Any violence within the boundaries of a family or home can count as domestic violence. Domestic violence laws are broad and complex, covering some acts which you never thought were unlawful. Even a mere disagreement or confrontation with your significant partner at home can sometimes put you in trouble with the law.
When that happens, you must talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as you can because the possible consequences of this offense's conviction could affect many aspects of your life. Domestic violence attorneys at Chula Vista Criminal Attorney have significant experience defending people like you.
We would be happy to offer you legal guidance during this confusing and emotional process to obtain the best possible results if you have been in police custody for any domestic violence allegation or charge.
Understanding Domestic Violence
Domestic violence cases are not uncommon despite strict laws to curb this kind of violence or abuse within a family setting. According to Penal Code 13700, domestic violence involves the unlawful abuse against an intimate or relationship partner by using threats or physical force.
For the sake of domestic violence law, an "intimate partner" could any of the following people:
- Live-in-romantic partner or a cohabitant
- Former or current spouses
- Former or current fiancé
- Partners you had a kid or kids with
- Any person you had a serious relationship with
As mentioned above, domestic violence law is broad, and the following people can also count as victims of domestic abuse according to the Family Code:
- Nieces and nephews
- Uncles and aunties
- Sisters and brothers
- Step-sisters and step-brothers
For the sake of custody laws, law enforcement officers will also consider whether the domestic abuse was against any family member mentioned above. Domestic violence laws do not discriminate between men and women, meaning any person can face prosecution for violating any domestic violence law.
Under any circumstances, do not expect that the prosecutor will be lenient in your case, even if there is no physical injury to the alleged victim of domestic abuse. On the contrary, prosecutors have the authority to seek the most severe sentence in any alleged domestic violence case to deter other people with those kinds of abusive behaviors.
If you face the possibility of a conviction for violating any domestic violence statute, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney for top-notch legal defense. A reliable attorney can help you understand the kind of charge you are facing and offer you the legal counsel you need to counter these charges for the best possible results.
What You Should Expect During a Domestic Violence Case Arrest and Arraignment
Typically, a domestic violence case can begin when an alleged victim of abuse calls 911 or when the police find probable cause to arrest you for violating a domestic violence law. A probable cause of arrest in a domestic violence case could be an injury or a bruising on any part of the alleged victim of abuse.
Law enforcement officers may need eyewitnesses' statements and a statement from you and the alleged victim of abuse to create a report of the case. Once this report reaches the District Attorney's (DA) or the prosecutor's desk, he/she can choose to file formal charges against you or dismiss the case, depending on the case facts and circumstances.
When the prosecutor files domestic violence charges against you, the first court hearing you will appear is an arraignment. During the arraignment, the judge will inform you of your constitutional rights. Once you understand and know your constitutional rights, the judge will go ahead and inform you of the domestic violence charges against you.
The judge will also give you a chance to enter a plea of the alleged domestic violence charges. If you choose to enter a not guilty plea like most defendants' do, you should be ready to fight domestic violence allegations against you in a trial.
It is also at this initial court hearing when the judge will decide whether you qualify for bail or not. Once police arrest you for an alleged domestic violence case, you may have to stay in the detention hall until your case trial if you don't post bail. When determining your eligibility to post bail and bail amount, the judge will consider some factors, for example:
- Whether you are a threat to the victim and the community at large
- The sophistication of your case
- Whether you're likely to take a flight (flight risk)
Your bail amount is likely to be high if the judge reasonably believes that the other person "victim" might be at risk of severe bodily injury from you once you are out of police custody. If the court sets your bail too high, you should consider contacting a bail bond agent or company to help you post bail at a fee if you cannot afford the amount requested.
To achieve the best outcome during the arraignment hearing, you should retain knowledgeable domestic violence attorney's services.
Forms of Domestic Violence Punishable Under Law
There are several offenses under the broad umbrella of domestic violence a prosecutor can charge under the law. Depending on your relationship with the victim and facts surrounding the case, the prosecutor has the discretion to file any of the following domestic violence charges against you:
Corporal Injury to a Cohabitant or Spouse
Inflicting a corporal or physical injury to a spouse or a cohabitant, regardless of how slight it is, is a crime under Penal Code 273.5. Corporal Injury to a cohabitant or a spouse is an everyday domestic violence offense, which occurs in most homes countrywide.
To secure a conviction against you for violating PC 273.5, the prosecutor must prove to the court the following elements of the crime:
- The inflicting of injury to the victim was willful and intentional
- The victim of injury or abuse had a relationship with you
- The corporal injury led to a traumatic condition to the victim
A violation of PC 273.5 is a felony offense that carries a jail term of up to one year for a first-time offender and up to four years prison term for a repeat offender.
Domestic battery offense shares some similarities with PC 273.5, but there are different domestic violence charges. According to Penal Code 243(e)(1), domestic battery involves violence or physical force against a current or former intimate partner.
Under PC 243(e)(1), you would be guilty of domestic battery even if you didn't have the intent to inflict injury on the accuser. Likewise, you would also be guilty of the charge even if there isn't any visible injury on the accuser's/victim's body.
Typically, the prosecutor will file a domestic battery charge as a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a one-year jail term and a fine of up to $2,000.
Inflicting a corporal or physical injury to your child or cruelly punishing him/her is unlawful according to Penal Code 273(d). Under PC 273, a parent should not be guilty of child abuse for reasonably spanking his/her child when he/she misbehaves. However, you might be guilty of violating child abuse laws when you:
- Slap your kid hard enough to leave a mark on his/her face
- Hit your kid with a belt hard or severely than is reasonable to discipline him/her
According to the state's mandatory reporting laws, any of the following people could notify law enforcement officers of a potential child abuse case:
- Social services workers
- Childcare workers
Depending on the facts of the alleged child abuse case and your criminal history, the prosecutor could file your case as a wobbler, meaning it's chargeable as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
A misdemeanor child abuse conviction can make you subject to a one-year term in the county jail and a fine amounting to up to $6,000. On the other hand, a felony conviction carries the same amount of fine but a longer jail term of two, four, or six years. However, if you have a past felony conviction for violating PC 273(d), you will be subject to an additional four years in jail.
Because PC 273(d) mentions specific acts that can count as child abuse, you might be able to counter the charges against you with the legal help of an experienced domestic violence attorney. It would be unfair to put you through the criminal justice system for reasonably disciplining your child with a spank on his/her buttocks.
Wilful abuse of a person aged sixty-five years and above is a wobbler offense according to Penal Code 368 PC. For the sake of this law, the term "abuse" refers to any kind of neglect, emotional or physical abuse, or financial exploitation against the accuser or the victim of abuse.
You could be guilty of elder abuse under this statute when you willfully fail or refuse to feed your 80-year old grandmother, who cannot feed herself. The court requires the prosecutor to prove the following elements of the crime for a conviction of this offense:
- Your actions were wilful, and they lead to unjustifiable mental and physical suffering to the elderly person.
- You knew, or you should've reasonably known the person was sixty-five years or older.
- Your conduct or actions were endangering the health or life of that elderly person.
Depending on your case's specific facts, this offense's misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year of incarceration in the county jail. On the other hand, a felony conviction will make you subject to up to four years in the state prison.
Often most people refer to child endangerment as "child abuse," but they are two different laws. You violate Penal Code 273(a) when you expose a child aged less than eighteen years to unjustifiable danger, suffering, or pain willfully and intentionally.
Unlike child abuse (273d), law enforcement officers can arrest you for child endangerment charges under PC 273(a) if you make a child subject to an unreasonable risk of bodily harm, even if there was no actual harm or injury. Here are few examples of situations that can put you into trouble with child endangerment laws under PC 273(a):
- Leaving a loaded gun or a knife within a child's reach
- Failing to seek medical treatment for an ailing child
- Tattooing a minor (PC 653)
Punishments for violating PC 273(a) depends on whether the child was at risk of significant bodily injury or death because it is a wobbler offense. If the child were not at risk of either, the prosecutor would file your case as a misdemeanor. In that kind of situation, a conviction can result in a:
- Maximum of one year in the county jail
- Fine amounting to up to $1,000
However, if your case is a felony, meaning the child was at risk of great bodily injury or death, you might be subject to a punishment of:
- A maximum fine of $10,000
- An incarceration term in the state prison for two, four, or six years
Common legal defense arguments your attorney can raise in court to counter child endangerment charges against you include:
- False accusation
- Another person other than you was responsible for the minor
- You were legally disciplining your child
Like any other domestic violence offense, a child endangerment conviction can also affect your reputation and many other aspects of your life. Ensure you discuss your case with a reliable attorney to explore defense strategy options ahead of time.
Posting sexually explicit videos or images of another person on the internet websites without his/her consent is illegal under Penal Code 647(j)(4). For instance, when you post images or videos of your ex-fiance or wife on Facebook or Twitter after break up can count as a violation of Penal Code 647(j)(4).
For the sake of this statute, it is also unlawful to distribute sexually explicit videos or images of another person intentionally via text messages or email while knowing the distribution can cause emotional distress to the person. Typically, the prosecutor will file a revenge porn charge as a misdemeanor, and it is punishable by a term of six months in the county jail and a fine amounting to up to $1,000.
Common legal defenses most attorney will use to counter revenge porn charges during trial include:
- There was consent between both parties.
- You did not intend to cause emotional distress to the alleged victim of the offense.
- The distribution was not intentional.
To achieve the best possible outcome following any form of domestic violence charge, you should not hesitate to call an attorney. A well-informed domestic violence attorney will know which defense strategy will work out in your favor to reduce or fight the charges.
Other Possible Repercussions of a Domestic Violence Offense Conviction
A conviction of most domestic violence offenses will often lead to more additional consequences apart from the fine and an incarceration term. A conviction of a domestic violence offense like a battery or corporal injury to a spouse might also make you subject to the following additional consequences:
Payment of Victim Compensation/Restitution
Apart from the hefty fines, a domestic violence offense conviction might also require you to pay victim compensation or restitution. Examples of these kinds of compensation can include the victim:
- Property damage
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Mental health therapy
On top of that, you might also have to make a payment of $500 to finance domestic violence programs.
Permanent Criminal Record
The worst of all is that a domestic violence conviction will reflect on your criminal record, meaning it will be visible to any member of the public who wishes to know your criminal history. Having a criminal record for a domestic violence offense can make it difficult for you to find employment, housing, and even state licensing.
For that matter, you should fight the domestic violence charges against you the best way you can to avoid the possible conviction. Hiring an attorney who specializes in domestic violence cases might be an excellent place to start.
"Batterers Program" Participation
A domestic battery conviction will often make the judge order you to attend a "batterers' program" for treatment and counseling, which lasts for a year. Even if your sentence involves a formal or summary probation, you might also have to attend a batterers' program as part of the sentence requirements.
Loss of Your Custody Rights
Often after a conviction for a domestic violence offense like child abuse, the court might prohibit you from taking custody of your minor children. However, you will still be eligible to obtain your visitation rights to see your child or children.
Loss of Your Gun Rights
If you own a firearm, you might lose it and your rights to own and possess another following a domestic violence offense conviction. If you are a hunter, loss of gun ownership rights can impact your life significantly because this ban is permanent. The only way you might recover your gun rights after this ban is through a presidential pardon, which is not easy to achieve.
Under the law, a victim of domestic violence is eligible to apply for a restraining order, also known as a protective order. A victim of domestic abuse can obtain a restraining order through a criminal or civil court even if he/she doesn't have any physical or bodily injury.
After issuing a restraining order to the victim of domestic violence, you should abide by its rules. A restraining order restricts or limits your interaction with the victim of domestic abuse and even your child or children. You must comply with the restraining order regulations because a violation of this court order is chargeable as a different misdemeanor offense.
Unfortunately, under immigration law, specific crimes involving moral turpitude like domestic battery or elder abuse can make a non-citizen defendant subject to harsh immigration consequences. Some of these consequences include deportation and inadmissibility to the country.
Therefore, before pleading guilty to a domestic violence charge during the arraignment hearing, you should think of these kinds of consequences which can impact your whole life. A credible criminal defense attorney might be able to intervene in your case and negotiate a favorable plea bargain that can help you avoid these unbearable immigration consequences arising from a domestic abuse conviction.
How to Find a Reliable Domestic Violence Attorney Near You
For adequate and aggressive legal representation to reduce or dismiss a domestic violence charge, you ought to find the best attorney in your area of residence. Below are a few helpful tips to help you narrow down your options when finding a reliable domestic violence attorney for your case:
Do Your Homework
Before you schedule an interview with any criminal defense attorney, you should do your homework, including a background check. Use the internet to familiarize yourself with qualities that you should anticipate from a reliable attorney.
While doing your research, you should also consider checking your prospective attorney's reviews on his/her website where his/her past client posts their experience with the attorney. Positive or negative comments about the attorney can give you a hint of what to expect once you choose to hire him/her.
Consider the Attorney's Experience
To differentiate mediocre attorneys from reliable ones, you should consider their experience. Look for a defense attorney with significant experience in domestic violence cases, specifically the type of charge you are facing. Legal defense strategies for fighting domestic violence charges remain the same, which means an attorney's experience is vital in court for the possible outcome.
Find a Domestic Violence Attorney Near Me
With an aggressive and dedicated legal representation, you might be able to maneuver a domestic violence charge to reduce it to a less severe offense or fight it entirely. At Chula Vista Criminal Attorney, we understand the importance of family and unity in the family.
Once you contact us, our attorneys will start working on your case immediately because we understand time is of the essence in these types of cases. Call us now at 619-877-6894 to schedule your first appointment with our top attorneys.