California Penal Code 13700, 273.5, 243(e)(1) and others
Domestic Violence Laws in California
Domestic violence is a criminal offense in California. Put more specifically, a wide variety of crimes in California can be prosecuted as “domestic violence”, and domestic violence charges can lead to very serious consequences for the person accused. Because so many different types of crimes can be charged as “domestic violence”, the best strategy for your case and the possible penalties could vary greatly depending on what specific charges you are facing. But, it is important to understand some issues that are common to all domestic violence cases in California-and what sets them apart from non-domestic violence charges.
What can happen to me after I am
Charged with domestic violence?
The California Penal Code contains several provisions that are meant to treat domestic violence cases differently. If you are charged with a domestic violence offense, several different things could happen in your case:
You might be required to attend court more often
In some criminal cases, especially misdemeanors, you can “appear” in court through your attorney. This can help save a lot of stress and travel expenses because criminal court proceedings can be very time-consuming. California Penal Code Section 977 allows attorneys to “appear for” their clients at multiple court dates, but it contains an important exception for some domestic violence cases (and other cases where the victim comes under a certain category defined in the family code). In a domestic violence case, you might be required to be in-person at your “arraignment” (usually your first court date) and your sentencing. You may also be required to appear on court dates where the court intends to serve a protective order in your case.
The (alleged) victim has certain rights
This is true for all cases where there is an alleged victim or “complaining witness”, but it is especially frequent in domestic violence cases. The alleged victim has the right to be put on notice about court proceedings, they have the right to be present and they have the right to be heard on issues concerning restitution and protective orders.
The alleged victim can also retain their own attorney during the case if they wish. This can lead to some complications when trying to conduct a proper investigation on a domestic violence case, because your attorney may want to speak with the alleged victim between court dates or send an investigator to do so. But the alleged victim has the right to have their own counsel, and must be advised of this before your lawyer contacts them. This might cause them to avoid speaking with your attorney, altogether, and if they already have their own attorney, your attorney absolutely cannot contact them directly.
However, it is sometimes helpful when the alleged victim has their own attorney when they are asking the court or the District Attorney for leniency in your case. Consult your own attorney about this issue if you are facing domestic violence charges.
The (alleged) victim has the right to not testify
In a domestic violence case, the alleged victim has the absolute right to not testify if they do not want to. The courts can order the alleged victim to come to court and obey subpoenas, but they cannot compel an alleged domestic violence victim to take the stand and testify in your case. This rule comes from California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1219(b).
Be warned, however, that if you are charged with domestic violence and the court suspects that YOU convinced the alleged victim to not testify, you might be facing very serious charges such as witness tampering, even though the alleged victim still has the right to refuse to testify.
Sentencing and Probation are more burdensome
If you are convicted of a domestic violence charge and placed on probation, your probation will likely be very different and stricter, than probation for non-domestic violence offenses. California Penal Code Section 1203.097 requires the Court to structure probation in a certain way for domestic violence offenses. This includes:
- Your probation must last for at least three (3) years
- You must perform some hours of community service
- You must contribute some of your fines to a battered women’s shelter
- The court must consider imposing some kind of protective order in your case, which could last for up to ten (10) years—even after you are already finished probation!
- You must participate in a fifty-two (52) week batterer’s program, and demonstrate your progress at later court dates throughout that program. The program must meet weekly and must meet in two (2) hour long sessions.
- If you are convicted of domestic violence you can not have a gun.
California Penal Code Section 1203.097 makes these terms “non-negotiable” in domestic violence cases—they must be imposed in any case where someone is placed on domestic violence probation. To get around these strict terms, your attorney might consider asking the prosecutor to agree to a plea bargain where they “stipulate” or agree, that the charge you are convicted of is actually not a “domestic violence” charge, even though it was originally charged as such.
Protective orders usually come into play
The courts often consider, and frequently impose, protective orders in domestic violence cases. Protective orders can be very restrictive and they can be issued on very little proof; a report of violence or imminent violence from the complaining witness could be enough to trigger a protective order forcing you to stay a certain distance from the other party and even move out of your home.
What Kinds of
Protective Orders Can Be Issued in Domestic Violence Cases?
Generally, protective orders in domestic violence cases fall into two (2) different categories: emergency protective orders and criminal protective orders. Both are serious because they can restrict your freedom in important ways. It is not uncommon for the defendant and complainant in a domestic violence case to live together, so a protective order might force you out of your own house.
A protective order can also prohibit you from having any communication with the other party, even through intermediaries. A violation of a protective order could be punished separately as contempt of court, or as a violation of California Penal Code Section 273.6 or 166. Also, if you are alleged to have violated a protective order while your domestic violence case is pending, the court might consider revoking your bail and ordering you to stay in custody while your case continues.
What are the defenses to a domestic violence charge in California?
Fortunately, there are several defenses available in a domestic violence case.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
Our Bay Area domestic violence lawyers are experienced in getting cases dismissed or earning you the best possible outcome, but it does take work. Being arrested for a violent crime is devastating. It can affect your job, professional licenses, immigration status, and can cause embarrassment. We are familiar with when a judge will issue a restraining order and what forms of consequences come with such orders. Our job is to get involved early on in a case, reduce that stress, and handle all of the steps of fighting your case. Whether that means going to trial or securing you the best possible plea deal, we do it all. If you are ready to discuss your case with a Red Metric Law attorney, please contact us at 1.833. NO. JAIL for a free and confidential consultation.