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Can You Be Arrested for Causing Emotional Abuse?

There is a difference between causing physical harm and yelling at someone. Generally, domestic violence laws in California require some physical harm or threat of harm. However, emotional abuse against a child can be a crime.

Sometimes, misunderstandings can lead to someone calling the police. The police will make an arrest if there is any evidence of abuse. Criminal charges for abuse or domestic violence can cause long-term damage. If you are arrested for domestic violence in Oakland or the East Bay, you should talk to a California defense lawyer. Contact experienced East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick for legal advice.  

Does Domestic Violence Require Physical Harm?

Under California Penal Code 273.5, domestic battery is the infliction of bodily injury resulting in a traumatic condition. A traumatic condition is an internal or external injury caused by physical force. The force does not have to be severe. Even a minor injury can be domestic battery. This includes strangulation or suffocation. 

Abuse can also include placing someone in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious injury. Threatening injury or harm can be domestic abuse, even if it doesn't cause an injury. This is similar to the criminal charge for assault. Under California Penal Code 240, assault is "an unlawful attempt, coupled with a present ability, to commit a violent injury on the person of another."

Making Criminal Threats is a Crime

Emotional abuse involving threats of physical harm could be the crime of making criminal threats. Under California Penal Code 422, it is a crime to threaten death or great bodily harm. Threatening to harm a member of their immediate family can also be a criminal threat. This includes verbal threats or threats made in writing or posted online. 

Criminal Stalking Charges for Harassment

Stalking is a criminal offense in California that can involve psychological or emotional abuse. Stalking does not require any physical injury. Under California Penal Code PC §646.9, stalking involves willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following or harassing another person. 

Stalking involves making a credible threat with the intent to place another person in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family. Even without any physical contact, it can be a crime to annoy, alarm, torment, or terrorize another person with no legitimate purpose. Online harassment or revenge porn abuse can also be a crime. 

Criminal Child Abuse Does Not Require Physical Injury

Children have additional protections under California criminal child abuse laws. Emotional abuse against a minor is a crime, including any unjustifiable mental suffering. Examples of causing mental suffering may include:

  • Threatening a child

  • Threatening to harm a family member or pet

  • Isolating a child 

  • Refusing basic care

  • Allowing a child to witness violent behavior or abuse of another 

Not All Types of Abuse Are Crimes

There can be a difference between abusive relationships and things that are considered crimes. For example, calling someone names or being controlling could be considered signs of an abusive relationship. However, that may not rise to the level of a crime. Being disrespectful may not be a sign of a healthy relationship, but it is probably not against the law. 

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, red flags for possible emotional abuse include:

  • Name-calling

  • Trying to control someone and their actions

  • Telling someone what to do and what to wear

  • Love bombing

  • Jealous of time spent with friends or family

  • Critical of appearance

  • Embarrassing someone in public

  • Accusations of cheating

  • Questioning someone's reality or gaslighting

These red flags for emotional abuse are not necessarily crimes or indications of anything illegal. 

Some calls for abuse or domestic violence are reported by friends or family of the alleged victims. This can lead to the arrest of an innocent person because of a misunderstanding. Unfortunately, many innocent people accused of domestic battery plead guilty because they think they don't have another choice. 

Defending Against False Charges for Domestic Violence

A criminal defense attorney can build a case to defend against false charges of domestic violence. Your attorney can show the accuser made inconsistent statements or admitted to exaggerating their claims. Your attorney can show the accuser has a history of false accusations. 

Some alleged abuse cases can involve self-defense or defense of others. If someone was going to hurt you or another person, you may have an affirmative defense. Self-defense and defense of others are legal defenses that can show you acted reasonably in causing a physical injury. 

Don't just hope that the truth will set you free. You should take steps to make sure you have a solid legal defense to avoid criminal penalties related to domestic violence charges. 

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help?

An experienced criminal defense attorney understands how the police and prosecutors handle domestic violence cases. Your local East Bay domestic violence defense attorney may be familiar with the police officers and prosecutors involved in your case. They can use this information to review the evidence in your case and build a strong legal defense strategy. 

If you may be facing serious felony charges, an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charges. A negotiated plea bargain can help you avoid a felony conviction and jail time. Your attorney may also be able to get the charges reduced to a lesser offense. 

For the best legal defense options in your case, talk to an experienced East Bay criminal defense attorney who has experience handling cases just like yours. Find an East Bay trial attorney who has successfully defended people accused of domestic battery and abuse. If you get arrested in Oakland or Alameda County, call attorney Lynn Gorelick at 510-785-1444 or 925-847-3006. 

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