes some redness and minor bruising on the child’s buttocks, but no serious injury. In this case, the father’s actions would not be considered child abuse under California Penal Code Section 273d PC, as spanking with an object is permissible under the law as a form of physical punishment. However, if the father had excessively hit the child to the point of causing serious injury, such as passing out or causing massive bruising and swelling, then he could be prosecuted for child abuse.

Elements

To secure a conviction for child abuse, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant intentionally and cruelly inflicted physical punishment or injury on a child.
  • The punishment or injury caused a traumatic physical condition in the child. A child is defined as any person under 18 years of age, and a traumatic physical condition is any bodily injury or wound, minor or serious, caused by physical force.
  • The defendant’s actions were not reasonable discipline. This means that the punishment was not justifiable under the circumstances, and a reasonable person would not have resorted to such measures.

A punishment or injury will be considered to have caused a traumatic physical condition if:

  • The condition was a natural and probable consequence of the punishment or injury.
  • The punishment or injury was a direct and significant factor in causing the condition.
  • The condition would not have occurred without the punishment or injury.

Penalties

If someone is convicted of their first offense for child abuse, they can face punishment in California. This punishment may include:

  • up to one year of incarceration in a county jail,
  • or up to three years in a state prison

Defenses

An experienced child abuse defense attorney can assess the details of the case and potentially use one or more of the following defenses:

  • The injury was unintentional. In order to secure a child abuse conviction, prosecutors need to prove intention. If there was no intention to harm the child, the defense attorney may argue that any resulting injury was an accident.
  • The injury was not caused by abuse. Children can suffer injuries from various sources, sometimes without their parents even knowing until the injury becomes visible.
  • You were falsely accused. False accusations are not uncommon, especially in cases of revenge, jealousy, or vindictiveness by an angry spouse or the child’s other parent. Additionally, a mandated reporter on child abuse may overreact and make false accusations.
  • You were administering reasonable discipline. This defense can be particularly effective if there are no visible marks or injuries on the child.

As previously mentioned, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant acted “willfully,” meaning that accidental injuries to a child should not lead to a conviction.

California Penal Code 273a, Child Endangerment

Definition

Child endangerment falls under California Penal Code 273a and is frequently associated with domestic violence cases in Los Angeles County. Child endangerment charges can be filed against someone whenever they put a child’s safety or well-being in danger. Child endangerment charges can arise from various situations. For instance, if a parent leaves their child alone for a prolonged duration, or if they expose their child to drugs within the child’s easy access, they can face child endangerment charges. Child endangerment charges can be filed even if the act itself did not cause physical harm to the child, but merely placed the child in a hazardous situation where harm could occur. The severity of child endangerment charges in Los Angeles can range from a misdemeanor to a felony. The prosecutor has discretion in deciding whether to pursue a misdemeanor or felony charge against the defendant. In most cases, if the defendant’s behavior posed a significant threat of bodily harm to the child, the prosecution will pursue felony charges. It’s worth noting that the child doesn’t necessarily have to suffer physical injuries for child endangerment charges to be filed. If you’re currently under investigation or have been charged with child endangerment, it’s imperative that you seek legal counsel from a skilled Los Angeles child endangerment defense attorney at our law firm. They can assess the particulars of your case and provide you with guidance on your legal options.

Example: A parent or caregiver who leaves a young child alone at home for an extended period of time. This could include situations where the child is left without proper supervision or access to necessary resources like food, water, or medical attention.

Elements

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To establish that a defendant committed child endangerment, a prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant either intentionally caused, inflicted, or allowed unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering to a child who was under his or her custody.
  • The defendant created circumstances or conditions that were likely to produce great bodily harm or death to the child.
  • The defendant was criminally negligent in their actions or omissions, which led to the child’s pain or suffering.
  • The defendant’s actions were not a reasonable form of disciplining the child.

Penalties

The penalties for a conviction of violating Penal Code 273a child endangerment laws depend on the specific details of the case. If the case involved the risk of great bodily harm or death, it is considered a “wobbler” offense, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. The penalties for a misdemeanor child endangerment conviction are:

  • Up to six months in the county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Informal summary probation

If convicted of a felony child endangerment case, the penalties are:

  • Two, four, or six years in a California state prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Formal felony probation
  • A ‘strike’ under California’s three strikes law

In cases where the child was seriously harmed, a great bodily injury (GBI) enhancement may be added to the sentence. This enhancement is defined under California Penal Code 12022.7 PC and can result in:

  • An additional three to six years added to the sentence if the defendant personally inflicted a great bodily injury on the child
  • An additional and consecutive four years in state prison if the defendant was negligent and the child died as a result.

Defenses

A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer has experience using various legal defenses to help clients to drop child endangerment charges in California, including:

  • False accusations: Can help prove that the accusations made against you are false.
  • Legal discipline: Can argue that you were acting within your legal rights to discipline your child.
  • Unintentional danger: Can make the case that the child was not placed in danger intentionally and that you had no criminal intent.
  • Lack of responsibility: Can argue that you were not the person responsible for the child at the time of the alleged endangerment.
  • Custody disputes: Can help demonstrate that the allegations are being used to gain advantage in a contested child custody case.
  • Coached allegations: Can argue that one parent coached the child to provide false information.
  • Momentary lapse of attention: Our lawyer may be able to argue that every reasonable parent has a momentary lapse of attending to their child during which time they were placed in a dangerous situation, and that no crime was committed because your conduct was neither intentional nor criminally negligent.

It’s important to note that child endangerment cases are very fact-specific, and our attorney will evaluate the specific details of your case to determine the most effective defense strategy.

California Penal Code 270, Child Neglect/Failure To Provide Care

Definition

California law recognizes the importance of allowing parents to raise their children according to their beliefs, but also emphasizes the need to ensure that children’s fundamental needs are met and protected. Penal Code 270 PC outlines the offense of child neglect as the intentional failure to provide a minor with essential needs such as food, shelter, clothing, or medical attention by a parent or legal guardian. If an individual responsible for the care of a minor child is accused of such neglect, they may face criminal charges under this statute.  Penal code 270 is a “wobbler” offense; that means that it may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. To fully understand the scope of California Penal Code 270 PC, consider the following details:

The term “minor child” applies to anyone under the age of 18 years old.

This law includes unborn children within the definition of “minor child.” Consequently, a pregnant mother or father can face charges of child neglect if they do not provide primary care to the unborn fetus.

A “parent” of a minor child is defined as any individual who is legally responsible for the child’s care. This includes biological, adoptive, and foster parents, as well as anyone else who holds themselves out as a parent. Additionally, the husband of a pregnant woman can be considered a parent if he lives with her, even if the child is not his.

If a court order has stripped you of your parental rights and responsibilities, you cannot be charged with child neglect under PC 270.

However, not having legal custody or any responsibility for child support does not exempt you from facing criminal charges under PC 270.

Example: Despite actively searching for new employment and seeking aid from the state, a single mother who lost her job due to a disability is unable to provide adequate care for her children. While the state may intervene to ensure the children’s needs are met, the mother would likely not face charges of child neglect as her failure to provide was not intentional and was legally justifiable. On the other hand, a divorced man without legal custody of his children may be held criminally responsible under California Penal Code Section 270 PC if he fails to provide necessary care for his children. The fact that he is divorced and lacks legal custody does not excuse him from his parental responsibilities.

Elements

To establish criminal liability for a parent’s failure to provide for their child, the prosecutor must prove the following:

  • The defendant is the parent of a child who is a minor.
  • The defendant did not provide a necessity for the child.
  • The defendant’s failure to provide that necessity was intentional and not justifiable by law.

Penalties

Child neglect, as defined under PC 270, is typically charged as a misdemeanor, carrying penalties of:

  • up to one year in county jail
  • and fines up to $2000 for each offense.

However, PC 270 may also be charged as a felony in certain circumstances, such as when a parent denies legal paternity but is proven to be the child’s legal parent and continues to neglect the child’s basic needs. Felony child neglect can result in up to a year in county jail, followed by a year and a day in state prison, as well as a maximum fine of $2000. It should be noted that felony charges for child neglect are rare.

Defenses

If you are facing a child neglect charge, there are legal defenses that may help you avoid a conviction. Three common defenses include:

  • No willful act: A defense against a PC 270 charge is to argue that while you may have failed to provide a necessity, it was not done intentionally. For example, you may have lost your job suddenly, leaving you unable to provide for your child.
  • Lawful excuse: Failure to provide for your child is not a crime if you had a lawful excuse for the failure. For instance, if you were in a severe accident that left you unable to care for your child for a period of time.
  • Falsely accused: False accusations of neglect are common, often stemming from financial disputes or personal conflicts between co-parents. You can argue that you have been falsely blamed for neglect and provide evidence to support your defense.

California Penal Code 368, Elder Abuse

Definition

California Penal Code Section 368 defines elder abuse as any criminal act committed against someone who is 65 years old or older. This can include various types of abuse, such as physical or emotional harm inflicted upon the elderly, neglect of their basic needs, or financial exploitation.

Example: Neglecting an 80-year-old parent who is unable to care for themselves by withholding necessary food and sustenance. A caretaker who mocks and belittles an elderly patient because of their wheelchair-bound condition may be committing elder abuse. Engaging in fraudulent behavior to manipulate a 90-year-old neighbor into making them the sole beneficiary in their will is a form of elder abuse.

Elements

In order to prove felony-level elder abuse, a prosecutor must establish the following elements:

  • The defendant intentionally caused an elderly person to suffer physical or mental pain, or acted with criminal negligence in doing so.
  • The conduct occurred under circumstances that could lead to significant bodily harm or death.
  • The defendant knew or should have known that the victim was 65 years of age or older.

For misdemeanor-level elder abuse, the following elements must be established:

  • The defendant intentionally caused an elderly person to suffer physical or mental pain, or acted with criminal negligence in doing so.
  • The conduct occurred under circumstances that could endanger the life or health of the elderly person.
  • The defendant knew or should have known that the victim was 65 years of age or older.

To prove fraud or another financial crime against an elderly person, the prosecutor must establish the following elements:/span>

  • The defendant committed a financial crime, such as theft, fraud, or embezzlement.
  • The property stolen belonged to a person who is 65 or older.
  • The defendant was the caretaker for this person or knew or had reason to know that the victim was elderly.

Penalties

The Los Angeles County prosecutor can choose to file an elder abuse case as either a misdemeanor or felony crime, depending on the nature of the abuse and the defendant’s criminal history. This is commonly referred to as a “wobbler” offense.

If convicted of a misdemeanor elder abuse offense, the defendant may face penalties including:

  • up to one year in a Los Angeles County jail
  • a fine of up to $6,000, restitution, counseling, and informal probation.

However, if convicted of a felony elder abuse offense, the defendant may face penalties such as:

  • up to four years in a California state prison,
  • a fine of up to $10,000, counseling, restitution, and formal probation.

If the victim suffers great bodily injury, the legal penalties will be even more severe, and the defendant could potentially receive a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law.

Defenses

Legal defenses that a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer may use to fight elder abuse charges include:

  • False accusation – In some cases, elderly abuse charges are made against innocent individuals due to false accusations by the alleged victim. Our criminal defense attorney can investigate and gather evidence to prove that the accusations are untrue.
  • Accident – The law requires that unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering be willfully caused to an elderly victim for an elder abuse conviction. Our defense lawyer can argue that any injury was accidental and not intended to harm the victim.
  • Lack of evidence – The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was responsible for the elder abuse. Our elder abuse criminal defense lawyer can present evidence that the signs of abuse are consistent with an illness or the victim’s age, or that the accusations lack factual basis.
  • Self-defense – In some cases, an elderly person may become physically aggressive, putting the accused at risk of harm. Our criminal defense attorney may be able to prove that the accused acted in self-defense or defense of another individual, using no more force than necessary to avoid harm.

California Penal Code 422, Criminal Threats

Definition

The crime of criminal threats is outlined in PC 422, which states that a person is guilty if they willfully threaten to commit a crime that can result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent for the statement to be perceived as a threat. It is not necessary for the individual to have the intention to carry out the threat, but the statement must be immediate and specific to the person threatened, and there must be an imminent prospect of execution of the threat. If the victim is put in reasonable fear of their safety or that of their immediate family, then the individual making the threat may be charged under PC 422. Such a threat can be made verbally, in writing, or through electronic communication such as text messages or emails.

Example 1: Neglecting an 80-year-old parent who is unable to care for themselves by withholding necessary food and sustenance. A caretaker who mocks and belittles an elderly patient because of their wheelchair-bound condition may be committing elder abuse. Engaging in fraudulent behavior to manipulate a 90-year-old neighbor into making them the sole beneficiary in their will is a form of elder abuse.

Example 2: A man and a woman are in a romantic relationship, but things have been going downhill lately. During an argument, the man tells the woman that if she ever leaves him, he will find her and kill her. The woman takes the threat seriously and reports it to the police. The man could be charged with making a criminal threat under California Penal Code 422(a)

Example 3: Two rival gang members are on opposite sides of a street when one of them pulls out a gun and points it at the other, saying “I’m gonna kill you, fool!” The other gang member is terrified and runs away, but reports the incident to the police. The first gang member could be charged with making a criminal threat under California Penal Code 422(a)

Example 4: An employee is upset with his boss for not giving him a raise, and decides to send his boss an email saying, “If I don’t get a raise by the end of the week, I’ll come to work with a gun and shoot everyone in sight.” The boss takes the threat seriously and reports it to the police. The employee could be charged with making a criminal threat under California Penal Code 422(a).

Elements

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In order to establish that someone has committed the crime of making criminal threats, a prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant intentionally made a threat to unlawfully kill or unlawfully cause great bodily injury to another person, whether the threat was communicated orally, in writing, or through electronic communication.
  • The defendant intended for the statement to be understood as a threat.
  • The threat was so clear, immediate, unconditional, and specific that it conveyed to the other person a serious intention and an immediate prospect that the threat would be carried out.
  • The threat actually caused sustained fear in the other person for their own safety or the safety of their immediate family.
  • The fear experienced by the other person was reasonable under the circumstances.

It is not necessary for the person making the threat to have any actual intent to carry out the threatened act, or to have the ability to carry it out immediately. It is also not necessary for anyone else to carry out the threat on their behalf.

Penalties

California Penal Code 422 PC is a “wobbler” offense, which means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The potential penalties for each are as follows:

Misdemeanor conviction:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Summary probation

Felony conviction:

  • 16 months, two years, or three years in state prison
  • Formal probation

If you used a deadly or dangerous weapon to communicate a criminal threat, you could face an additional year in prison.

A felony conviction for PC 422 is considered a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law, which can result in a significantly longer prison sentence for second and subsequent convictions if the defendant has a prior strike on their record. A third strike could result in a life sentence in prison.

Defenses

In order to build a defense against a PC 422 charge, the focus will be on attacking the elements of the offense and creating reasonable doubt. Here are some potential defenses:

  • Lack of fear. Under a PC 422 prosecution, the subjective beliefs of the victim are crucial. It may be possible to argue that the victim was not actually placed in fear, or that any fear was not sustained.
  • No threat of great bodily injury or death. Even if a threat was made, a lawyer may be able to argue that it did not involve the possibility of great bodily injury or death, which are required elements of the offense.
  • False accusation. It could be argued that the accused was falsely accused and arrested. Perhaps the alleged victim had an ulterior motive, such as anger or jealousy, and was attempting to deflect attention away from their own involvement in a crime.

California Penal Code 646.9, Stalking

Definition

Under California law, a person who engages in a repeated course of conduct that harasses or follows another person, including unwanted messages or other communication, may be held criminally liable for stalking. This offense is defined in Penal Code Section 646.9 PC and carries significant penalties for those found guilty.

Example 1: A man and a woman break up after a long-term relationship. The woman moves on, but the man can’t seem to let go. He starts showing up at places where she is, calling and texting her constantly, and even following her home from work. The woman is frightened and reports the behavior to the police. The man could be charged with stalking under California Penal Code 646.9.

Elements

To secure a conviction for stalking, a prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant willfully and maliciously harassed or repeatedly followed another person, or both.
  • The defendant made a credible threat with the intent to cause the victim to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.
  • If the alleged stalking took place in violation of a court order, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant knew about the order and that it was legally in effect at the time of the offense.

Penalties

The penalties for a conviction of PC 646.9 stalking can vary depending on the circumstances of the case.

For misdemeanor stalking, the penalties can include:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Summary probation

For felony stalking, the penalties can include:

  • Up to five years in state prison
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Formal probation

If certain aggravating factors are present, such as prior convictions, the prosecution may charge the offense as a felony.

If the defendant was under a restraining order at the time of the stalking offense, the penalties may be increased.

Defenses

California Penal Code Section 646.9(a). Some of the possible defenses are:

  • Lack of intent: Stalking requires the defendant to have acted with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm the victim. If the defendant can show that he or she did not have the intent to do so, then the stalking charge may not stand.
  • No credible threat: The prosecution must prove that the defendant made a credible threat against the victim. If the defendant can show that he or she did not make a credible threat, or that the threat was not intended to place the victim in reasonable fear for his or her safety, then the stalking charge may not stand.
  • False accusations: The defendant may argue that he or she has been falsely accused of stalking. This defense may involve presenting evidence that the victim fabricated the allegations, or that there is insufficient evidence to support the charges.
  • Lack of evidence: As with any criminal charge, the prosecution bears the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution cannot meet this burden of proof, the stalking charge may not stand
  • Constitutional rights violations: In some cases, the defendant may be able to challenge the legality of the police investigation or arrest, on the grounds that his or her constitutional rights were violated. This defense may involve challenging the admissibility of evidence or arguing that the defendant was subjected to an unlawful search or seizure.

California Penal Code 591, Damaging A Telephone Line

Definition

California Penal Code Section 591 criminalizes the malicious destruction of telephone or electrical lines, which can significantly impact people’s ability to stay connected and access emergency response services. The offense carries severe consequences, including lengthy sentences for those found guilty. In some cases, this offense may be linked to domestic violence, but it can also be committed by individuals seeking to unlawfully obtain electricity. It is important to recognize that a person can be charged with Penal Code 591 regardless of their relationship with the victim. However, in many cases, intentionally damaging a phone line is directly linked to an act of domestic violence against a spouse, family member, or cohabitant. The purpose of damaging the phone line in such cases is often to prevent the victim from calling for help, making it a particularly serious offense.

Example: A person is upset with their neighbor and decides to cut their telephone line with a pair of scissors. The neighbor is unable to make or receive phone calls and reports the incident to the police. The person who cut the telephone line could be charged with damaging a telephone line under California Penal Code 591.

Elements

In order to secure a conviction for California Penal Code Section 591, a prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant unlawfully removed, obstructed, damaged, or took down a telephone, electrical or cable television line or mechanical equipment connected to such lines.
  • The defendant unlawfully severed a telephone, electrical or cable television line, or made an unauthorized connection with a line used to transmit electricity or mechanical equipment connected to the line.
  • The defendant acted with malice, which means that they intended to annoy or injure someone, or intentionally performed an unlawful act.

It’s important to note that the relationship between the defendant and the victim is not relevant to establishing guilt for this offense.

Penalties

The decision to file charges for a Penal Code 591 offense is usually based on the case’s circumstances and the defendant’s prior criminal history.

A conviction for a misdemeanor Penal Code 591 offense can result in:

  • Up to one year of imprisonment in a county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Summary probation

A conviction for a felony Penal Code 591 offense can result in:

  • Two or three years of imprisonment in a county jail under AB 109 Realignment in California
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Formal probation

If the victim is considered a part of a domestic violence incident, such as a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or a family member, the defendant’s criminal exposure may include sentencing requirements under California Penal Code 1203.097.

If sentenced to probation, the defendant may be required to:

  • Serve a probation period of three years
  • Follow a protective order prohibiting contact with the victim
  • Complete a 52-week domestic violence batterers’ program
  • Pay a $500 fine
  • Perform community service hours as ordered by the judge.

Defenses

If you have been arrested and charged with violating California Penal Code 591 by damaging a phone line, our criminal defense attorney will carefully review the facts of your case to create a defense strategy.

One possible defense an attorney may pursue is an accident defense. This involves arguing that the damage to the phone line was not intentional, and therefore you did not have the necessary intent to commit the offense. If criminal defense lawyer can raise enough doubt about your intent to cause harm, it could potentially lead to a dismissal of the charges or a not guilty verdict.

Another option could be to negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges, depending on the specific circumstances of your case. However, it is important to note that every PC 591 case is unique, and a thorough examination of the evidence is necessary to determine the most appropriate defense strategy.

California Penal Code 601, Aggravated Trespass

Definition

Penal Code 422 in California outlines that making a credible threat to harm another person can result in criminal charges. However, if you make such a threat and subsequently enter another person’s residence or place of work to act on that threat, you can face an additional charge under Penal Code 601 for aggravated trespass. The severity of the consequences depends on the specifics of the situation, but a conviction could result in a prison sentence of up to three years.

Example: In a scenario where two men engaged in a heated verbal argument, the first man made a threat to physically harm the other man over past insulting comments. After the argument, the second man expressed his desire to never see the first man again. Two weeks later, the first man found himself near the second man’s residence while returning from a bar. He proceeded to enter the other man’s property without invitation, intending to follow through on his earlier threat to physically attack him. This action could result in a charge of aggravated trespass as he entered the property with the intention of carrying out a credible threat. However, in a separate instance occurring two weeks after the argument, the first man felt remorseful for his actions and wished to apologize to the other man. Knowing the other man’s place of employment, the first man went to his office during business hours to offer an apology. In this situation, the first man could not be prosecuted for aggravated trespass under California Penal Code Section 601 PC because his intent was to apologize, rather than to carry out his earlier threat.

Elements

See also  CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE 368 PC - ELDER ABUSE LAWS

To secure a conviction for aggravated trespass, the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • The defendant made a credible threat that would result in severe bodily harm to another person.
  • The defendant made this threat with the intention of causing the victim to fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.
  • Within 30 days of making the threat, the defendant unlawfully entered the victim’s residence without lawful reason or with the intention of carrying out the threat. Alternatively, the defendant knowingly entered the victim’s workplace without lawful reason, and with the intention of locating the victim and carrying out the threat.

Penalties

In California, aggravated trespass is classified as a “wobbler” offense, which means that prosecutors have the discretion to charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case.

If convicted of misdemeanor aggravated trespass, you could be:

  • sentenced to a maximum of one year in county jail
  • and you may also be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000.

In the case of felony aggravated trespass:

  • the maximum sentence is three years in county jail
  • and a fine of up to $10,000 may also be imposed.

In both misdemeanor and felony cases, the judge has the authority to order summary probation instead of jail time for misdemeanors, or formal probation for felonies.

Defenses

If you are facing accusations of aggravated trespass, a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can assist you in building a robust defense. Your legal representative will evaluate the details of your case and work to defend you by establishing the following:

  • You did not make a credible threat: According to PC 601, charges of aggravated trespass should only be applied if you have made a credible threat of causing severe bodily harm to someone. If the threat you made was not credible, you should not be convicted under PC 601, even if you later entered the individual’s home or place of business.
  • You did not have the intention to harm anyone: Sometimes, people make jokes that may be misconstrued as threats. If you made a threat without any intent of causing harm to another person, you may be able to avoid a conviction for aggravated trespass.
  • You did not intentionally enter the individual’s workplace: It can be challenging to keep track of where someone works. If you issued a threat against someone and subsequently entered their workplace without realizing they worked there, you could potentially defend yourself against PC 601 charges.

California Penal Code 647(j)(4), Revenge Porn

Definition

The act of spreading sexually explicit images or videos of another person without their consent, commonly known as revenge porn, is classified as non-consensual pornography. This behavior involves using fear and intimidation to distribute such material and is illegal. Perpetrators of revenge porn can face jail time as a consequence of their actions. Under California Penal Code §647(j)(4)(A), it is illegal to intentionally distribute any image depicting the following:

Example: John and Jane were in a romantic relationship, during which they exchanged intimate photos with each other. After they broke up, John became angry with Jane and shared her intimate photos on social media without her consent, along with derogatory comments. John would be charged for revenge porn for sharing Jane’s intimate photos on social media without her consent.

Elements

California Penal Code §647(j)(4) applies when the following circumstances are present:

  • There was an agreement or understanding between the victim and the defendant that the images or videos would remain private;
  • The defendant knew or should have known that publishing the material would cause the victim severe emotional distress;
  • The victim is experiencing distress as a result of the published images or videos;
  • It does not matter if the person depicted in the images is above the age of consent or if the alleged victim had previously given permission for the defendant to possess those images.

Penalties

Revenge porn is classified as a misdemeanor offense in California, and if convicted, the defendant may face several penalties, including:

  • A criminal record that could negatively impact their future opportunities and quality of life.
  • Incarceration for up to six months.
  • A fine of up to $1,000.
  • Summary probation.
  • Collateral consequences that may affect their personal and professional life.

For a second offense, the penalties may include incarceration for up to one year. If the victim was a minor, the defendant may face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

It’s worth noting that a criminal record can have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences beyond incarceration and fines, including social barriers that may impact an individual’s quality of life.

Defenses

If you’re accused of revenge porn, there are several defenses that a criminal defense attorney may argue to challenge the charges. For instance:

  • Lack of visibility: If the victim is not identifiable through the material, we may argue that there’s no certainty that the person in the material is the alleged victim, and others would not be able to recognize them either.
  • Accidental distribution: The images or videos were mistakenly sent to another person without intent to harm the alleged victim, or someone else accessed the material and distributed it without the defendant’s knowledge.
  • Lack of emotional distress: Emotional distress is a necessary component of PC 647(j)(4). We may uncover evidence proving that the alleged victim is not suffering from the incident despite their claims.
  • Consent: We may argue that the alleged victim of revenge porn gave consent to distribute the intimate images.

California Penal Code 653.2, Cyberstalking

Definition

California Penal Code 646.9, also known as cyberstalking law, prohibits harassing or stalking another person online or through electronic communication. Cyberstalking involves the use of electronic communication or the internet to stalk, threaten, harass, or intimidate another person. It is considered a serious offense in California and carries criminal penalties, including imprisonment and fines.

Example: Rachel and Tim were in a dispute over a business matter, and Tim began to send Rachel threatening messages via email and social media. He would often make disparaging comments about Rachel’s character and threatened to ruin her reputation if she did not comply with his demands. This behavior would also be considered cyberstalking under California law.

Elements

The elements of cyberstalking under California Penal Code 646.9 are:

  • The defendant willfully and maliciously harassed or threatened another person;
  • The harassment or threat was made electronically, via phone, or other device or means of communication;
  • The defendant made the harassment or threat with the intent to place the victim in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family; and
  • The victim actually experienced fear as a result of the harassment or threat.

All of these elements must be present for a conviction under Penal Code 646.9.

Penalties

The penalties for cyberstalking under Penal Code 646.9 in California depend on the circumstances of the case. Cyberstalking is a “wobbler” offense, which means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

If charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties for cyberstalking may include:

  • Up to one year in county jail;
  • A fine of up to $1,000;
  • Summary probation;
  • Counseling or other court-ordered treatment.

If charged as a felony, the penalties for cyberstalking may include:

  • Up to five years in state prison;
  • A fine of up to $1,000;
  • Formal probation;
  • Counseling or other court-ordered treatment.

In addition to these penalties, a conviction for cyberstalking can have long-term consequences such as a criminal record, difficulty finding employment, and damage to personal relationships.

Defenses

One possible defense against a charge of cyberstalking under PC 646.9 is that you did not share any personal information without the victim’s consent. If you had permission to make the online post, you could avoid a conviction.

Another possible defense is that you did not intend to incite harassment. To be convicted under PC 646.9, it must be shown that you had the specific intent to harass or annoy the victim. If you can demonstrate that you had no such intent, you may be able to avoid a conviction.

Additional consequences of a California domestic violence conviction

  • Mandatory minimum jail time: Many California counties require a minimum jail sentence of 30 days, even for a first-time offender with a misdemeanor charge.
  • Payment of victim restitution and domestic violence fund: The defendant may be required to pay restitution to the victim, which may include medical bills, counseling fees, lost wages, or property damage. Additionally, they must pay $500 to fund domestic violence programs in California.
  • Participation in a “batterers’ program“: The defendant must attend a year-long treatment and counseling program, even if they receive probation in lieu of jail time.
  • Permanent criminal record: A domestic violence conviction will remain on the defendant’s criminal record and can negatively affect their employment opportunities, housing, state licensing, and other benefits.
  • Loss of custody rights: Domestic abusers may lose their right to have custody of their minor children and only receive visitation rights.
  • Loss of gun rights: A domestic violence conviction usually results in a loss of the right to own or possess a firearm. Misdemeanor convictions carry a ten-year firearms ban, and a conviction for violating California Penal Code 273.5 PC results in a lifetime loss of gun rights. Felony convictions result in a lifetime firearms ban.
  • Restraining orders: The victim of domestic violence can apply for an emergency restraining order. No physical harm is necessary to obtain a protective order, and a violation of the order can result in criminal charges.
  • Immigration consequences: Many domestic violence convictions count as an “aggravated felony” or a “crime involving moral turpitude” under U.S. immigration law, which can lead to removal from the United States or ineligibility to apply for a green card or adjust status.

To know more about domestic violence charges expungement, check out our detailed blog: Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Expunged in California?

How Can A Los Angeles Domestic Violence Lawyer Help?

  • Provide legal advice: A domestic violence lawyer can provide legal advice on the charges, potential penalties, and defense strategies.
  • Build a strong defense: A lawyer can build a strong defense strategy by investigating the case, reviewing the evidence, interviewing witnesses, and challenging the prosecution’s case.
  • Negotiate a plea bargain: In some cases, a lawyer can negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor to reduce the charges or penalties.
  • Represent the defendant in court: A lawyer can represent the defendant in court and argue on their behalf, cross-examine witnesses, and present evidence.
  • Help with restraining orders: If a restraining order has been issued, a lawyer can help the defendant understand the terms and restrictions of the order and can help fight against it in court.
  • Protect the defendant’s rights: A domestic violence lawyer can protect the defendant’s rights throughout the legal process and ensure that their rights are not violated.
  • Assist with immigration consequences: If the defendant is not a U.S. citizen, a domestic violence lawyer can help them understand the potential immigration consequences of a conviction and work to minimize those consequences.

Overall, a Los Angeles domestic violence lawyer can provide invaluable assistance to someone facing domestic violence charges, ensuring that their rights are protected, and helping them achieve the best possible outcome in their case. If you’ve been charged with domestic violence in Los Angeles, Van Nuys, Beverly Hills, Orange county, Ventura County, Riverside, San Fernando, Burbank, Santa Monica or Orange County, it’s crucial to hire a criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience dealing with domestic violence cases. Tabibnia Law Firm offers legal services to individuals who have been detained or arrested for domestic violence in the Southern California area. Cyrus Tabibnia, the lead attorney, has a thorough understanding of the seriousness of these charges and how to defend his clients while avoiding jail time. He has a wealth of knowledge about the law and the legal system, and he has developed strong relationships with law enforcement and officials throughout the California region.

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia

Cyrus Tabibnia, also known as Shahrooz Tabibnia, is a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, California. With a law degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, he has been practicing law since 2005 and holds license #237348. With over 18 years of experience, Cyrus specializes in various misdemeanor and felony criminal Law including Domestic Violence, Theft Crime, Sex crime, DUI & DWI, Personal Injury, Employment Law, and Cannabis & Marijuana Drugs Law. Being bilingual in English, Persian, and Spanish enables him to effectively communicate with a diverse range of clients. From 2014 to 2018, he served as a board member of the Iranian American Bar Association. An expungement attorney in Los Angeles who can assist you in clearing your criminal record in the state of California.

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