Domestic violence allegations can be very stressful and embarrassing for the accused. They often feel they are judged guilty even before they are tried in court and the facts exposed. The truth is that domestic violence arrests occur for many reasons, including false accusations. It is not uncommon that an angry spouse will accuse the other of domestic violence to manipulate their facts for revenge or advantages in a custody battle in court. Other times a very minor event is blown out of proportion by the police, and a private disagreement between a couple ends up litigated in the criminal court. If you don’t address these criminal charges, you can be subjected to severe, life-changing consequences.
Thus, if you are accused of domestic violence for any reason, you will need an experienced defense attorney by your side to help maintain your reputation and protect your freedom. At the Law Office of Ann Gottesman, attorney Annwill focus on your legal needs and protect your rights. She provides all her clients with experienced and compassionate legal representation. Ann understands the pressure you are likely feeling and the fear that accompanies the unpleasant experience of navigating the criminal justice system. Ann will obtain all the pertinent evidence in your case and invest the time to into your case to ensure you receive the best possible result. If you are facing charges of domestic violence, don’t hesitate to reach out to attorney Ann Gottesman. She passionately serves clients accused of committing domestic related batteryin Pasadena and the surrounding Los Angeles Courts.
Understanding Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is defined under Penal Code (PC) 13700 as abuse perpetrated against one’s intimate partner. You commit abuse when you recklessly or intentionally use or threaten to use physical force on your intimate partner. The law defines one’s intimate partner as:
- A former or current spouse
- An old or current domestic partner
- A previous or current fiancé(e)
- Someone with whom you have a child
- An ex or current cohabitant
- Someone with whom you are currently in a serious dating relationship or whom you have previously dated in a serious manner.
Common Domestic Violence Offenses in California
The domestic violence charges you can face in California involve abuse, threats, neglect, and battery. Some of the crimes are charged as misdemeanors, while others are felony crimes. However, many of these offenses are wobblers. A wobbler crime is an offense that is charged as either a misdemeanor or felony at the prosecutor‘s discretion. The prosecutor can choose to charge you either with a felony or a misdemeanor based on:
- The facts surrounding the crime
- The severity of the victim’s injuries
- Your criminal history
Let’s look at the domestic violence offenses prohibited under the law:
Corporal Injury on an Inhabitant or Spouse (PC 273.5)
This statute makes it unlawful to cause corporal injury, which leads to even a minor bodily injury to your intimate partner. Corporal injury is charged as a felony. If you are a first-time offender, the possible penalties you will face range from no jail time, up to a maximum of four years in prison.
Domestic Battery (PC 243e1)
PC 243e1 is what many people are charged with in California if there was a minor domestic violence incident that did not result in any visible injuries. This statute prohibits you from inflicting violence or force on your intimate partner. Unlike PC 273.5, you don’t need to cause visible injuries to be convicted of domestic battery. PC 243e1 is charged as a misdemeanor offense. Its punishment includes a maximum county jail sentence of one year and a maximum fine of $2,000.
Child Abuse (PC 273d)
PC 273d makes it an offense to inflict corporal injury or punishment on a minor. Reasonable spanking is allowed. However, any cruel disciplining or one that results in injuries is deemed as child abuse. First-time child abuse offenders can face a punishment of up to a maximum of one year in jail as a misdemeanor or a maximum of three years in prison if the conviction is for a felony.
Child Endangerment (PC 273a)
Child endangerment refers to willfully allowing a child who is in your care to have his or her health or safety endangered or to suffer harm. California PC 273a prohibits child endangerment, and a violation of this law could lead to severe penalties. A child endangerment offense is generally charged as a misdemeanor. However, if you expose the minor to the risk of sustaining a great physical injury, child endangerment will be a wobbler. Misdemeanor penalties include a maximum jail sentence of six months.
Child Neglect (PC 270)
PC 270 sets forth the law on child neglect. It makes it an offense if a guardian/parent deliberately fails to provide necessities to his/her child. Necessities include food, medical care, and shelter. This offense is charged as a misdemeanor whose punishment consists of a maximum jail sentence of one year and a fine not exceeding $2,000.
Elder Abuse (PC 368)
PC 368 is the California statute on elder/senior abuse. This law prohibits any person from inflicting any of these on an older person:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Financial fraud
An elder, in California, is any person who is 65 years old and above. Senior abuse is a wobbler offense. If charged as a misdemeanor, the punishment includes a maximum jail sentence of one year. If it is a felony, it is punished by a maximum of four years in prison.
Stalking (PC 646.9)
The stalking statute prohibits threatening or harassing someone else to a point where the individual fears for their safety or that of their family. Stalking is a wobbler offense. You can either face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on your criminal history. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the punishment will include up to a year in county jail. For a felony conviction, stalking consequences include a prison sentence of three years.
Damaging a Phone Line (PC 591)
PC 591 makes it an offense for a person to destroy or cut phone equipment or phone line. For instance, a domestic violence perpetrator who stops or prevents his or her supposed victim from calling for help will have violated this statute. PC 591 is also a wobbler. If convicted of a felony, your punishment will include a maximum of $10,000 in fines and a prison sentence of three years.
Criminal Threats (PC 422)
PC 422 makes it an offense to threaten another person with severe harm. Doing so may subject you to felony or misdemeanor charges. A misdemeanor conviction carries a maximum jail time of one year. A felony, on the other hand, has a maximum of four years of a prison sentence, and you will also get a strike on your criminal record as per the Three Strikes Laws.
Revenge Porn (Penal Code 647j4)
Revenge porn is a form of cyber harassment. It happens when a person purposefully distributes sexual photographs of someone else to cause the person emotional pain. For purposes of domestic violence, that someone else can be an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend. This is a misdemeanor crime whose punishment includes a maximum of one year in jail and a fine that does not exceed $1,000.
Posting Harmful Information on the Internet (PC 653.2)
PC 653.2 is also referred to as indirect electronic harassment. It occurs when a person emails or posts hurtful info about another person to cause other individuals to harass the person. This offense is charged when a person uses the internet to get revenge on the other person during a domestic disagreement. Posting harmful info on the internet is a misdemeanor whose penalties include a jail sentence of one year and a maximum fine of $1,000.
Additional Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses
A conviction of neglect, battery, abuse, or threats usually attracts more than fines and incarceration. Further punishments for these convictions could include a few or all of these:
Permanent criminal history- Perhaps, the worst punishment is that a domestic violence conviction stays on your permanent criminal history. This means the conviction record will reflect any time someone conducts a background check on you. This may make it hard for you to get State licensing, employment, housing, etc.
Participating in batterers programs- Courts almost always demand that convicted abusers attend treatment & counseling programs for one year. This may happen even if you are sentenced to a summary or formal probation instead of a jail/prison sentence.
Losing your gun rights- Being convicted of a domestic violence offense will most of the time lead to you losing your right to possess or own a firearm. And note that for various reasons, you cannot recover your right to own a gun again after a conviction of domestic violence.
Under PC 29805, most of the misdemeanor domestic violence convictions lead to a firearms ban for ten years. And if it is a misdemeanor sentence for breaking PC 273.5 laws, your right to own a gun is lost for life (Assembly Bill 3129). Also, if the crime is a misdemeanor under the federal statutes, being convicted will lead to a lifetime ban on firearm possession.
PC 29800, on the other hand, is the law on felons with firearms. The law provides that any person that is found guilty of a felony crime in any country or State will lose their right to own a GUN for life. Thus, in case you are sentenced for a felony domestic violence offense, both federal and California laws forbid you from forever lawfully owning a gun.
Domestic violence funds and victim restitution- If you are convicted of a domestic violence offense, the court may order you to pay restitution to the victim in case he/she was injured. Victim restitution could cover the victim’s lost wages, medical bills, property damage, or counseling. You may also be required to pay not more $500 for funding domestic violence initiatives.
Restraining orders- The State’s law permits a domestic violence victim to obtain an emergency protective order. A domestic violence restraining order is obtained in criminal or civil court. An alleged victim doesn’t need to suffer bodily harm for him/her to get an emergency protective order. The victim only needs to show that:
- Someone threatened to abuse or abused him/her or his/her child
- The supposed abuser is his/her first/second-degree relative or his/her intimate partner
The law prohibits any person from violating a protective order. Violating it will subject you to misdemeanor charges if the victim was not hurt. If facing charges of restraining order violation, you and your attorney can argue out the following defenses:
- The restraining order was not legally issued
- You were not aware of the order
- You did not deliberately violate the protective order
- You were falsely accused
Immigration Consequences- Many domestic violence offenses in California are considered aggravated felonies or crimes that involve moral turpitude under immigration law. If you are an immigrant convicted of these charges, you may be deported or become inadmissible to the U.S. Therefore, you must consult with an experienced domestic violence attorney before you plead guilty. The attorney may manage to negotiate and get you a plea deal that will prevent the adverse immigration consequences or better yet, the prosecution may not be able to prove your guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
Common Legal Defenses to Domestic Violence Cases
There are several legal defenses your defense lawyer can argue in court in an attempt to win a dismissal of the domestic violence charges against you. The ones commonly used by experienced attorneys include:
- The victim’s injury was due to an accident
- You were acting in your defense of self or defense of another person
- The victim’s injuries were not a result of your actions
- False accusations due to jealousy or anger or because the victim wants to have an advantage in child custody or divorce proceedings
Plea Bargains in Domestic Violence Cases
A skilled attorney may be able to get you a plea deal after negotiations with the prosecution. A plea deal may involve you pleading guilty to lesser charges, and/or to more lenient penalties. Formal or informal diversion can be negotiated in some domestic battery cases which leads to a full dismissal after the accused completes a certain amount of counseling and/or community service hours. Being sentenced to reduced charges helps prevent the negative consequences associated with the stigma of the original charge. The two most common offenses you can plead to after a plea bargain include PC 602 criminal trespass and PC 415 disturbing the peace. Other benefits of pleading guilty to either of these offenses are that:
- You will retain your right to possess a firearm
- You will not lose the custody rights automatically
- There is no inadmissibility or deportation if you are an immigrant
Ann’s Advice Regarding Facing Domestic Violence Charges
Sometimes when domestic violence allegations are false or an affirmative defense applies, going to trial will be the best option, and unless the prosecutor agrees to diversion or an immediate dismissal, negotiating a plea deal may be fruitless. However other times, it is beneficial to the accused to have a caring advocate negotiate a domestic battery case with the prosecution. In such cases, I always want my client to be in the best possible position by the time I talk to the prosecutor. This sometimes means I will request my client to enroll in domestic violence or anger management counselingbefore the first court date (the arraignment date) so that the prosecutor and Judge will see that my client is striving to improve any issues he or she may have in their spousal relationship.
If You are About to Be Arrested, or are Being Investigated Form Domestic Violence, Remember:
Speaking to the police is not a good idea because anything you say WILL be used against you. But you may think “I am innocent, and I have nothing to hide. I might as well tell the officer my side of the story.” WRONG! If you are being investigated or questioned as a perpetrator or suspect, the police are there to gather any incriminating evidence they possibly can. Statements you make that you believe help your story, can be used against you in creative ways you can’t anticipate! You WILL have a chance to tell your side of the story, but it is safer to do that in court after your arrest with your lawyer. It is very rare that anyone talks their way out of getting arrested. So, exercising your constitutional right to remain silent and have an attorney present during any questioning is a right you should exercise any time you are being questioned by the police. While there are many well-meaning and moral police officers, you cannot tell which officer is questioning you, and even a well-meaning officer can have preconceived ideas and biases that will result in your statements being used against you later.
For any client I represent, I make sure I am protecting their rights at every stage of the criminal proceedings, even before criminal charges are filed.
Find a Domestic Violence Attorney Near Me
In most cases, it is not the circumstances surrounding your case that lead to the best outcome. In fact, the facts of your case may indicate that you are guilty. However, understanding the law and skillful legal representation of the defense to the prosecutor and judge can yield the best results. We at The Law Office of Ann Gottesman not only understand the law but also have excellent representation strategies if you are facing criminal charges. You can trust us to fight to protect your rights and attain the best possible outcomes. Call Ann at 626-710-4021 if you are charged in Pasadena or a surrounding Los Angeles court, and find help today!