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Domestic Violence Laws in California


Domestic Violence and the Law in California

The term, domestic violence, refers to threats or acts of violence between members of the same household. This includes spouses, children, boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, relatives, and roommates. California law enforcement officers take domestic violence very seriously and in most cases, when officers are called to a scene involving domestic violence, at least one person is likely to be arrested.

What Happens When a Person is Charged with Domestic Violence in the East Bay?

While there are many victims of domestic violence in the state of California, not all charges of domestic violence are based on real situations. Unfortunately, there are people arrested and charged with domestic violence who, in reality, did not commit any crime. This can happen for any number of reasons.

However, once a complaint has been filed related to a domestic violence charge, there is no opportunity for the party to drop that charge. At that point in the case, only the district attorney can make that decision.

What are the Types of Domestic Violence Charges in Alameda & Contra Costa County?

There are a variety of charges that a person could face after being arrested for domestic violence. The following is a list of common domestic violence charges in the East Bay:

  • Spousal Abuse
  • Child Abuse
  • False Imprisonment
  • Financial Abuse
  • Social Abuse
  • Threats
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Assault & Battery

What to do if You Have Been Arrested for Domestic Violence in the East Bay

When a person gets arrested for domestic violence, it is important to consult with a local and experienced attorney who can help explain the process. Domestic violence, along with other crimes, can lead to devastating results. If you are accused of domestic violence, you can be subject to restraining orders which can affect jobs and licensing. If you are not a citizen of the United States, a domestic violence accusation and conviction can result in deportation proceedings. Take a moment to contact a lawyer who has knowledge in this area of the law.

Lynn Gorelick has defended clients in the East Bay for over 30 years and understands how important your case is to you and your family. Gorelick Law Offices offers a free, initial consultation in order to meet with Ms. Gorelick and review the facts of your individual case. To schedule a consultation, call 510.785.1444 or 925.847.3006.

Domestic violence is taken very seriously in California, and crimes related to domestic violence are aggressively prosecuted. Domestic violence is unfortunately a very common occurrence across the country, and can occur in many different situations and times, but usually involves family members or those with a romantic connection.  These relationships often involve very intense and conflicting emotions that can quickly escalate into threats or violence.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence involves a minor or serious injury against a person with whom someone has a close family or intimate relationship.  The California Legislature has deemed that this type of crime warrants special treatment because of society's condemnation for crimes of violence between people who have formed a close relationship.

Violent Actions

Domestic violence can include a number of violent or abusive actions, including:

  • physical assault;

  • sexual assault;

  • threats of harm, or threats to harm someone else;

  • harassment;

  • stalking; or

  • destroying someone's property.

Who can be charged with domestic violence?

Domestic violence can occur between more than just people who live together. It includes any abuse committed against a specified category of persons who have a close relationship, or have had such a close relationship in the past, such as:

  • spouse or former spouse;

  • cohabitant or former cohabitant;

  • someone in a current or former dating relationship;

  • one has a child with, or is having a child with; or

  • fiancé or fiancée.

Arrest is Mandatory

In California, there is a mandatory arrest policy where police believe domestic violence has taken place. If an officer has probable cause to think someone has “abused” a spouse, partner, or family member, then the officer must make an arrest.  It doesn't matter if you are male or female, straight or gay, the officer will make an arrest! Even in cases where the alleged victim says they no longer wish to press charges, the authorities must still make an arrest. In some cases, this may mean both parties are arrested and charged.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A domestic violence restraining order is intended to protect someone from physical harm, abuse, or threat of harm. Someone can seek such an order if they have been abused, or threatened with abuse. These include:

  • Temporary Restraining Orders (TRO)

  • Permanent Restraining Orders (up to 3 years)

  • Emergency Protective Orders (EPO)

  • Criminal Protective Orders (“Stay-Away” Orders)

The order will detail what types of actions the restrained person is required to do, including: not contacting individuals, pay certain bills, not have a gun, and even move out of their house. Violation of the order will lead to penalties, and can add additional penalties to other crimes.

Penalties for Domestic Violence

The penalties related to a domestic violence charge may depend on the the type of abuse, and whether there was a violation of a protective order.

Battery:  Domestic battery is punishable by fines of up to $2,000, and up to one year in prison.  In some cases, probation may be granted on the condition that the defendant participates in a batterer's treatment program for at least a year. Probation may also include a mandatory payment to a battered women's shelter of up to $5,000, as well as payment for the reimbursement of the victim's counselling costs. See Penal Code section 243(e)(1).

Traumatic Injury:  Where a person inflicts domestic bodily injury resulting in a “traumatic condition,” they may be charged with a felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to four years, and a fine of up to $6,000. However, subsequent convictions for similar actions can carry enhanced penalties of up to five years in prison, and a fine up to $10,000.

See Penal Code section 273.5.

Stalking:  Stalking may result in fines of up to $1,000 and up to one year in prison. If the crime occurred in violation of a restraining order, prison time can be increased to up to four years.

See Penal Code section 646.9.

Violating a Protective Order: Violation of a domestic violence restraining order can result in penalties including fines, jail time, or additional restrictions, even where no abuse actually took place.

Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges

In some cases, because of the intense emotions involved in people with close intimate relationships, false accusations can be made including claims of violence or threats. Where false statements or allegations were made, an experienced defense attorney can identify the inconsistencies in the accuser's statements, and call witnesses to corroborate the defendant's statements.  Other possible defenses include a claim of self-defense, or the defense of another, including protecting one's children.

It is a very traumatic experience to be charged with domestic violence. Arrested and taken to jail, you will be facing severe penalties, and do not know where to turn. You may think the police arrested the wrong person, or that the whole event was just a misunderstanding that got out of control. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help to guide you through the difficult process ahead.  An experienced lawyer focused in criminal defense will be able to identify the issues facing their client, clarify the elements of the prosecution, and defend their rights in court.

Experienced East Bay Domestic Violence Defense Attorney:

If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence charges, you need an experienced East Bay defense lawyer. Lynn Gorelick has over 30 years of criminal defense experience, and understands the severe penalties involved with domestic violence charges.  She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, and keep you out of jail.  Whether you were arrested in Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Walnut Creek, Hayward, Richmond, Fremont, Dublin or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local laws, and the local officers and prosecutors involved.

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