Domestic disputes often begin with an argument or disagreement and quickly escalate. When the dispute becomes physical, one or multiple people involved may be committing domestic abuse. Any offensive or harmful touching, no matter how slight, may be domestic battery. However, the criminal charges are much greater if domestic abuse results in bodily injury.
Domestic Abuse in California
Under California Penal Code PC §273.5, any person who willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a domestic victim is guilty of injury domestic abuse.
Corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition includes any physical wound or bodily injury. “Traumatic condition” means a condition of the body, such as a wound, or external or internal injury.” Traumatic injuries include minor or serious injuries caused by physical force. This includes any injury caused by suffocation or strangulation that impedes normal breathing or circulation by applying pressure to the neck or throat.
Charges for domestic abuse involving corporal injury could include bruises from hitting, cuts from a thrown object, a sprain from being pushed, or bruising from being grabbed tightly by the arm.
Domestic Abuse Relationships
Under California Penal Code PC §273.5, domestic violence involves a partner, former partner, or someone one shares a child with. Individuals who may be involved in domestic abuse charges include a:
- Spouse or former spouse
- Person who is a parent of the defendant's child
- Fiancé or fiancée
- Current or former engagement or dating relationship
- Person with whom the defendant is cohabiting or former cohabitant
Cohabitants include two unrelated adults living together for a substantial period of time. Factors used in determining whether individuals are “cohabitants” for domestic abuse include:
- Sexual relations
- Sharing of income or expenses
- Joint use of the property
- Length of the relationship
Holding oneself out as domestic partners or spouses of the person with whom one is cohabiting may also be a factor in determining cohabitation, but is not necessary to constitute cohabitation.
Domestic violence cases are not limited to men hurting women. Anyone can be involved in domestic violence. Defendants facing domestic violence charges can include anyone in a domestic relationship, including men or women against a same-sex or opposite-sex partner.
Arrested for Domestic Violence Calls
In most cases, a domestic violence call will result in an arrest. It does not matter if the reported victim says they do not want their partner arrested, or if they claim no violence took place. Police officers have to make an arrest anytime they find probable cause to believe domestic abuse has occurred.
In a domestic violence arrest, it is the state of California that prosecutes the defendant, not their domestic partner. Even if the spouse says it was all a mistake and does not want to press charges, the suspected batterer can be arrested and charged. If the prosecutor finds sufficient evidence to prosecute the defendant, they will file formal charges.
Criminal Penalties for Domestic Abuse Bodily Injury
The penalties for domestic abuse involving corporal injury depend on the defendant's criminal history. Any person convicted of domestic abuse corporal injury under California Penal Code PC §273.5 faces up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000.
Any person convicted of domestic abuse corporal injury with a prior domestic violence conviction within the past 7 years shall be punished by imprisonment for up to 5 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
If probation is granted, the defendant may face a number of probationary conditions, including minimum jail time, community service and completion of a batterer's treatment program for other appropriate counseling program designated by the court. The defendant may also be required to pay the victim for counseling costs and make a payment to a battered women's shelter, up to $5,000.
After a conviction under California Penal Code PC §273.5, the sentencing court may issue a restraining order preventing contact between the defendant and the victim. This restraining order may be valid for up to 10 years. In issuing a restraining order, the court may consider a number of factors, including:
- Seriousness of the event;
- Probability of future violations; and
- Safety of the victim and the victim's immediate family.
A criminal protective order (CPO) may require the defendant to stay away from or prohibit any contact with the protected person. This may limit any communication, including phone calls, texts, emails, or messages over social media. It may also require the defendant to stay away from specific locations, including the protected person's home, family home, schools, or place of employment.
Violating a CPO is a criminal offense Under California Penal Code PC §273.6, with penalties including up to a year in jail for a first offense. A second or subsequent conviction within 7 years may be charged as a felony, with penalties including up to 3 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
In California, individuals with a CPO are also prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. With a protective order in place, they cannot purchase a gun and must give up any firearms they own to law enforcement. Possessing a firearm while under a CPO is a criminal offense, with penalties including a fine and up to a year in jail.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Many innocent people are accused of domestic violence and face criminal charges for something they didn't do. There are a number of reasons an alleged victim or their friends or family may make false accusations of violence against a current or former partner. This can happen because of a jealousy, anger over ending a relationship, allegations of cheating, child custody disputes, or simply to see the other person punished.
In some cases, an individual may be charged with domestic abuse for acting in self-defense. Self-defense or defense of another is an affirmative defense to domestic abuse charges. Self-defense generally requires the defendant to have reasonably believed they or another person was in imminent danger of injury or harm.
East Bay Domestic Violence Attorney:
Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience defending her clients facing domestic abuse and DV criminal charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success, keeping her clients out of jail and keeping a clean record. Whether you are arrested in Oakland, Richmond or anywhere else in Contra Costa County or Alameda County, contact Lynn Gorelick.