Domestic violence charges in California have some of the harshest social consequences. When someone is accused of domestic violence, the community is not interested in waiting until the defendant has their day in court. The alleged abuse can already be convicted in the court of public opinion before any of the facts come out.
A new California law will give judges more authority to make stricter protection orders for victims of domestic battery. Anyone convicted of domestic violence may be further restricted in where they can go, who they can talk to, and what they can own.
If you are accused of domestic violence in California, don't just assume the truth will set you free. You need to be proactive in addressing any criminal accusations. A conviction for domestic violence can hurt your reputation, cost you thousands of dollars, and leave you with a permanent criminal record. If you are arrested for domestic battery in Oakland or the East Bay, talk to an experienced California criminal defense attorney for legal advice.
New Restraining Order Law in California
On June 29, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill AB467, titled Domestic violence: restraining orders. The bill was sponsored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D - Encino). According to the language of the bill, the updated law would clarify that a protective order may be modified by the sentencing court in the county where it was issued, for the duration of the order.
Under existing law, the court can issue a protective order (PO) restraining a defendant from any contact with the victim if the defendant has been convicted of a crime of domestic violence for up to 10 years. Orders should be based upon the seriousness of the facts before the court, the probability of future violations, and the safety of a victim and the victim's immediate family.
Judges Can Make Changes to the Protective Orders
According to Assemblymember Gabriel, “This legislation will clarify a judge's authority over these orders, and extend the amount of time a court can modify the orders to ensure that we are providing ample protection to victims of domestic abuse.”
Sponsors of the bill wanted judges to have more authority to be able to make changes to the terms of a restraining order, over the 10-year lifetime of the POs. They claimed victims may need more protections over time and others would need fewer protections.
The new law gives judges the ability to modify their own orders as the needs of the alleged victims change over time. This includes modifying a peaceful contact order (PCO) to a no-contact order (NCO), or vice versa. The judges can modify the terms of the order and keep the order in place even after the defendant is no longer serving a sentence or on probation.
When a defendant is charged with a crime involving domestic violence, the court shall consider issuing a protective order on its own motion. To get a protective order, the court has to have a good cause belief that harm to, or intimidation or dissuasion of a victim has occurred or is reasonably likely to occur.
What Are the Restrictions of a Restraining Order?
Depending on the underlying criminal charge, judges have a lot of discretion in how they can limit the actions of the subject of a protective order. Conditions of a protection order can include:
- No contact with the victim
- No contact with the victim's immediate family members
- No contact with the victim's co-workers
- Keep away from the victim's home, place of business, or family members
- No electronic contact (social media, texting, email, etc.)
- The defendant shall not own, possess, purchase, receive, or attempt to purchase or receive a firearm
- Relinquish any firearms
- Electronic monitoring
- Supervised visitation with children
- Restriction from contact with any witnesses of the crime
A first-offense violation of a restraining order under California Penal Code PC §273.6 is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. If the violation resulted in physical injury, the penalties include a fine of up to $2,000 and up to a year in jail, with a minimum sentence of 30 days. A second violation of a protective order within the prior 7 years resulting in injury carries a minimum sentence of 6 months in jail.
What Are the Penalties for Domestic Battery in California?
The penalties for domestic violence depend on the circumstances, severity of the injury, prior criminal history, and other factors. Under Penal Code section 243(e)(1), domestic battery is punishable by fines of up to $2,000, and up to one year in prison.
Some defendants may be able to get probation instead of jail time, on the condition that the defendant participates in a batterer's treatment program for at least a year. Other penalties include payment to a battered women's shelter of up to $5,000 and restitution of the victim's counseling costs.
If domestic battery resulted in a traumatic injury, the crime is a felony, punishable by up to 4 years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000. A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
How Can a Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer Help?
Just because you were arrested for domestic battery does not mean you are guilty of a crime. Even if you feel guilty, you have the right to a legal defense and should not have to pay such a heavy price when you did nothing wrong. Don't let the prejudices of the judicial system punish you before you have your day in court.
There are legal defenses to accusations of domestic violence, including false testimony, self-defense, and defense of others. If you were arrested on charges of domestic violence in California, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your legal rights.
Lynn Gorelick has more than 40 years of East Bay criminal defense experience and understands how much is at stake for people accused of domestic violence. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success in avoiding a criminal conviction. If you are facing DV charges anywhere in Oakland, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, contact Lynn Gorelick.