Domestic violence is a destructive and pervasive problem in California and throughout the United States. It encompasses different forms of abusive behavior perpetrated against domestic partners, spouses, and children in a home. This could include emotional abuse, physical violence, sexual assault, and financial manipulation.

California has implemented strict laws to punish individuals who engage in these abusive behaviors and protect the victims of domestic violence. You could be charged under California law with domestic violence crimes, including domestic battery, spousal abuse, child abuse, and elder abuse.

Before you are convicted of one of the domestic violence crimes, the prosecution must prove all the elements of the offense. Domestic violence charges are aggressively prosecuted in California, and convicted offenders face harsh penalties. Besides incarceration and fines, you could lose your gun rights, be deported, and deal with the long-term consequences of a criminal record.

You will benefit from the competent legal guidance we offer at Monterey Criminal Attorney if you or a loved one faces domestic violence charges in Monterey, CA.

Understanding Domestic Violence in California

Under California law, domestic violence is the abuse committed against an intimate partner. This could involve physical, sexual, or mental abuse or threats. For domestic violence, an intimate partner could be any of the following individuals:

  • A former or current spouse.
  • A registered domestic partner.
  • A former or current finance.
  • A cohabitant or romantic partner.
  • Someone with whom you have a child.
  • An individual you are seriously dating.

In addition to intimate partners, abuse of your child or another family member could be considered domestic violence. California law is strict on defendants facing domestic violence charges, and a conviction can attract severe legal and collateral consequences. Common domestic violence crimes include:

Child Abuse

Under CPC 273(d), inflicting cruel punishment on a child is a crime. Under this statute, child abuse could be physical, mental, or emotional. Instances of abuse could include:

  • Slapping.
  • Punching.
  • Hitting.
  • Burning.
  • Kicking.
  • Pushing.

Before a conviction for child abuse, the prosecution must establish these facts of the offense:

  • You willfully inflicted inhuman punishment on a juvenile. Your actions are considered willful when you intentionally hurt a minor.
  • The punishment caused a traumatic condition for the child. In this case, a traumatic condition is any injury beyond minor or moderate harm.
  • You were not disciplining the child. In California, a parent or guardian can discipline their child. However, excessive force against the child could result in criminal charges.

It can be used in your underlying case if you have a criminal history of this crime or another domestic violence crime. The judge has a separate hearing to review the evidence from your past child abuse cases. Child abuse is a California wobbler. The judge can file felony or misdemeanor charges against you based on your case facts and criminal history.

The prosecution will bring misdemeanor charges against you for a first child abuse charge. A misdemeanor conviction under Penal Code 273(d) is punished by a maximum of one year in jail and fines not exceeding $1,000. You will face felony charges if you cause serious injury to the minor or are a repeat offender. A felony child abuse conviction will see you spend up to six years in prison.

Domestic Battery

Spousal or domestic battery is a serious domestic violence offense charged under California PC 243(e). You will be charged with the offense of using force or violence on an intimate or domestic partner. The elements that must be apparent to establish your liability under this statute include:

  • You willfully and offensively touched the alleged victim.
  • The victim was a current or former intimate partner.

The prosecution does not need to show that you caused an injury to another person to charge you with battery. Even the slightest offensive touching can substantiate a battery claim and result in a criminal conviction. Domestic battery is a misdemeanor in California. Following your conviction, you will spend up to a year in county jail and pay fines of up to $2,000

Corporal Injury to a Spouse

Under California PC 273.5, you can be arrested and charged with the severe crime of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant. The prosecution will prove your guilt for this crime by showing that:

  • You unlawfully and intentionally inflicted physical injury on a current or former spouse or cohabitant. The first element that needs to be clear before your PC 273.5 conviction is that your actions were deliberate.
  • The injury caused a traumatic condition.
  • You were not defending yourself. You can defend yourself if a domestic partner or spouse threatens your safety. Therefore, the prosecutor must show that your actions were not in self-defense.

Inflicting injury on a spouse attracts felony or misdemeanor charges. Your criminal record and the extent of the injuries you caused may significantly determine the nature of your charges. If you have multiple domestic violence convictions on your record, you will face felony charges.

The punishment for a felony conviction, in this case, is a prison sentence that does not exceed four years. As a misdemeanor, corporal injury to a spouse can see you spend up to a year in jail. Seeking legal guidance is critical if you or a loved one faces charges for corporal injury to a spouse.

Criminal Threats

Under CPC 422, making criminal threats involves threatening to cause severe injury or death to another person. If your acts create reasonable fear in a family member or constitute domestic violence, your PC charge will be classified as domestic violence. Before your conviction for making criminal threats, the prosecution must prove that:

  • You willfully threatened to injure or kill another person.
  • You made the threats through electronic communication, writing, or orally.
  • You intended for your statements to be communicated as a threat.
  • You intended to carry out the threats.
  • The threats made the alleged victims fear for their lives.
  • The victim's fear was reasonable.

You can be charged with making criminal threats even when you do not address the alleged victim directly. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for making criminal threats. A misdemeanor conviction will attract a maximum punishment of one year in jail.

On the other hand, a felony conviction is punishable by three years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Your sentence could be increased if you use a deadly weapon to relay your threats or threaten multiple individuals.

Child Endangerment

Under California PC 273(a), child endangerment involves placing a minor in a situation threatening their safety. You could be arrested and charged under this statute if you allow a child to suffer serious bodily harm in your hands or another person’s. A conviction under PC 273(a) requires the prosecution to prove that:

  • You inflicted unjustifiable harm on a child under eighteen years of age.
  • You allowed another person to inflict harm on the child.
  • Your actions were criminally negligent.
  • You caused unjustifiable mental or physical suffering to a child.

Under California law, criminal negligence includes acts that are more than ordinary carelessness. Your actions will be considered criminally negligent if you disregard the safety of other people.

If you are charged with felony child endangerment, the prosecuting attorney must prove to the court that you created a circumstance under which the child could suffer serious bodily injury or death. A great bodily injury is a significant physical injury that may warrant medical care. Child endangerment attracts a maximum jail sentence of six months when charged as a misdemeanor.

Additionally, you may need to pay fines that do not exceed $1,000. Felony child endangerment is punishable by a sentence ranging from 2 to 3 or 6 years. Sometimes, the court will sentence you to probation in lieu of incarceration. A probation sentence saves you from the stigma of spending time behind bars.

Child Neglect

You are responsible for providing for your child's basic needs as a parent or guardian. You can be arrested and charged with neglect for failing to provide for your child’s necessities. Under PC 270, necessities include food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. The elements that are specific to child neglect in California law include:

  • You are the parent of a minor child. Under this statute, a minor is any individual under the age of eighteen.
  • You failed to provide for the child’s needs.
  • Your failure to do so was willful. Your actions are considered child neglect when you do not have a valid reason for not providing for the child. California law presumes no valid excuse for not providing for your child. Therefore, you have the burden of proving otherwise.

A violation of Penal Code 270 is a misdemeanor. If you are found guilty of the offense, you will spend up to one year in county jail and pay fines not exceeding $2,000. You can avoid a jail sentence by serving probation.

Elder Abuse

Like children, elders are a vulnerable group in society. You could be arrested and charged with elder abuse for inflicting physical, emotional, and financial exploitation on someone over sixty-five. Elder abuse is charged under California Penal Code 368 and has the following elements:

  • You willfully subjected an elder to unjustifiable physical harm or mental suffering.
  • Your conduct endangered the life of the elderly.
  • You knew or should have known that the alleged victim was over sixty-five.

If you are charged with felony elder abuse, the prosecutor must show that you inflicted significant bodily harm on the victim to secure a conviction. Depending on the abuse you inflicted on the elder, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction is a maximum of one year in jail. As a felony, elder abuse is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Revenge Porn

California PC 647(j)(4) makes it a crime to make or distribute intimate photos or videos of another person to cause them emotional distress. Most cases of revenge porn are classified as domestic violence since defendants post material about their intimate partner as a form of revenge for a strained relationship.

You will be guilty of revenge porn if the prosecutor can prove that:

  • You had an image or video of another person engaging in sexual acts.
  • You distributed the image intentionally.
  • You and the alleged victim had agreed to keep the material private.
  • You acted with the intent to cause the victim emotional distress.

Revenge porn is charged as a misdemeanor, punished by a maximum of one year in jail and fines not exceeding $1,000.

Additional Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction in California

Besides the incarceration and fines that you face after a conviction for domestic violence, the court may impose the following additional penalties following your conviction:

  • Victim restitution. Some domestic violence instances result in serious injury to the victim. The victim may need medical attention and spend a long time in the hospital. After your domestic violence conviction, the court pays the victim for their injuries and losses incurred in treating the injuries.
  • Enrollment in a batterers program. The court orders all defendants facing a domestic violence conviction to participate in a batterers’ program. This will be one of the conditions of your probation for the offense.
  • Permanent criminal history. Even after completing your sentence and paying your fines, a domestic violence conviction leaves behind a tainted criminal record. This could impact your personal and professional lives in the future. You may need to undergo other complicated legal processes, like expungement, to avoid the collateral consequences of your conviction.
  • Loss of custody and child visitation rights. A domestic abuser will usually be prohibited from having child custody and visitation. While awarding child custody, the court will consider your criminal history. A domestic violence conviction could affect your ability to live with your child.
  • Loss of your gun rights. A domestic violence conviction will usually cause you to lose your firearm rights. After a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, you will lose your gun rights for up to ten years. The firearm ban will last a lifetime following a felony conviction.
  • Restraining orders. After your conviction, the court may issue a domestic violence restraining order against you. A restraining order prohibits you from contacting the alleged victim of your actions. If you live with the victim, you may be required to move away from the home, creating emotional distress and financial difficulties.
  • Negative immigration consequences. If you are found guilty of a domestic violence crime, Immigration and Customs Enforcement could begin deportation proceedings. Additionally, you could be rendered inadmissible in the United States, meaning you cannot reenter the country after leaving.

Defense Against Domestic Violence Charges in California

The stakes are high for defendants facing domestic violence charges. A conviction for domestic violence will not only jeopardize your freedom. Whether you face a felony or misdemeanor charge, incarceration is inevitable. Additionally, your conviction will appear on your criminal record, which is accessible to the public.

If you are arrested and charged with a domestic violence crime, you can employ these defenses to avoid a conviction:

You Did Not Engage in the Domestic Violence Act

Sometimes, abuse suffered at the hands of another person could be mistaken for domestic violence. For example, when a child fights with another child, a teacher could notice the injuries and report them as child abuse, a severe form of domestic violence in California.

With the help of a skilled lawyer, you could establish your alibi when the abuse occurred or give alternative explanations for the alleged victim's injuries.

False Allegations

Domestic violence charges in California are serious. Unfortunately, false allegations of domestic violence crimes are common. You can be falsely accused of the crime because of a strained relationship with your domestic partner or cohabitant. This could get you out of the house to support a restraining order.

Another common reason for false allegations of domestic violence is bitter custody battles. California family courts are vigilant in awarding custody. If you have a domestic violence conviction on your record, the judge will rule that your home is unsafe for a child, thus denying you custody. You can avoid false allegations by enlisting the guidance of a knowledgeable Lawyer to uncover the scheme.

Accidental Injury

In most domestic violence cases, the prosecution must prove your actions were willful. You can try to negate your domestic violence charges by arguing that the harm done to the alleged victim was accidental. When using this defense, you may have to admit to being at the scene where the victim was injured. Additionally, you must provide clear and convincing evidence that your actions against the victim were not intentional.

Self Defense

You can legally defend yourself or another person from foreseeable harm in California. You cannot be found guilty of domestic violence if you prove that your actions against the alleged victim were in self-defense. A self-defense argument will work in your case if you can prove these factors:

  • You reasonably believed you were in danger of severe physical injury or death.
  • You believed that the use of force was necessary for your protection.
  • You used force only enough to protect yourself from immediate danger and not harm another person.

You must understand that acting on a belief in future harm, no matter how great, is insufficient to cause harm to another person. When evaluating whether your belief in danger is reasonable, the jury will compare your actions with those of a reasonable person under similar circumstances.

Self-defense is a valid argument in your domestic violence case. However, the jury may be more sympathetic to a victim if they are a minor or a vulnerable person. This can create bias in their decision against you and result in a conviction.

Insufficient Evidence

The prosecution must prove all the elements of your domestic violence case beyond a reasonable doubt to prove your guilt. This is by presenting physical, circumstantial, and witness testimony. Sometimes, the prosecution will base their case solely on testimony from the alleged victim.

This may not be enough to prove that you engaged in the alleged acts. Some domestic violence crimes do not require evidence of physical injury. Therefore, the victim can lie or exaggerate the situation. Without sufficient evidence, you cannot be convicted of domestic violence.

Plea Bargain for Domestic Violence Charges

A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and defense where you plead guilty to a lesser offense. Common plea deals in domestic violence include simple trespass and disturbing the peace. The benefits of entering a plea deal include the following:

  • You can retain your right to own or possess a firearm.
  • You may be able to keep your child's custody and visitation rights.
  • You could protect your immigration rights by avoiding deportation.

Find a Competent Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me

Despite efforts to curb domestic violence, the issue has remained a significant concern in California. You will be arrested and charged with domestic violence for Inflicting injury or harm on a domestic partner, cohabitant, or child. Domestic violence is a broad category of crimes, including corporal injury to a spouse, child endangerment and abuse, and elder abuse.

The consequences of a conviction for domestic violence go beyond incarceration and fines. Your felony or misdemeanor conviction will appear on your criminal record and can impact your personal and professional lives.

Fortunately, all domestic violence arrests will not end in criminal convictions. Some cases are based on false allegations; sometimes, the prosecution may lack enough evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. With the insight of a knowledgeable defense attorney, you can build a solid defense and avoid the legal and collateral consequences of a domestic violence conviction.

At Monterey Criminal Attorney, we understand how a domestic violence conviction can impact your life. We offer the legal guidance and representation you need to obtain a favorable outcome in your case. We serve clients battling domestic violence charges in Monterey, CA. Call us at 831-574-1791 today for a case review.