How California Treats Domestic Abuse Allegations
Accusations of domestic abuse against a spouse or partner is a claim unlikely to get a lot of sympathy from friends, acquaintances or society in general. People tend to assume the worst in these situations, which can make combating this charge feel impossibly hard. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is the most effective and direct way to maintain control of the situation and the likely outcome. News about a mass shooting at a church in a small Texas town by a man with a past history of domestic violence, and seemingly spurred by family conflict to commit this act, has reignited the national debate about which rights individuals convicted of this type of offense should lose. One of the main rights the public and policymakers are pushing for is better and new implementation of laws that restrict the ability of a person convicted for domestic abuse from buying firearms. However, many cases of purported domestic abuse are not so clear cut, as spouses and partners can use these serious allegations to gain advantages in family law matters and as a means of retaliation. A discussion of how domestic abuse is treated under criminal law in California, and specifically several crimes often charged in these cases, will follow below.
Domestic Violence/Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Cohabitant
A number of criminal laws fall under the general category of domestic abuse, but the official charge associated with producing a physical injury is corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant. The person alleging injury can be a current or former spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, partner, fiancé or parent of a shared child. Some key elements of this crime include:
- the physical altercation must have been intentional or willful;
- there was an infliction of bodily injury from physical force that was traumatic, e., broken bone, concussion, sprain, etc.; and
- the purposeful infliction of force actually caused an injury.
This crime is a wobbler, allowing a prosecutor to charge one with a misdemeanor or felony depending upon the facts of the case and defendant’s criminal history. The potential penalties are up to one year in county jail and up to $6,000 fine and/or summary probation for a misdemeanor conviction, and up to four years in State prison, a $6,000 fine and supervised probation for a felony conviction.
Potential defenses to these allegations include:
- self-defense or defense of others;
- lack of willful intent to inflict harm; and
- the accusations are false.
Domestic battery is another crime filed in suspected domestic abuse cases, and differs from the offense described above as involving any type of physical touching, but one that does not cause physical injury. The touching must be willful, be harmful or offensive, and involve a current or former intimate partner. The touching does not need to produce pain or discomfort; rather, touching in an angry or disrespectful way is enough to trip this crime. This offense is classified as a misdemeanor since no physical injury occurred, and brings the potential for up to one year in county jail, a $2,000 fine and/or probation.
Posting Harmful Information Online
Finally, in today’s age of posting everything on social media, California made it a crime in 2008 to post harmful information about people on the internet, also known as “indirect electronic harassment.” This purpose behind posting/transmitting the information must be to incite others to inflict harm on the person, and to put the person and/or their family in fear for their safety. Note that harm does not have to occur in order to be convicted of this offense. This is a misdemeanor crime that can be punished by up to one year in county jail, a $1,000 fine and/or probation.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Being charged with a crime is no laughing matter, and a conviction can haunt a person for the rest of his/her life. If you are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to challenge the State’s allegations and give you a legitimate chance to have the charges reduced, dropped or be found innocent at trial. The Los Angeles law firm Manshoory Law Group, APC is committed to getting their clients the best possible results, and have attorneys available 24/7 to take your calls. Contact us to learn more.