Understanding domestic violence in California

Domestic violence charges and restraining orders in California have severe repercussions that should be taken seriously.

California has a specific law in place that defines domestic violence. In short, certain criminal acts, such as battery, stalking and harassment, that take place between the following parties are prohibited:

  • Spouses
  • Former spouses
  • Cohabitants or former cohabitants
  • Two people who have had a child together
  • People who are in a dating relationship

These activities are serious and come with strict consequences. Anyone charged with such a crime should be aware of the possible sentences as well as the valid defenses that may be brought.

What are the penalties?

There are a number of different charges that could result from an accusation of domestic violence. For example, California law states that battery against one of the above-defined parties is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of as much as $2,000. Further, many of these cases also result in a mandatory treatment program.

If the battery in question caused a serious bodily injury, the sentencing is even harsher. Such a crime could lead to as much as four years imprisonment.

What does a restraining order mean?

People who claim to be victims of domestic violence are permitted to apply for either a restraining order or emergency protective order. In order to obtain one, there does not have to be actual physical injury involved; instead, the party applying for the order need only to cite that he or she feels there is an imminent threat of harm.

Restraining orders prevent a number of items, such as forbidding contact between parties and returning certain properties. It could prevent someone from keeping a gun in the home or mandate that the person pays child or spousal support.

Failing to obey a restraining order could result in a fine or even jail time. Fortunately, people have the ability to respond to an order prior to the hearing that makes it final. Additionally, it is imperative for recipient of the restraining order to go to the hearing. Responding to the order and preparing a defense is key, especially for people who have children.

What are defenses to domestic violence charges?

One of the most common defenses to domestic violence is self-defense. Proving this may require obtaining copy of the police report or taking pictures of bruises or wounds the other party inflicted.

It is also possible that the person taking out a restraining order or pressing charges is lying about the events. This is especially true between parties who have a bitter relationship, such as divorced spouses or parents engaged in a custody battle. Using this defense requires research and providing factual evidence.

No matter the circumstances of what occurred, building a solid argument to defend against the charges is essential to preserving someone's future. Anyone who has questions about this topic should speak with a criminal defense attorney in California.