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Apr 26, 2019

Types of Domestic Violence in California

There are several types of domestic violence in California that fall under the umbrella of domestic abuse. If you’ve been arrested for or accused of domestic violence, it’s imperative that you contact a San Francisco Bay Area domestic violence attorney as soon as possible. The laws are complex and your freedom is at stake, so you don’t want to take any chances. You want the best possible legal defense.

Who is Covered?

Types of domestic violence in California can be broken down into who is protected by the law. Under California law, a variety of “intimate partners” can accuse you of domestic violence. These include your spouse or ex-spouse, someone you live with or you used to live with, or the other parent of your child. They also encompass the person to whom you are or were engaged, or someone you’re dating or have dated in the past.

Let’s say Charles and Tasha dated for three months, and then Charles found out that Tasha was seeing someone on the side. Charles broke up with Tasha and two weeks later ran into her with her new boyfriend at a club. Charles got angry and, in the heat of the moment, shoved her. Tasha could claim that Charles injured her, and he could be arrested on domestic violence charges.

Drill down into the law, and it’s clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Domestic violence laws also pertain to children and a variety of other relatives, such as siblings, step-siblings, parents, grandparents, and in-laws. If the accuser is 65 years old or older, then elder abuse charges can be piled on top of domestic violence charges.

Let’s say Charles’ sister, Sarah, has a drug habit and sneaks into his bedroom while he’s gone to steal his money. One night Charles comes home early and catches Sarah in the act. He loses his temper and threatens to punch her. Sarah could claim that Charles threatened her, and he could find himself in handcuffs.

If Charles’ and Sarah’s feeble grandmother Phoebe lived with them and Sarah forged her grandma’s checks or used Phoebe’s ATM to withdraw money without her knowledge, then Sarah could be charged with elder abuse.

What is Covered?

The actions taken against the alleged victim can also fall into categories that constitute different types of domestic violence. It’s common to think that domestic violence involves hitting one person hitting the other person, but that’s just the beginning. For example, damaging the property of the other person can be considered domestic violence, as can stalking or threatening them.

Let’s say that Charles recovered from his heartbreak with Tasha and started dating Linda. He and Linda – along with her four-year-old son, Jameson – moved in together six months later. Not long after, Charles and Linda began bickering, and one night Charles got so mad that he threw a plate against the wall and it shattered not far from where Jameson was sitting. Charles could be arrested on charges of domestic violence and child endangerment.

Alternately, let’s say that Charles and Linda made a go of it, but then Linda decided she wanted to break off the relationship and moved out of their shared apartment. Charles, recalling how he felt when he found out that Tasha was two-timing him, started obsessing over Linda’s social media posts and showed up at places she checked into online. He sometimes followed her to her new apartment to see if she was meeting someone there. Charles could be hauled off on domestic violence charges for stalking his ex-girlfriend.

Primary Criminal Charges for Domestic Violence

The primary law under which people are charged for domestic violence is California Penal Code section 273.5, which applies to willfully injuring an intimate partner. The litmus test for this crime is that the other person was injured using physical force. The injury could be minor, but the penalty is definitely significant.

This type of domestic violence is considered a wobbler, meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to a year in county jail. A felony conviction can mean a sentence of two, three, or four years in state prison. In addition to jail or prison time, a fine of up to $6,000 can be imposed. A prior conviction within the previous seven years can lead to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Not everyone who is convicted goes to jail or prison. An experienced San Francisco Bay Area domestic violence attorney can intervene at sentencing or via a plea agreement and argue for probation or a suspended sentence. While the law mandates 15 days in jail for a second conviction within seven years and 60 days in jail for two or more convictions within the previous seven years, probation is still a possibility. With probation, you may also be required to pay a maximum of $5,000 to a women’s shelter and to pay for the victim’s counseling costs.

Other Criminal Charges for Types of Domestic Violence

While violations of Penal Code section 273.5 are the most common domestic violence charges, there are other types of domestic violence that can violate other California laws. For example, misdemeanor domestic battery charges can be filed against you if the other person reports you but isn’t injured. A conviction can result in up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Probation can be granted or the sentence can be suspended, but then you’ll need to complete a counseling or treatment program, and may be required to pay a women’s shelter up to $5,000 and pay for your accuser’s counseling costs.

If a child is involved – as in the example with Charles, Linda, and Jameson – then you can be charged with child endangerment. Child endangerment is a wobbler, and a misdemeanor conviction can lead to up to a year in jail or up to six years in state prison. If probation is granted, it will be for a minimum of four years, and you’ll be required to complete a counseling program. If you were drinking or taking drugs when the incident occurred, you’ll also be subjected to random drug testing.

If the child was hit, then you can also be charged with child abuse. That is also a wobbler. A misdemeanor conviction can mean up to a year in jail, while a felony conviction can mean two, four, or six years in prison. A fine of up to $6,000 can also be assessed. If you’ve had a prior conviction for the same offense within the previous ten years, you’re subject to a four-year enhancement. On the other hand, if you’re granted probation, then you’ll serve a minimum of three years of probation, attend a one-year counseling program, and  – if you were under the influence when the incident occurred – be subjected to random drug testing.

California law enumerates specific protections for those who are the most vulnerable, such as the elderly. Using the example of Charles’ and Sarah’s grandmother, Phoebe, Sarah could be charged with elder abuse for forgery or fraud. The punishment depends upon the amount of money involved. If the amount is $950 or less, then the charge is a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If the amount is more than $950, then it becomes a wobbler. A misdemeanor conviction carries a fine of up to $2,500 and a jail sentence of up to one year, while a felony conviction can mean a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of two, three, or four years.

Financial shenanigans are just one type of elder abuse. Physical harm, endangerment, and mental suffering are also considered elder abuse and can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies; convictions can carry the concomitant punishments.

Threats as Types of Domestic Violence

Even if you did nothing to injure your accuser, you can still be charged with crimes that are considered other types of domestic violence. For example, threatening an intimate partner is against the law. For example, if Charles threatened to kill Linda when she moved out of their apartment – even if he never intended to carry out the threat – then he could be arrested for making a criminal threat. It doesn’t matter if he made the threat in person, over the phone, or in a text message; according to the law, the only thing that matters is that Linda feared for her own safety or for the safety of Jameson. If convicted, Charles could end up spending up to a year in county jail or state prison.

If Charles threatened Linda and then followed her or showed up after she’d posted a restaurant check-in online, then he could be picked up for stalking. A misdemeanor conviction could result in a year in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. But let’s say that Linda had previously taken out a restraining order that prohibited Charles from coming near her. Then, a stalking conviction could result in a state prison sentence of two, three, or four years.

For a moment, let’s imagine that Charles intended to carry out his threat against Linda. If he made the threat and then showed up at her job or her new apartment in the next 30 days, he could be arrested for criminal trespass. This is a wobbler, so it could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction could land Charles in jail for up to a year and force him to pay a fine of up to $2,000, while a felony conviction could land him in state prison for 16 months, two years, or three years.

Getting Revenge Online

Relationships are messy, and troubled relationships can lead people to lash out using the most convenient mechanism possible – social media. Publishing an intimate partner’s personal information, email address, or photo on social media, via text message, or via email is illegal according to California law if it makes the partner afraid for their safety. The same is true if you convince a third party to do the harassing. Online harassment is charged as a misdemeanor and can result in up to a year of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.

Similarly, posting nude or intimate images of an intimate partner online without their consent, knowing that it will cause them emotional distress, is a misdemeanor in California. A conviction can result in up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in county jail.

Fighting Various Types of Domestic Violence

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, time is not on your side. A domestic violence arrest often results in an immediate restraining order, which can keep you from accessing your home, your car, your children, and your pets. A criminal conviction for domestic violence can change your life forever. A criminal record impacts everything from your credit report to your job prospects.

An experienced San Francisco Bay Area domestic violence attorney like Elliot Silver can step in and challenge the charges against you. For example, he may argue that your accuser was the perpetrator and you were the victim. He may assert that no injury was sustained or that the injury was the result of an accident. He might argue that you acted in self-defense or that there is no proof that you were the perpetrator.

A seasoned Bay Area domestic violence attorney can also have an impact on how the charges are filed, and help ensure that wobblers are charged as misdemeanors rather than felonies. He understands the nuances of the law and can negotiate a plea agreement that ensures that a domestic violence conviction stays off of your record. For example, he might get the prosecutor to agree to a charge of misdemeanor battery or simple assault. He can also influence sentencing, and help to ensure that you receive the lightest possible sentence.

If you’re facing any type of domestic violence charge, don’t wait another minute. Contact Elliot Silver today. He will deliver the best possible outcome for your case.

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