If you are accused of domestic violence, you could face multiple possible outcomes. In most cases, the prosecutor prefers a specific charge under domestic violence crimes. Subsequently, you may face different penalties, and you choose to enlist a lawyer’s help.

The knowledge you have about the charges against you is crucial to building solid defenses. On top of that, working with a competent defense lawyer will increase your chances of winning your case and evading harsh sentences.

Your attorney should be actively involved in researching and preparing defenses for your case to promote a favorable case outcome. At Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we have a dedicated team of attorneys who prioritize your case. Our goal is to provide excellent legal defense services and reliable advice regarding your domestic violence case.

Definition of Domestic Violence According to California Law

The California Penal Code provides the primary definition of domestic violence under section 13700. Following the definition, domestic abuse involves any reckless activity that includes harming or making threats of physically harming the victim.

Additionally, domestic violence also arises where you intentionally harmed the victim or used threats to manipulate the person. The difference between reckless and intentional actions involves creating the intent to hurt your partner, which is present in intentional actions.

People Considered to Have an Intimate Relationship

A domestic violence charge should involve parties with an intimate relationship, regardless of whether it is current or past. Hence, understanding the allocations of intimate relationships is necessary to help you prepare for your case. The following are some people classified as intimate concerning domestic violence charges:

Your Spouse

Typically, you and your spouse share an intimate relationship that involves living together and sharing domestic responsibilities. Your union should be recognized under a marriage for the court to term it as spousal abuse. However, you should note that you may face the domestic violence charge, even where the victim is a former spouse who no longer lives with you.

The relationship may have ended from divorce or separation, but the intimate relationship continues and can attract legal consequences. As a result, your criminal defense lawyer should help you determine the best way to counter the victim's accusations and refute the validity of a spousal relationship in court.

A Person You Dated Exclusively

Additionally, the court treats any boyfriend or girlfriend you had in the past as a domestic partner. Sometimes, it is immaterial that you did not have an officially recognized title. The prosecutor focuses on producing evidence that can support his/her claim of an existing domestic relationship.

Your Cohabiting Partner

Moreover, you do not have to be officially married before living together for a domestic relationship to arise. Thus, the court will accept the prosecutor's claims of an existing intimate relationship, especially if he/she backs the claims with valid sources of proof.

For example, if you and the intimate partner shared domestic responsibilities like rent payments, buying supplies, and paying bills, you are in a recognized domestic relationship. Additionally, you should know that the test for a domestic relationship is based on the outlook of an outsider. If he/she can reasonably assume that you are married, the requirements of an existing domestic relationship are satisfied.

A Registered Domestic Partner

Sometimes, you may decide to live with a roommate, meaning that you will have a domestic partnership. Since you will handle domestic activities and responsibilities together, you are bound by any laws prohibiting domestic violence.

Apart from roommates, a domestic partner may also be a close or distant relative whom you chose to live with together. Thus, you could face legal repercussions for causing physical or mental harm to the partner despite the lack of an intimate relationship.

Your Children

Sometimes, the harm may extend to your children, attracting severe penalties. When handling a domestic child abuse case, the court will also include matters involving adopted children and step-children, provided they were in your care.

Your Relatives

Further, any relatives who suffer harm while living with you can seek remedies under domestic violence charges. The primary threshold of fulfilling is proving the validity of the claimed relationship.

Relatives may be related by blood or by marriage, creating a wider scope of possible victims. They include:

  • Cousins
  • Nieces and nephews
  • grandparents
  • Uncles and aunties
  • grandchildren
  • in-laws

Therefore, if the domestic violence victim falls under any of these categories, he/she can demand justice through the prosecutor.

Different Forms of Domestic Abuse

Usually, the offenses occur differently in each case, as every defendant acts uniquely. Thus, the Penal Code describes several domestic abuse types, giving separate crime elements and penalties for each. Subsequently, when facing trial, the prosecutor will have narrowed down your case to a specific offense that warrants various penalties.

The four main divisions of the offense involve participation in:

  • Making threats of physical harm to the victim
  • Battering the victim
  • Neglecting the domestic violence victim
  • Mental or physical abuse, including harmful/violent acts

From the subdivisions, the following are the listed types of domestic violence charges:

  1. Child Endangerment

The offense involves placing your child or any other minor living in your household in danger. Usually, you may be found guilty of the crime when you expose the child to safety hazards like driving under the influence with the minor in the vehicle. Under section 273(a) PC, the offense attracts misdemeanor charges resulting in up to six months in county jail.

Moreover, you should note that you may face criminal charges even if the child did not suffer physical harm. Child endangerment charges are relevant provided the minor was exposed to the danger. The prosecutor determines the type of charges to file against you based on the severity of the offense.

  1. Child Abuse

Section 273(d) PC also prohibits child abuse, an offense that involves exposing a minor to harsh conditions like corporal punishment that causes injury. When investigations occur, the officers should determine whether the injuries were from voluntary or accidental actions. Moreover, if you used extreme force to reprimand the child, you may also be guilty of the offense.

The offense is a wobbler crime, so that you may face misdemeanor or felony charges. As a misdemeanor, you could face up to one year in county jail, while a felony results in up to three years in state prison.

  1. Corporal Injuries Inflicted on Your Spouse

Further, some cases may involve inflicting injuries from corporal punishment on your spouse. The main elements of the crime for the prosecution to prove are that:

  • You acted intentionally.
  • You intended to harm the victim.
  • The force you used amounted to corporal injuries.

If found guilty, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges. As a felony, the office attracts up to four years in state prison, while as a misdemeanor, you will face a maximum of one year in county jail.

  1. Posting Harmful Information on the Internet

Additionally, posting harmful material on the internet amounts to psychological abuse. Harmful content includes any details that would typically cause the targeted victim to receive threats, hate, and prejudice from the general public.

Often, posting harmful content is fueled by the need to attract harassment or mistreatment to the victim. Thus, the prosecutor must prove your malicious intention when positing the content before the judge finds you guilty. The offense results in misdemeanor charges, leading to a maximum of one year in county jail or a fine of up to $1000.

  1. Abusing Elderly Domestic Partners

 Elderly partners living in your household could also be susceptible to domestic abuse, hence protecting under section 368 of the Penal Code. Normally, abuse may involve actions that cause physical or psychological harm, especially by portraying contempt of neglect. Additionally, you may be guilty of the crime if you defrauded the victim, especially after he/she receives retirement benefits.

The offense will attract misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the severity of your case. If convicted for a misdemeanor crime, you could serve a jail sentence for up to one year or a four-year maximum sentence for a felony charge.

Receiving a Probation Sentence in Place of a Jail Term

Sometimes, the judge presiding over your case may decide to grant you a probation sentence instead of a jail/prison term. However, while he/she exercises discretion in granting probation, several guidelines must be in consideration. 

Firstly, you must have faced misdemeanor charges for the domestic violence accusation. Normally, misdemeanors are issued when the crime involved minor injuries or consequences to the victim.

 As a result, your defense lawyer can plan for a negotiation meeting with the prosecutor to discuss the possibility of reducing your charges to misdemeanors. These discussions will be beneficial primarily if you would ordinarily face a felony charge.

Moreover, the judge will assess whether you are a first time or repeat offender for the charged crime. Usually, a repeat offender will not receive leniency because the reis often interpreted as impunity.

The assessment involves going through the criminal records presented by the prosecutor to certify his/her claims. Therefore, first-time offenders have a better chance of receiving probation terms.

Additionally, the judge will have to ascertain that the affected person did not suffer significant injuries. For example, if you only imposed threats of violence but did not use physical harm on the victim, you may also receive a probation sentence.

However, you need to note that you cannot provide an opinion on the victim's severity of injuries. Often, the prosecutor will have the victim undertake a medical examination where a doctor provides a report on the severity of the sustained injury.

Hence, you can expect the prosecutor to provide the medical examination documents as evidence during the trial. His/her goal is to show that you inflicted severe harm, for the judge to find you guilty. Sometimes, the medical professional may also testify by providing opinion evidence on the matter.

Common Probation Requirements After a Domestic Violence Conviction

Upon receiving a probation sentence, the judge will issue further directives that you must obey. On top of that, the court assigns a probation officer to monitor your progress and compliance throughout the probation period. Some of the instructions to adhere to are:

Attending Counseling and Medical Treatment Sessions

Sometimes, the facts of your case may reveal that you may have undiagnosed psychological conditions that trigger domestic violence. If so, you will have to attend court instructed Counseling and medical treatment sessions.

Most of these sessions take place in a rehabilitation center or a selected medical facility. As a result, you will have to organize your schedule and determine how to attend all appointments on time, as any defaults could lead to a bad report.

During the sessions, you can discuss various issues, including possible triggers of anger and violence. Moreover, you may explain your exact predicament when living with the affected intimate partner.

The details you reveal should help the medical professional issue possible solutions that will reduce the chances of domestic violence in the future. Typically, the treatment lasts for up to a year before the court can clear you and drop the criminal charges. 

Making Restitution Payments to the Victim

In severe cases, the domestic violence you perpetrated will cause severe injuries to the victim. Consequently, he/she will have to seek medical treatment that may result in expensive medical costs.

Some patients may also need to see a psychiatrist from the continuous mental trauma of domestic violence. Once the judge determines that you are guilty of the charged offenses, you may have to pay restitution to cater to the victim's incurred costs.

On top of that, you will also be responsible for his/her loss of wages after leaving work from sustaining injuries. The court determined the exact amount you will have to repay based on your direct involvement in the subsequent events.

Additionally, you may have to cover property damage costs around the house that resulted from violent behavior. For example, the judge may order you to replace broken doors, windows, and utensils destroyed during a violent episode.

Other Possible Penalties of Domestic Violence

On top of the conventional fines, jail sentences, and probation terms, you also risk losing other rights that were previously within your reach. The restrictions vary significantly, depending on the type of domestic abuse you committed.

Common penalties that you may face include:

Mandatory Imposition of a Restraining Order Against You

Restraining or protective orders are issued against people who pose safety threats to the alleged victims. Commonly, restraining orders form part of domestic violence cases, especially if you are a repeat offender of the crime.

Nevertheless, the judge will consider relevant factors before issuing the restraining order to ensure that justice prevails. Therefore, the victim should justify the need for a protective order against you to secure the restraining orders.

Usually, the prosecutor plays a role in assisting the victim of domestic violence in presenting his/her case before the judge and persuading him/her of the dangers you pose. Different protective orders exist to prevent you from going too close to the victim, meaning that you will have to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations. You also need to note that any violations of the orders may result in an arrest or additional penalties.

Permanent Registration as a Criminal Offender

Additionally, your criminal history will have a permanent record of your criminal activity if the judge finds you guilty. Subsequently, you are likely to face several disadvantages when continuing with your life after conviction.

For example, having a permanent criminal record will reduce your chances of success when seeking employment in the corporate world. Further, the records will be disadvantageous in case of any subsequent arrest and criminal convictions. As a repeat offender, you face more hurdles in securing your release, as the judge will have more information to refer to.

Restricted Custody Rights

Upon conviction, you also risk losing your custody rights, especially if you and the victim are separated or divorced. In most cases, your loss of custody rights may occur after any type of domestic violence in the house, as long as the children live with the victim. How Enver, these situations may provide a window for your defense lawyer to raise counter-arguments that allow you to retain visitation rights.

On the other hand, abusing your child directly will diminish your chance of retaining your rights, including visitation rights. The rationale behind total restrictions is that you will have posed a direct threat to the child’s safety, meaning that you are unfit to handle them by yourself.

Losing Gun Rights

If your domestic violence case also involves using firearms to injure or threaten the victim, you will lose your gun privileges. Some restrictions may last for life, while others will be effective for a definite period. During the restricted period, you risk facing arrest and additional punishments for possessing or using a firearm. As a result, following the regulations may ease the load of answering to authorities, who may end up arresting you.

Defenses to the Crime of Domestic Violence

When dealing with a domestic violence criminal charge, your defense lawyer plays a significant role in presenting defenses on your behalf. The legal arguments should aim to cast doubt on the prosecutor’s arguments to reduce the chances of receiving a sentence. On top of that, defenses are useful in introducing facts that the prosecutor may have overlooked. This way, the judge will assess the case facts differently to determine the final verdict. Common defenses to the crime are:

You Acted in Self-Defense

Your action to harm the victim may not have occurred from malicious intent but self-defense. Therefore, the argument will be acceptable provided you satisfy the three main requirements of a self-defense argument.

Firstly, you must have used reasonable force to retaliate against the attack you faced, meaning that the self-defense must be proportional to the threat. For example, shooting the attacking person after he/she merely raised a hand to slap you is not proportional and may cause the judge to revoke your legal defense.

Secondly, your decision to act in self-defense must have occurred as a final resort, meaning that you lacked a means of escape. Usually, you are supposed to escape from your attacker, if possible, to avoid violence. Thus, the prosecutor may request additional details concerning the circumstances to determine whether you were cornered.

Lastly, you must act only when you genuinely believe that you are in danger. Any other foreseeable actions that do not warrant a self-defense retaliation will weaken your legal defense. Examples of genuine circumstances involve mistaking the victim for an intruder, leading to physical harm in self-defense.

The Infliction of Injuries was Accidental

Some cases may involve unintended infliction of injuries, resulting in severe consequences. Therefore, you will need to show that you did not intend to cause harm by providing an alternate record of events. Your attorney may organize to have witnesses testify for your case or even produce evidential sources like surveillance footage to refute the prosecutor’s claims.

You Face False Accusations

Dealing with false allegations of domestic violence is also common, primarily if you have a prior criminal record. Usually, the general notion is to believe the affected person in these circumstances, meaning that a case may proceed to trial despite officers conducting insufficient investigations.

If you are in this situation, we recommend reaching out to your lawyer as soon as possible to plan on how to present your defense in court. Usually, your attorney will conduct sufficient research on the allegations and depict the inconsistencies. Additionally, he/she will prepare arguments that include alibis to disprove the possibility of the victim suffering harm from interacting with you.

You may also include the alleged victim’s motives, if possible, to further support your legal defense. For example, if you have any proof of his/her motives driven by jealousy, malice, or anger towards you, your lawyer may present them when discussing the defense. The additional information will guide the judge to validate your charges and dismiss the case if you are successful.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

When dealing with a domestic violence charge, you may face challenges with the court processes, including the presentation of defenses. Working with a reliable defense lawyer increases the chances for the best possible case outcome.

At the Riverside Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we are devoted to building solid defense strategies for anyone facing charges in Riverside, California. With our many years of experience and highly trained attorneys, expect quality defense services for you or your loved ones. Call us today at 951-946-6366 and talk to a defense lawyer.