Domestic violence cases are among the most emotional of all criminal cases, and can be complicated, with the parties involved often having very different interpretations of what happened. In addition, society can be a harsh judge of such incidents, quick to assume guilt no matter what the evidence suggests.
If you've been charged with domestic violence, you need an attorney who will ask the right questions, listen carefully, sift through the evidence to understand what occurred, and provide you with an effective defense.
I understand that even an allegation of domestic violence - also called spousal abuse - can tear a family apart. And in difficult times, such as divorce, it is not uncommon for one family member to accuse another of abuse to gain an advantage in a legal dispute. As an experience Sacramento domestic violence defense attorney and former prosecutor, I understand both sides of a domestic violence case and work tirelessly to ensure that my clients receive objective representation and top quality legal protection.California Domestic Violence Law
There are specific California laws that distinguish domestic abuse and violence from other violent crimes such as assault and battery. California Penal Code 273.5 governs most instances of domestic violence. It makes it a crime if "traumatic" bodily injury - defined as an internal or external wound caused by physical force - results from a confrontation between:
- Former spouses
- Cohabiting couples
- Former cohabiting couples
- Dating couples
- Former dating couples
In addition, a conviction under Penal Code 273.5 requires that the injury was willfully, or intentionally, inflicted.Penalties Under PC 273.5
Penal Code 273.5 is what is called a "wobbler," meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor of a felony depending on the circumstances of the incident and the criminal history of the defendant.
Conviction of a misdemeanor results in some combination of:
- county jail time of up to one year
- fines of up to $6,000 - with the possibility of additional fines depending on prior offenses
- reimbursement of the victim's medical expenses
- payment of up to $5,000 to a shelter for battered women
- a restraining order that prevents the convicted person from having contact with the victim for up to ten years
- community service
- at least three years informal probation
Conviction of a felony results in some combination of:
- state prison time of up to five years, depending on prior convictions
- additional prison time if the victim suffers great bodily injury
- a possible strike on your criminal record
- formal probation
- the restraining order, counseling, and community service provisions listed for misdemeanor conviction above
Penal Code 243(e)(1) is a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery when there is suspicion of domestic violence but no sign of traumatic injury. This can be charged when the alleged victim is a spouse or former spouse, a fiance, a cohabitant, a parent of the defendant's child, or someone the defendant is or has been dating. The penalties for conviction of PC 243(e)(1) can be substantial with up to one year in county jail, a $2000 fine, reimbursement of the victim's counseling expenses, and a payment of up to $5000 to a shelter for battered women.
Like PC 273.5 described above, Penal Code 422 is a "wobbler," so it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. It involves a person threatening to commit a criminal act that would cause great bodily injury or death to someone else. The threat can be made in writing (including electronically such as through email) or verbally. A PC 422 violation can be charged even if a person does not have any intention to carry out the threat. If the threat is made in a way that causes the recipient of the threat to believe that it is real and causes them to fear for their safety or for the safety of their family, then PC 422 charges can be filed. Penalties include up to three years in state prison, formal probation, a restraining order, mandatory counseling and community service, and substantial fines.The Importance of Experienced Criminal Defense
It's important to understand that in domestic violence cases, the district attorney's office can move ahead with the case even if the alleged victim decides to not cooperate. A person who was involved in a domestic dispute cannot "withdraw" charges. The DA's office decides which cases to prosecute. This again highlights the importance of having a qualified defense lawyer if you are facing domestic violence charges.
In domestic violence cases it is also frequently important to act quickly. I work with investigators who will talk to the alleged victim and take his or her statement. If the alleged victim does not want to cooperate with the prosecution or provides key information not reflected in the report, it is important to get that information to the prosecutor before a charging decision is made. In many cases we can avoid any prosecution.Free and Confidential Initial Consultation
I've defended numerous clients accused of domestic violence throughout the Sacramento region. My past experience as a prosecutor helps me understand the tactics of law enforcement and build an effective defense.
For a free consultation, call 916-442-1200 or contact me by email.