There’s nothing like a perfect relationship. Conflict happens even between the best couples of all times. However, when misunderstandings escalate into threats of assault or physical harm, the Pasadena police may get involved. The domestic violence laws in California protect vulnerable persons, including children, intimate partners, and the elderly, from psychological and physical abuse. Merely touching these persons aggressively can leave you on the wrong side of the law, even when you don’t cause bodily harm. If you are accused of domestic violence, turn to the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm for the much-needed legal counsel and representation. We can help you avoid or limit the devastating repercussions of a domestic violence conviction.
If you are convicted, you risk paying hefty fines or spending time behind bars. Depending on whether your case involved the actual use of violence or not, you may also have to pay restitution to cater to the medical bills and lost wages incurred by the victim. Unfortunately, domestic violence allegations can also lead to loss of child custodial rights, restraining orders, and other frustrating repercussions.
Domestic Violence in California Defined
Domestic violence also referred to as spousal abuse, domestic abuse, intimate partner violence, or child abuse, is a grave offense in California. It can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the case’s specifics (whether an incident involved actual violence or not).
Under California laws, this offense is described as the pattern of abusive behavior towards a partner in an intimate relationship. These persons may include a spouse, blood relative, date, or a cohabitant. The term abuse is defined as the act of recklessly or intentionally causing bodily harm or the threat to physical harm.
It remains imperative to understand that domestic violence can take many forms, including:
- Physical aggression.
- Emotional abuse.
- Intimidation (developing a controlling or domineering attitude).
- Sexual abuse.
- Economic deprivation.
- Stalking, etc.
Persons who count as victims of domestic abuse include:
- Registered domestic partner.
- Cohabitant (live-in romantic partner).
- Baby mama/baby daddy.
- Blood relatives.
Working with a skilled attorney can make all the big difference in the outcome of your case. When charged with a domestic violence felony, for instance, an experienced lawyer can build a strong case in your defense, increasing the odds of the prosecution reducing your charges to a misdemeanor.
What Typically Happens When The Police Respond To A Domestic Abuse/Violence Report?
When the police receive a domestic violence report, they must forward it to the DA (District Attorney) for legal action to be taken. Usually, an officer will issue the victim with a case number after writing a report about the incident. It is also possible for the police to make an arrest if the victim shows any invisible injuries, irrespective of whether they are major or minor.
If the police show up at the site of an incident, they must get rid of all firearms within the home. This is done to protect the victim from potentially deadly harm. If the perpetrator of an offense violated a domestic violence restraining order, the police must arrest them immediately irrespective of whether they witnessed the violation or not.
Any time a victim fears for their safety, they can fill out an Emergency Protective Order. Usually, the officers will have it on-site, and the order is valid for at least one week. This ensures the victim has ample time to obtain a more permanent restraining order against the defendant.
Sometimes, both the alleged perpetrator of a crime and their victim will have evident signs of injury. In this case, the police will identify the primary aggressor and arrest them. You can expect the authorities to carry out detailed investigations on site that they can use to build a case against a defendant. The evidence gathered may include the accounts of witnesses, photos of the scene, and images of the injuries.
Common Domestic Violence Crimes & Their Penalties
As aforementioned, domestic violence is a broad term. It encompasses a range of criminal offenses that can attract charges and punishment that vary. The prosecution may consider the unique facts of a case, including the location of an arrest, a defendant’s criminal record, and the nature of the defendant’s relationship with the victim. When a domestic violence case is considered severe, it is charged as a felony.
Here are some of the common domestic violence offenses and their penalties:
Domestic Battery — California Penal Code 243(e)(1)
California PC 243(e)(1) criminalizes domestic battery. Again, domestic battery is a broad term used to describe the illegal act of harmfully touching any person who counts as a victim in domestic violence cases. This offense is charged as a misdemeanor, and its punishment is as follows:
- A fine not exceeding $2000.
- Up to 1-year imprisonment in county jail.
Domestic battery charges can have a devastating impact on your future. By enlisting the services of a competent criminal defense attorney, you can have a good chance of having the sentence reduced to probation.
Corporal Injury to a Cohabitant or Spouse — California Penal Code 273.5
Compared to domestic battery, corporal injury to a cohabitant or spouse is considered a more severe crime. It is charged as a wobbler offense, meaning that a defendant may face a misdemeanor or felony charge. This will all be highly dependent on the specifics of a case.
If convicted, the punishment could include:
- Up to 1 year prison time in county jail (first-time offender).
- Up to 4 years imprisonment in state prison (repeat offenders).
Corporal Injury to a cohabitant or spouse is also described as the unlawful and harmful touching of an intimate partner. The main difference between domestic battery and corporal injury is that the latter results in physical injury.
Because of the presence of physical injury, the prosecution can have a strong case against a defendant. Even so, a skilled expert can still manage to have the sentence reduced to probation. It is best to note that the facts of your case may play a significant role in dictating whether this option is possible or not.
Child Abuse — California Penal Code 273d
Like corporal injury to an intimate partner, child abuse is also considered a wobble offense. Prosecutors often pursue cases of child abuse aggressively in the attempts to protect children from incurable trauma.
California PC 273d describes child abuse as the act of intentionally inflicting inhumane injury or punishment on a child. The prosecution must prove that you acted willfully, and your actions cannot be considered reasonable disciplinary acts because they caused a child to suffer traumatic physical harm.
Punishment for an offense may include:
- Up to 1-year incarceration in county jail (misdemeanor).
- Up to 6 years imprisonment in state prison (felony).
So, how much force is too much? When dealing with children, the law recognizes “reasonable disciplinary actions.” Therefore, spanking a child without using excess power is less likely to end you in jail. However, disciplinary action turns into an abusive situation when a force causes physical injury.
Child Endangerment — California Penal Code 273a
Child abuse involves inflicting actual injury on a child. On the other hand, child endangerment doesn’t require a child to suffer any physical harm. Under California laws, child endangerment is a wobble offense, and defendants are charged with a felony if an incident results in death or great bodily injury.
If convicted, punishment may include:
- Jail time for a year in county jail (misdemeanor).
- Incarceration for up to 6 years in state prison (felony).
Under PC 273a, child endangerment is described as the offense of allowing or causing a child to suffer unjustified mental or physical harm. This crime also involves allowing or causing a child under your care to be injured or placed in dangerous situations.
No one is immune to child endangerment charges. Even a caring parent who leaves a loaded gun within reach of a child by mistake can end up facing the charges. It remains imperative to seek reliable legal representation as soon as you are accused of a crime.
Child Neglect — California Penal Code 270
Another form of domestic violence is child neglect. This is the act of illegally and intentionally failing to provide for the basic needs of a child. These basic needs include food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.
A conviction could lead to the following penalties:
- Jail time for up to 1 year.
- A fine not exceeding $2,000.
You don’t have to be the custodial parent of a child to face child neglect charges. Moreover, any parent is still responsible for their child even if they don’t enjoy any parental rights. The laws emphasize the term “willfully.” While failing to provide food for a child because you don’t have money may not amount to child neglect, failure to act after knowing that your child is suffering could attract the charges. This is irrespective of whether you are the custodial parent or not.
Elder Abuse — California Penal Code 368
Elder abuse can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor in California. Like child abuse, this offense happens when a perpetrator willingly neglects an elderly loved one or inflicts unjustifiable mental or physical pain on them. Financial exploitation against an elderly citizen is also considered elder abuse in California.
Persons above the age of 65 are considered to be just as vulnerable as children. As such, prosecutors will pursue such cases aggressively.
If charged as a misdemeanor, here is the punishment you may face following a conviction:
- Up to a year in county jail.
- A fine of up to $6,000.
If charged as a felony, penalties may include:
- 2 or 4 years jail time in state prison.
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Criminal Threats — California Penal Code 422
Threatening serious harm to a person you share an intimate relationship with can leave you facing criminal threat charges. The exact charges apply if you threaten to harm their immediate family members. A criminal threat is charged as a wobbler offense in California. The prosecution must prove the following before they make a conviction:
- You threatened to kill someone or cause them substantial physical harm.
- You caused your victim reason to fear for their safety or that of their immediate family.
- You made verbal or written threats.
If charged with criminal threat and the offense is treated as a misdemeanor, penalties may include:
- Up to 1 year in county jail.
As aforementioned, the prosecution can also treat a criminal threat as a felony. In this case, the punishment may include:
- Up to 4 years in state prison.
Aggravated Trespass — California Penal Code 601
Aggravated trespass is the act of threatening an intimate partner and entering their residence or the residence adjacent to their home or workplace. In this case, the prosecution must prove that you had the intent to make threats and you had no lawful reason to be in the stated locations.
Similar to most domestic violence cases, prosecutors treat aggravated trespass as a wobbler offense. Whether you will face felony or misdemeanor charges will depend on your criminal history and the unique facts of your case.
If charged as a misdemeanor, punishment may include:
- Incarceration for a year in county jail.
When aggravated trespass is charged as a felony, the punishment may be as follows:
- Incarceration in county jail for up to 3 years.
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Damaging a Telephone Line — California Penal Code 591
Every American citizen has a right to call for help when faced with danger. That said, it is illegal to damage a telephone line with the intent to prevent an intimate partner from reaching out for help during a domestic violence incident. Again, this offense is a wobbler.
Here are the possible penalties if you face misdemeanor charges:
- Jail time for up to 1 year in county jail.
- A fine of up to $1,000.
When charged as a felony, the punishment for damaging a telephone line may include:
- Incarceration for up to 3 years in county jail.
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Other Possible Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction
Domestic violence allegations have the potential of turning your life upside down. Once you are arrested and charged, adopting a “wait and see” approach can leave you serving time and paying a hefty fine. Often, the police conduct thorough investigations following a domestic violence report. This allows the prosecution to build a strong case against you, irrespective of your relationship with an alleged victim.
Apart from imprisonment and fines, the consequences of a domestic violence conviction may also include:
If you are not a legal citizen of the United States, you risk deportation once arrested for allegedly committing a domestic violence offense. This crime is categorized as a “removable offense,” meaning that defendants from other countries risk losing their current legal status within the country.
Loss of Time
If convicted of domestic violence, a judge may impose mandatory courses as part of your probation. The classes may involve completing a conflict and accountability course or an anger management program.
Loss of Career
Depending on your line of profession, you may not be able to find suitable work placement after a conviction. This means that your professional and financial livelihood may be in jeopardy.
Disruption of Household
Moreover, domestic violence is an offense that involves threats or actual physical or mental harm. As such, judges impose mandatory “stay away” orders in the majority of cases. This may pull your relationship with an intimate partner further apart and limit your chances of reconciliation.
You also risk having a permanent criminal record if you are convicted of domestic violence. This repercussion can disrupt your chances of leading a normal life. After all, potential employers may be hesitant to consider you for viable positions because of your criminal history. Furthermore, your record may also hinder you from finding housing within specific neighborhoods.
Loss of Custody
In California, domestic abusers are not allowed to enjoy the custody of children below the legal age (18 years). However, the court may allow you visitation rights, sometimes under supervision.
There are domestic violence charges that tag along with mandatory minimums. This means that upon conviction, you may have to spend some time in jail (often a minimum of 30 days) even if you are sentenced to probation.
A domestic violence conviction carries serious consequences. This is irrespective of the specifics of your case. The surest way of limiting the repercussions you face is to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as the police arrest and charge you.
Best Defenses for Domestic Violence Charges
There are many clever ways of defending the charge of domestic violence. After all, the prosecution bears the burden of proof and must establish specific elements of a crime beyond a shred of doubt. With the right attorney, you can prevent the risk of a mere misunderstanding causing you to spend time behind bars.
Here are some of the best defenses your lawyer may use:
You Acted in Self-Defense
Your attorney can argue that you acted in self-defense. Maybe you had reason to believe that the alleged victim would attack you and cause you to suffer serious bodily harm. An attorney can convince the court that you merely fought back to protect yourself from impending danger.
Self-defense is considered an affirmative defense in California. As such, there are a few elements you must prove to the judge or jury for this defense move to bear the intended fruit. The elements of self-defense include:
- You had reason to believe that the perpetrator would harm or offensively touch you or someone else.
- Based on the circumstances at the moment, you had reason to believe that you could defend yourself or someone else from the use of physical force.
- You defended yourself but did not use more force than was deemed necessary to protect yourself or another person from harm.
It Was an Accident
Another good defense is that an incident was not intentional. Most domestic violence offenses include the term “willingly.” This means that you cannot be convicted if an incident resulted from an accident and you had no intention of causing harm to the alleged victim.
It is not foreign for intimate partners to file domestic violence charges out of spite or anger. For instance, if you propose a divorce, your wife may twist the facts of a passionate argument. Spouses are also known to falsify domestic abuse claims to get the upper hand during child custody cases. However, with a reliable attorney, you can convince the court that the allegations against you are false.
Lack of Proof
Again, the burden of proof lies squarely on the shoulders of the prosecution. This means that the prosecutor must prove that you indeed threatened or caused physical or mental harm to an intimate partner. If nobody witnessed an incident and the alleged victim has no signs of physical injury, it can be challenging for a judge or jury to confirm whether a domestic violence incident indeed happened or not. There is a good likelihood that your lawsuit will be dropped in such a case, especially if the alleged victim recants or refuses to testify.
Whether you think that an incident was nothing but a big misunderstanding or suspect that the situation can quickly go south, you can simply not afford to take a passive approach. Hiring a skilled criminal defense lawyer can make a big difference in the outcome of your case. The specialist you hire will evaluate the evidence against you and find proof to dismiss it. The expert can also create a strong defense on your behalf, based on the available evidence. With the proper legal representation, even a felony charge can be reduced to allow you to enroll in anger management classes or couples counseling instead of spending time behind bars.
Find a Pasadena Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
In Pasadena, CA, prosecutors don’t take domestic violence cases lightly. If charged with the offense, you can achieve the best possible outcome by seeking legal representation from a skilled and experienced attorney. At the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, we fight for the rights and best interests of persons accused of domestic violence. If you’re facing domestic violence charges, reach us now at 626-628-0564 for a free consultation and case evaluation.