What Are Domestic Violence Crimes in California?
The term “domestic violence” is a catchall phrase that includes various offenses prohibited under California law. Most people associate this type of violence with assaults on spouses. However, crimes labeled as domestic violence can consist of multiple types of victims and activities considered harmful in intimate and family relationships.
Potential Victims & Aggressors in Domestic Violence
Domestic violence victims can be broadly classified into the following categories based on the nature of their relationship with the alleged offender:
- Current or Former Spouses: This includes legally married couples and individuals who are separated or divorced.
- Cohabitants: Individuals who live together can be considered victims of domestic violence. This can include roommates or individuals in a romantic relationship who share a home.
- Dating or Engaged Partners: Individuals currently in a dating relationship or engaged to be married can be victims of domestic violence.
- Parents with a Child in Common: Even if parents are not married or living together, violence between them can be considered domestic violence, especially when a child is involved.
- Familial Relations: This includes children, parents, siblings, grandparents, and other close family members. Both child abuse and elder abuse fall under the umbrella of domestic violence.
- Former Dating Partners: Even after a relationship ends, if one partner becomes violent or threatening towards the other, it can be considered domestic violence.
Anyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, or economic status, can become a victim or offender of domestic violence.
Criminal Offenses in Domestic Violence
As mentioned above, domestic violence can include an array of offenses that are generally more serious when committed against any of the potential victims listed above.
These offenses can include:
- Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant (Penal Code Section 273.5): This occurs when a person physically injures an intimate partner, causing a "traumatic condition." It is usually charged as a felony and can carry a sentence of up to four years in state prison.
- Domestic Battery (Penal Code Section 243(e)(1)): This involves any willful and unlawful touching that is harmful or offensive and is committed against an intimate partner. It's typically charged as a misdemeanor, with penalties including a year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
- Child Abuse (Penal Code Section 273d): This involves inflicting physical injury or cruel punishment on a child. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the abuse, with a maximum penalty of up to six years in state prison.
- Elder Abuse (Penal Code Section 368): This involves physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of a person aged 65 or older. Penalties can range from misdemeanor probation to four years in state prison.
- Criminal Threats (Penal Code Section 422): This involves threatening to harm or kill another person if the threat causes the person to fear their safety. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, with penalties including up to three years in state prison.
- Stalking (Penal Code Section 646.9): This involves following, harassing, or threatening another person to the point where that individual fears for their safety or the safety of their family. Stalking can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, with penalties including up to five years in state prison.
- Damaging a Phone Line (Penal Code Section 591): This involves unlawfully and maliciously removing, damaging, or obstructing any telephone, telegraph, cable television, or electric lines. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, with penalties including up to three years in county jail.
- Revenge Porn (Penal Code Section 647(j)(4)): This involves intentionally distributing intimate photos or videos of another person without their consent, causing emotional distress. It is generally charged as a misdemeanor, with penalties including up to six months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,0003.
- Aggravated Trespass (Penal Code Section 601): This involves making a credible threat to cause serious bodily harm to another person and, within 30 days of the threat, unlawfully entering their home or workplace with the intent to carry out the threat. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, with penalties including up to three years in state prison.
- Posting Harmful Information on the Internet (Penal Code Section 653.2): This involves electronically distributing, publishing, emailing, hyperlinking, or making available for downloading personal identifying information or an electronic message of a harassing nature about another person with the intent to place that person in fear for their safety. It is generally charged as a misdemeanor, with penalties including up to one year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
These crimes are considered serious because they infringe on the victim's freedom, privacy, and safety. They can cause significant emotional distress and potential physical harm.
Collateral Damage to Those Convicted of Domestic Violence Crimes
The collateral damage of a conviction can be significant and far-reaching. It can lead to loss of custody of children, loss of the right to own firearms, difficulty finding employment or housing, and potential deportation for non-citizens.
A common court action in domestic violence alleged offenses includes a domestic violence restraining order. These can have life-changing consequences for defendants. Once an order is issued, the defendant must not contact or go near the victim, must move out of a shared home, stay away from the victim's school or work, and follow child custody and visitation orders. Violating these orders can result in further criminal charges.
If you have been arrested for a domestic violence crime, bringing in an experienced criminal defense firm is essential. At Appel & Morse, you can rely on our highly skilled team of former prosecutors for advice, guidance, and representation.
Contact us by email or phone at (805) 467-6060 to discuss your case in a free initial consultation.