Domestic violence is a serious accusation, and it affects hundreds of individuals and families in California every year. However, just because it’s a common issue doesn’t mean that everyone knows how these types of situations are handled by the law or what their rights are if they are accused. 

If you are navigating a situation where you are being charged with domestic violence, it’s incredibly important that you have the right information, rather than just relying on what you think you know from TV shows or hearsay (because rarely do criminal justice shows get it all right, and most people aren’t aware of the nuances of California’s legal code!). 

Knowledge is power. In this blog, we’ll debunk 5 common myths about domestic violence charges in California so you can gain some clarity about what you are up against! 

Myth #1 – The Accuser Can Drop The Charges Anytime

This is an incredibly common misconception around domestic violence charges in California. Many people think that the alleged victim who reported the abuse has the power to recant and drop the charges, but once charges have been filed, the decision to prosecute them lies with the state – not with any individual. Even if the alleged victim expresses a wish to let the matter go, prosecutors may decide to proceed. 

Particularly if there is enough evidence to support the alleged victim’s claim, or there is a history of repeat offenses, or there is something political going on where the prosecutor wants to make a point, the state is more likely to move forward with the case. This is partially a protection for victims who may otherwise be intimidated or blackmailed by their abuser, but it is also difficult for the person the charges were filed against if they were falsely accused. 

Myth #2 – You Have To Physically Hurt The Victim To Be Charged

Actually, you don’t. In the state of California, domestic violence encompasses a wide range of actions. People can be charged for attempting to use physical force, even if they were prevented from doing so and didn’t actually inflict any physical harm. They can also be charged for threatening to use a deadly weapon (or threatening violence/physical harm, in many cases). 

But it’s not all physical action or threats – stalking sometimes can lead to a domestic violence charge, and so can damaging property. Financial coercion/manipulation, psychological harm, and even sexual abuse (including “revenge porn” and other similar situations) can be considered grounds for a domestic violence charge. . 

It’s also important to note that just because the alleged victim doesn’t have visible physical injuries doesn’t mean that a domestic violence charge can’t be made. 

Myth #3 – If Both You And The Other Person Are At Fault, Both Of You Will Be Charged

This is another common misunderstanding around domestic violence charges, because there are many situations where both people involved in a domestic violence dispute are fighting with each other. Both partners may be threatening each other, or even physically harming each other. However, dual arrests – where police respond to a call and find both parties to be at fault – are pretty rare. The police in California have to arrest someone when they respond to a call and find evidence that domestic violence occurred (per the state’s “mandatory arrest” policy). In situations where both partners are fighting, the police may arrest the stronger one, the one who seems more at fault, or based on some other perception or bias, even if the other partner was also guilty!

That’s why you shouldn’t assume that the law will be fair to you, and if you are arrested but your other partner was equally or more at fault, you need a skilled domestic violence defense lawyer who can stand up for your rights. 

Myth #4 – You Can Only Be Charged With Domestic Violence If You Are Married

While a large number of domestic violence arrests do involve disputes between married couples, the domestic violence umbrella is wide and includes ex-spouses, fiancé/es, people in dating relationships, co-parents, and cohabitants – all relationships that don’t require a marriage license. 

Myth #5 – Domestic Violence Charges Always Result In Jail Time

Remember, the way the legal system in America works is that you are innocent until proven guilty! “Charges” are not synonymous with “conviction”. If you are arrested and charged, you can still work with an attorney to fight the charges and pursue getting the charges dismissed (or the penalties of those charges reduced). There are many possible defenses that may be available to you depending on the specific details of your case! 

While it IS true that most counties in California mandate a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail for a domestic violence conviction (even if it is a first time offense and misdemeanor), an attorney may be able to plea down to a lesser charge or get prosecution to agree to a pre-trial diversion program (essentially a rehabilitation program) so you don’t have to serve time. 

Accused Of Domestic Violence? Don’t Wait! Call Confianza Legal Today To Schedule A Free Consultation

It’s no myth that domestic violence charges are incredibly serious, regardless of the circumstances. It’s understandable to be scared if you have been arrested on this charge! If you are convicted, you do face jail time, fines, a restraining order, the loss of certain privileges, eviction, losing your job, losing custody rights, deportation, and more. Your permanent record will negatively affect the rest of your life, which is why it’s so important to have excellent legal representation you can trust on your side as soon as possible! 

Our firm has spent 20 years serving the accused in the greater L.A. area. We are extremely knowledgeable about California’s penal code about domestic violence, and we will do everything in our power to protect your future! Let us fight for you. Learn more about your options and next steps by scheduling a free consultation with our team today.