Law

Domestic violence is often thought about as using violence or force against a spouse, partner, or cohabitant. In reality, the term encompasses a much larger breadth of offenses, such as violence against the elderly or children, threatening behavior, and online harassment.

Many crimes can get enhanced with a domestic violence designation. Regardless of whether a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, domestic violence violations usually result in a minimum jail sentence. This could extend up to 25 years or more, depending on the defendant’s criminal history and the nature of the alleged abuse.

In this article, we will discuss some of the common charges and resulting domestic violence jail time penalties for each. We will also look at which circumstances aggravate more severe penalties, which ones may mitigate them, and how your lawyer can help you construct your defense.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyers Office

If you or a loved one have been accused of domestic violence, it’s important to act fast. Enlisting the help of a highly-trained criminal defense lawyer who is well versed in California domestic violence laws is the best way to protect your rights in court.

A proficient California  lawyer like Louis J. Goodman can provide the legal support you need to win your case or negotiate a favorable plea bargain to lessen the severity of the resulting penalties. Do not delay contacting Louis J. Goodman to help defend yourself against criminal charges.

Is Domestic Violence a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Domestic violence allegations are serious in California. A domestic violence charge is a designation, meaning it can enhance the severity of consequences when it coexists with other crimes.

For this reason, domestic violence is known as a “wobbler” in California. The term “wobbler” refers to a crime where the defendant can be convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony, according to:

  • The circumstances surrounding the offense
  • The defendant’s criminal record
  • The extent of injuries the alleged victim sustained

Felony Domestic Violence

A felony is the most weighty classification of a criminal offense in the United States. Those convicted may be sentenced to serve jail time in state prison. Under Penal Code 273.5, ‘Corporal Injury’ to a spouse or cohabitant is one classification of domestic abuse that often results in a felony arrest but misdemeanor charges in Alameda County,  California.

Domestic violence can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Domestic Violence

Misdemeanors are crimes penalized by up to one year in county jail. The abuse-related offenses below may be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the case: 

  • Child Abuse
  • Child Endangerment
  • Elder Abuse
  • Stalking
  • Criminal threats
  • Aggravated trespass
  • Damaging a phone line

Certain mitigating or aggravating factors associated with the case may increase or decrease the classification and seriousness of sentencing.

What May Increase the Severity of Penalties?

In short, the gravity of the crime or allegation will impact the severity of sentencing. Aggravating circumstances in a domestic violence case are specific facts relating to the alleged offense that can be used against you in court or increase the severity of the charge. For example, a misdemeanor may escalate to a felony in the presence of certain aggravating facts.

A few of these situations may include:

  • Whether you have previous criminal convictions.
  • The number of charges made against you.
  • Whether you have broken “no contact” rulings or restraining orders leading up to the case.
  • Situational circumstances, such as whether the victim was pregnant with your unborn child at the time of the alleged offense.

Defending Domestic Violence Charges

When you contact a criminal defense lawyer, they will look at the mitigating circumstances around your case. Mitigating circumstances can help in negotiating for a favorable plea bargain to reduce the severity of the sentence. They may even get you off a charge. Alternatively, in situations when the defendant needs help, they may receive treatment rather than jail time. Some mitigating circumstances might include:

  • The alleged offense was an accident.
  • The harm caused was not a result of the defendant’s actions.
  • The defendant acted in self-defense or defense of another party.
  • The alleged victim made false accusations because of:
    • Anger or jealousy,
    • Divorce or child custody proceedings.

Working with a domestic violence attorney is the best way to defend yourself in court.

If you or someone you care about was arrested for domestic violence, it’s imperative to enlist the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible. Louis J. Goodman has been exclusively practicing criminal defense in California for over 20 years. As a highly trained legal expert, he can build a dependable defense for any felony or misdemeanor charges. Contact Louis J. Goodman today for a free consultation to learn more about your case.

While domestic assault itself is broadly defined, the State of California has constructed an intricate set of legislation outlining situations under which it arises. Now let’s look at specific cases where domestic violence charges may be prosecuted as crimes.

Common Crimes and Penalties for Domestic Violence

Domestic violence in California can include battery, threats, neglect, and other forms of emotional, psychological, or physical harm. A few common domestic violence crimes are discussed below, along with the typical sentencing they carry.

Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Inhabitant

The act of inflicting serious bodily injury to a spouse or cohabitant is criminal, as outlined in Penal Code 273.5. Even when actions result in only slight physical harm to an intimate partner, you can be charged.

Corporal injury is a felony, and first-time offenders may face penalties from one year in county jail to up to four years in California state prison.

Domestic Battery

According to Penal Code 243(e)(1), California’s domestic battery legislation rules it a misdemeanor to use force or violence against an intimate partner. The alleged victim is not required to show signs of bodily injury.

Penalties for domestic battery can include fines of up to $2000 and up to one year in county jail.

Child Abuse

Under Penal Code 273d, it is illegal to impose corporal punishment on, or injure, a child. Reasonable spanking and discipline are not included in this law. However, any action deemed cruel taken against a child or that cause bodily injury are regarded as child abuse.

A first-time offender may receive a sentence of up to one year in county jail or up to three years in state prison.

Child Endangerment

Penal Code 273a states that it is illegal to allow a child under your care to suffer harm or be wilfully put in a situation where his or her safety becomes endangered. An example may be a child’s father letting his partner beat the child or a parent operating a methamphetamine lab in the home where the child lives.

When the danger presented is extreme or bodily harm caused is significant, this may be classified as a felony. If risk or injury is less severe, the crime is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in county jail.

Causing undue harm to a child is illegal, according to California domestic violence laws.

Elder Abuse

In California, elder abuse is a wobbler. Under Penal Code 368, it is illegal to inflict any of the following abuse forms onto an individual aged 65 years or over:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Endangerment
  • Neglect
  • Financial Fraud

As a misdemeanor, defendants may be sentenced to up to one year in county jail. As a felony, state prison sentences can be up to four years.

Stalking

According to Penal Code 646.9, California’s stalking legislation makes it illegal to harass or threaten another person to the extent that they feel concerned for their safety or the safety of their family members.

Depending on the defendant’s criminal history, stalking can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. For misdemeanor domestic violence, county jail sentences may be up to one year. Alternatively, you may face up to three years in state prison if charged with a felony.

Criminal Threats

In line with Penal Code 422, criminal threats include threatening someone with serious harm. Criminal threats are a wobbler, and one may be penalized by up to one year in county jail if they are charged with a misdemeanor.

On the other hand, felonies may face up to four years in state prison. Additionally, a criminal threat charged as a felony counts as one strike under California’s three-strike law.

Aggravated Trespass

As per Penal Code 601. aggravated trespass is charged when someone has made a criminal threat against another individual, and then enters that person’s home or workplace to act upon those threats in the next 30 days.

This crime is a wobbler. A felony conviction may result in up to three years in jail.

Damaging a Phone Line

Penal Code 591 outlaws cutting or damaging a phone line. Situations where this may arise include when an abuser tries to prevent the victim from making a call or seeking help.

Damaging a phone line is considered a wobbler offense. When the defendant is charged with a felony, they may face fines of up to $10,000 and face jail time of up to three years.

Online Harassment

Harassing somebody online by dispersing personal information or media that causes harm to an individual is also considered a form of domestic abuse in California. It is a relatively new addition to the California legislation on domestic violence. The following two examples are criminal acts of online harassment:

Revenge Porn

Under Penal Code 647(j)(4), this type of cyber harassment occurs when someone intentionally distributes sexual images of an individual (such as an ex-girlfriend or ex-husband) to cause emotional affliction.

Revenge porn convictions can be penalized with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in county jail.

Distributing Harmful Information Online

Penal Code 653.2 criminalizes the act of sharing or emailing harmful information about a person to try to cause other people to harass the victim.

In domestic abuse situations, this may be used to get revenge on somebody during a dispute. Charges may result in fines of up to $1,000 and up to one year in county jail, depending on the severity.

California’s Three-Strike Law

Under the Three Strike Law, the repercussions for felony domestic violence can be significant for those who already have a prior conviction. California’s three-strike law was initially enacted in 1994 and underwent amendments in 2012. If the defendant has already been charged with two felonies and gets charged with a third serious or violent felony, the law mandates a state prison sentence of at least 25 years-to-life.

Penalties can be extremely severe, with California's Three Strike Law.

Many domestic violence charges are considered by California law to be serious or violent felonies. If you have an existing criminal record, it’s best to pursue the help of experienced and highly trained California domestic violence lawyers like Louis J. Goodman to prepare a reliable defense. If you need a lawyer that can appropriately handle confidential or sensitive information and that guarantees a discrete attorney-client relationship, get in touch with Louis J. Goodman today.

Can a Defendant Receive Probation Instead of Jail Time?

There are occasions when a judge may be willing to sentence a domestic violence defendant to probation rather than sentencing jail time. Usually, this is more common where:

  • The injuries inflicted are not significant,
  • Or it is the defendant’s first offense.

Felony domestic violence charges typically arise when injuries or harm caused are significant. For this reason, probation is a more likely outcome when a case is prosecuted as a misdemeanor domestic violence.

The defendant may still receive a mandatory minimum jail time, and many of the below consequences still apply if the defendant is found guilty of committing the domestic violence incident. Furthermore, should the defendant choose to violate probation, the judge may revoke probation and send the defendant to serve jail time.

Additional Consequences For a Domestic Violence Conviction

Domestic violence convictions do not necessarily stop at fines and incarcerations. They can impact the lives of the convicted in many ways. Here is a brief description of additional consequences associated with a domestic violence conviction. Depending on your case, some or all of these may apply.

Jail Time

It’s common for many counties in California to impose a minimum jail time sentence of 30 days for domestic violence convictions. This includes those who have committed a first-time offense and those who are charged with a misdemeanor.

Payment of Fines

In addition to any fines ruled in sentencing, you may be liable for paying victim restitution that covers expenses such as the victim’s medical bills, mental health support, loss of income, or property damage.

The defendant is also required to pay $500 to fund domestic violence programs locally.

Participation in Batterers’ Course

It’s common for judges to send convicted domestic abusers to attend a 52-week counseling and treatment program. This is usually the case even when batterers have been sentenced to a misdemeanor or felony probation, instead of part or all of the defendant’s sentence.

Permanent Criminal Record

If the defendant receives a domestic violence conviction, it will go on their permanent criminal record. This can negatively impact professional opportunities, housing, state licensing, and other civil opportunities.

A criminal record can impact your professional opportunities.

The California Fair Chance Act prohibits employers from conducting a criminal background check before making a job offer. However, many offers get drafted with contingency clauses based on the outcomes of a background check. This is particularly relevant if you work in education, healthcare, and other client-facing professions.

Loss of Child Custody Rights

It is common for a domestic violence convicted parent to lose custody rights over their children. To determine custody, a family law judge does not necessarily need a conviction to discern that there has been violence in the household. That said, with a domestic violence conviction of one parent against another in the past five years, they will understand there was domestic violence present.

Many parents who lose custody of their children can still obtain visitation rights under specified conditions.

Revocation of Gun Rights

According to Penal Code 29805, a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction will result in a 10-year firearms ban. If the misdemeanor is convicted as a crime in violation of federal law, it will result in a lifetime revocation of gun rights.

Similarly, if the defendant is convicted of a felony it will result in a lifetime loss of gun rights according to both California and federal law.

Immigration Consequences

In many cases, domestic violence convictions are counted as aggravated felonies. Any non-US citizen convicted may be subject to:

  • deportation from the United States, and/or
  • ineligibility to reenter the United States or apply for a green card.

These consequences, along with the potential for a hefty prison sentence from the judge, underpin the importance of contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer with a strong track record of success as soon as possible. There are many legal defenses your lawyer can help you build, such as pre-trial diversion or negotiating a plea bargain for a more favorable outcome. In the case that a false domestic violence allegation was made against you, your attorney will help you prove that this is the case.

Final Thoughts

Domestic assault is a serious offense that results in broad consequences in California. Penalties, including domestic violence jail time will affect almost every aspect of your life, including your family, your career, and possibly even the place where you live for years to come.

Regardless of whether a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, they will usually receive a minimum jail sentence and criminal record. To protect your rights in California courts of law, it’s important to have a highly trained criminal defense attorney at your side.

If you have been accused of domestic battery, Louis J. Goodman will ensure that your side of the story is accurately and diligently represented in court to achieve justice. Contact Louis J. Goodman today to speak in confidentiality about your case.

Louis Goodman

Louis Goodman

Louis J. Goodman is a former Deputy District Attorney and experienced Alameda County Criminal Defense Lawyer, and can help you understand and exercise your Constitutional Rights.

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