Domestic violence charges in California can have far greater consequences than you might think.
In many domestic violence situations, somebody will call the police. They want their boyfriend, spouse, girlfriend, or husband to quiet down or calm down if there's an argument that’s getting a little bit heated. Unfortunately, anytime the police are called in a domestic violence situation, somebody is likely to get arrested. And very often, it is the wrong person.
I have represented several victims in domestic violence cases who were simply defending themselves or protecting themselves. Perhaps they slammed a door on an abuser, yet they are the ones who were arrested. This is a tragic situation because the consequences are great.
If you are arrested for domestic violence, there is a wide spectrum of potential repercussions.
Temporary Protective Orders
First, there may be a temporary protective order. The police can issue a protective order during the arrest and make you leave your home. This means that if you have children who were present during the encounter, you may not be able to see them. You also may not be permitted to have any contact with your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, and/or your children for a period of time, until you go to court.
Generally, the district attorney's office will file domestic violence cases more quickly than other cases because they want to get in front of the judge and get a protective order.
Peaceful Contact Order
The alleged victim might not want a protective order because they want their spouse or loved one to come home, perhaps to help with the children. In these situations, the alleged victim must appear in court at the arraignment and ask the judge for a peaceful contact order. This type of order allows the accused to have contact but cannot engage in any violence.
The DA's office is very skeptical of these requests. Victims often don’t want criminal charges filed against their loved one. The DA believes that the alleged victim wants their loved one home because they are financially dependent on this person to pay the bills, or they're scared of retaliation.
Court-Ordered Treatment Programs
The minimum penalty for a domestic violence charge in California involves a 52-week batterer's treatment program. The class meets once a week for an entire year, and you must show the court proof of enrollment in the class and proof of completion in the class.
Community Service & Fines
Domestic violence convictions also require eight hours of community service. In addition to any other sentence that may be imposed, there are multiple different fines that must be paid.
Great Range in Punishment
Depending on numerous factors, a domestic violence charge can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Those convicted of a felony can be sentenced to serve time in a California state prison. Misdemeanor convictions also carry possible jail terms, but they are served in county jail. A misdemeanor conviction can eventually be petitioned for expungement from their criminal record after 10 years.
There are “wobbler” charges (those that can be treated as a felony or misdemeanor) such as inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner.
Depending on the level of the charge, fines can be hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Potential collateral consequences of domestic violence convictions include the following:
- Lose the right to vote
- Lose the right to possess or own a firearm
- Reduce your ability to find employment
- Lose a professional license
- Influence court decisions about child custody and visitation
- Impact your ability to obtain housing
- Deportation (if a noncitizen)
- Pay restitution to the other party
California’s domestic violence laws have considerable nuance and complexities. Never fight domestic violence charges on your own. An experienced attorney can guide you through the maze and work aggressively on your behalf to get charges dropped or reduced.
Defenses in Domestic Violence Cases
If you are charged with a domestic violence case in California, you must call my office immediately so that I can help you. Even misdemeanor charges can be very expensive, very time to consuming, and extremely inconvenient.
There are numerous defenses for domestic violence charges. I've had many cases dismissed because the wrong person was arrested.
If the consequences are going to cause immigration problems for you, there are ways of possibly convincing the district attorney’s office to change the charges, so you don’t lose your legal status. The DA's office must consider the immigration consequences.
There are several strategies that a lawyer can reduce or eliminate repercussions. Do not go to court alone on a domestic violence case.
Contact my office at (949) 264-0696 to schedule a consultation as soon as you think you may be in trouble. The sooner we work together, the more I can help.
At the Law Office of Diane Bass, A Professional Law Corporation, we provide vigorous legal counsel in several areas of criminal law including federal crimes.