Domestic violence, it’s usually classified as a less severe misdemeanor charge, unless the situation involves certain factors such as injury, use of a deadly weapon, or if there’s a child victim involved. However, if the abuse is a repeated pattern or if a restraining order is violated, the charge can be elevated to a more serious felony offense. Each state has its own laws that determine what conditions can result in a felony charge for domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence is a serious issue that can take various forms. While there is no specific crime labeled as domestic violence, charges can arise from specific offenses committed against certain individuals. The details of how this is handled can vary by state.
In most states, the following offenses are considered potential domestic violence crimes:
- Assault: any attempt or threat to cause physical harm to someone.
- Battery: any use of force or violence against another person.
- Sexual assault: any non-consensual sexual contact.
- Criminal threats: any threats to cause harm to someone, their property, or their loved ones
- Stalking: any repeated harassment or unwanted attention that causes fear or distress.
- Trespassing: entering someone’s property without their permission.
- Child abuse: any intentional harm or mistreatment of a child, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
In most states, an offense can be classified as domestic violence if it is committed against certain people. These individuals are often defined as “household members” or those in an “intimate relationship” with the offender. Examples of potential victims may include:
- Current or former spouses or domestic partners
- Current or former fiancés
- Current or former live-in romantic partners or cohabitants
- Individuals with whom the offender has a child
- The offender’s child
- Blood relatives of the offender such as siblings or parents
Some states may also extend protections to in-laws and other extended family members such as aunts or nephews. It’s important to note that the exact definition of who is considered a potential victim of domestic violence can vary by state.
When Is Domestic Violence Counted as a Misdemeanor?
Typically, domestic violence is considered a minor criminal offense. State laws will often provide a list of situations that can raise the offense to a more serious felony charge. If those situations are not present, then the offense will be treated as a lesser misdemeanor charge for domestic violence. It’s important to understand that domestic violence is initially seen as a misdemeanor, unless specific circumstances dictate otherwise.
When Is Domestic Violence Counted as a Felony?
When it comes to domestic violence, the severity of the offense can be elevated to a felony in certain circumstances. The specific factors that would cause this to happen will vary from state to state. However, some common elements that could lead to a domestic violence case becoming a felony when:
- the victim suffered bodily harm or a corporal injury, especially if it was a severe injury,
- the victim was a child or a senior citizen,
- a child witnessed the violence,
- a weapon was used,
- there are prior instances of abuse, or a documented history of abuse,
- a prior conviction for a domestic violence offense, and
- the defendant violated a restraining or protective order to commit the violence.
In the state of California, domestic violence is not covered by one single law. Instead, there are several laws that address domestic violence in different situations. However, not all of these offenses are considered to be felonies. When it comes to domestic violence, certain offenses are classified as felonies under California law. Some examples of these felony-level offenses include:
- causing a corporal injury (Penal Code 273.5 PC),
- child abuse (Penal Code 273d PC),
- child endangerment, when the child is at risk of suffering a great bodily injury (Penal Code 273a PC),
- elder abuse (Penal Code 368 PC),
- making criminal threats (Penal Code 422 PC),
- stalking (Penal Code 646.9 PC), and
- aggravated trespass (Penal Code 601 PC).
It is possible for many of these domestic violence offenses to be charged either as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the state’s laws. In California, for example, these offenses are known as “wobblers.” The determination of whether to charge a defendant with a felony or misdemeanor depends on various factors, including the circumstances of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history. However, in states without wobblers, domestic violence offenses are charged according to the specific laws governing them.
The severity of penalties for domestic violence charges;
- jail or prison sentences,
- sentencing enhancements
can vary from state to state. When domestic violence charges are classified as misdemeanors, they can result in:
- up to one year in jail,
While felony charges can result in:
- more than one year in prison.
In California, a common type of felony-level domestic violence is when it results in a corporal injury. Convictions for this offense can lead to:
- Fines of up to $6,000
- and 2, 3, or 4 years in state prison.
These penalties may be further enhanced by additional sentences of 3, 4, or 5 years in prison if the domestic violence caused great bodily injury. Additionally, if the defendant has a prior conviction for certain domestic violence offenses in the last 7 years, they may face:
- fines of up to $10,000
- and 2, 4, or 5 years in state prison
Prior convictions that may make a defendant eligible for enhanced penalties in a domestic violence case can include:
- Corporal injury on a spouse (Penal Code 273.5 PC)
- Assault or battery resulting in a serious physical injury (Penal Code 243(d) PC)
- Assault or battery with a caustic chemical (Penal Code 244 PC)
- Assault with a stun gun (Penal Code 244.5 PC)
- Assault with a deadly weapon (Penal Code 245 PC)
- Sexual battery (Penal Code 243.4 PC)
- Battery on a spouse (Penal Code 243(e) PC)
Domestic violence charges come with extra penalties that can make them particularly troublesome for the defendant. This may include being arrested and forced to leave their home until the court hearing. Unfortunately, these consequences also create an opportunity for false accusations of domestic violence to be made by alleged victims seeking revenge or pursuing personal gains. To know more about domestic violence charges expungement, check out our detailed blog post on the topic: How To Expunge A Domestic Violence Charge in California .
Other consequences of a conviction:
In addition to the legal penalties for domestic violence convictions, there are often other consequences that can result. These may include:
- Mandatory jail time
- Strict probation terms
- Restitution payments to the victim or to a domestic violence fund for victims’ programs
- Counseling requirements
- Community service obligations
- Immigration consequences, especially if the offense was classified as a felony
- Restraining orders
- Loss of the right to bear arms, either temporarily or permanently
- Implications for child custody arrangements
- A criminal record
- A “strike” under California’s Three Strikes law
It is important to note that the exact consequences of a domestic violence conviction can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the state’s laws.
Apart from the criminal justice system, a domestic violence case can also have implications on family law matters in civil court. These may include child custody arrangements and divorce or legal separation agreements. It’s important to note that even a pending case that hasn’t resulted in a conviction can have an impact in these situations.
In addition, the victim of domestic violence may choose to file a personal injury case in civil court. This type of claim seeks financial compensation for damages such as medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Common Legal Defenses
Depending on the situation, individuals accused of domestic violence or abuse may have access to various legal defenses. To determine the most appropriate defense strategy, it is advisable to establish an attorney-client relationship with a criminal defense attorney. This will enable them to provide personalized guidance on the best course of action.
- One of the most frequently used defense strategies for those accused of domestic violence is to claim that the alleged victim is making false accusations. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people to use claims of domestic battery as a way to gain leverage or seek revenge against someone. The serious penalties that come with a conviction and the immediate consequences of the accusation make domestic violence a common tool used for these purposes.
- If the violence in a domestic violence case was accidental, it can be a strong defense strategy. Typically, violent crimes that form the basis for domestic violence charges require intentional conduct, and it is the responsibility of the district attorney and law enforcement to prove this intent. A reputable criminal defense lawyer can help fight the charges by presenting evidence that demonstrates there was no intent.
- Another defense strategy for domestic violence charges is self-defense. Oftentimes, these allegations arise from fights, and if the defendant can prove that they were defending themselves, someone else, or that they did not initiate the violence, it can be a compelling defense. There are several California Penal Codes related to domestic violence, including 273.5(a) PC, 12022.7(e) PC, and 273.5(f) PC.
Get Legal Assistance from Los Angeles Domestic Violence Attorney
If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with domestic violence, don’t hesitate to reach out to Cyrus Tabibnia, Los Angeles Domestic Violence Attorney. He has knowledge and expertise to defend you in court and fight for your rights. He begins by thoroughly reviewing the facts of your case to identify any potential weaknesses and explore the possibility of dismissal.
If dismissal isn’t an option, Cyrus will work tirelessly to negotiate the best possible plea deal on your behalf. You can trust that your future is in capable hands. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Being charged with domestic violence is a serious matter in California and can result in significant disruptions in your personal life and career. As a licensed professional, a conviction for domestic violence could also put your career at risk. Therefore, it is important to have experienced legal representation to help you navigate through these charges. A skilled attorney may be able to help you obtain an outcome that does not result in a criminal conviction, which could minimize the chances of triggering disciplinary action from the licensing board. Contact our office today for a free consultation and let us help you protect your future. 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 region.