Domestic violence is considered a serious crime in California. As such, the consequences can be significant, especially if there’s more than one conviction. Defending yourself from domestic violence charges is strongly discouraged because the laws are complex, and having knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys can help you both avoid pitfalls and use tactics the layperson doesn’t know about. Here are some reasons why taking these charges seriously and fighting them is recommended.
How Is Domestic Violence Defined in California?
In California law, domestic violence is abuse committed against either an adult or minor who is a spouse, ex-spouse, domestic partner or previous domestic partner, or someone that the person charged with domestic violence either is about to have or has had a child with. It’s also abuse against someone the charged person dated or was engaged to, or is dating or is engaged to. That’s a wide range of relationships, including several that don’t involve a marriage license.
If a couple was not married, the courts would look for proof of a significant committed relationship beyond a normal roommate situation. Some of the evidence that could signify a committed relationship includes:
- Length of the relationship (the longer the relationship, the more committed it was and less likely to be viewed as a fling by either party), especially if there weren’t long periods where the couple separated before coming together again
- A sexual relationship conducted while living in the same place
- If the couple shared income or expenses or had joint ownership or use of property
What Can I Expect if I Am Convicted of Domestic Violence?
Because the charges are considered deeply serious, a conviction can lead to many strict consequences, including any or all of the following.
You’ll Become Subject to Restraining or Protective Orders.
Most domestic violence cases are viewed as having someone in danger from someone else. That, in turn, leads to the person considered at risk filing restraining or protective orders against the person charged with abusing them. In some cases, the courts will go ahead with these orders even if the person at risk doesn’t request them. They can be short-term, or they can last for up to five years. They can prevent you from going anywhere near the person who accused you as well as any children you had together. You can be forced to move out of your home.
You Could Spend Time in Jail or Prison.
Some domestic violence convictions result in a jail or prison sentence. That will interfere with your ability to earn a living, and it’s not likely your job will be held for you, especially if the jail term is a lengthy one.
There Can Be Repercussions for non-U.S. Citizens.
If you’re an immigrant that hasn’t been accepted as a U.S. citizen, being convicted of domestic violence could lead to your being refused entry into the U.S. If you’re already in the U.S., it could lead to mandatory deportation and refusal to be allowed to return.
The Conviction Could Affect Child Custody.
A conviction could adversely affect your ability to spend time with your children, including the possibility of being prohibited from seeing them at all and losing custody or visitation rights. It can also potentially prevent you from adopting a child, including a stepchild.
You May Have Difficulty Obtaining Jobs or Housing.
Many landlords require background checks as part of a housing application and have the right to refuse to rent to someone with a criminal conviction on their record. The same applies to prospective employers. Some job categories, such as those in healthcare or related to children (teaching or daycare), often have restrictions against hiring anyone with domestic violence convictions on their records. Careers that require licensing, such as medical or realty, are likely to reject people with these convictions too.
You Could Be Prevented from Owning Firearms.
If you’re convicted of domestic violence, or if a judge approves a restraining order against you, not only are you prevented from purchasing firearms, you will have to get rid of any firearms you own. You’re required to either hand them over to police, who will keep them until the restraining order ends
You May Lose Your Right to Vote.
If you’re convicted of a domestic violence felony charge and sentenced to prison, you may not legally be able to vote while in prison.
What Should I Do if I’m Charged With Domestic Violence?
Call us at 562-991-6298 to set up a free case evaluation and strategy session to go through your specific situation. We know how intimidating it can be to face domestic violence charges, and we’re here to guide you through the overwhelming process. We have experience that allows us to understand the nuances of each case, how opposing counsel will proceed, and how the courts will respond. Involve us as soon as you’ve been charged so we can get straight to work on your case.
There are several lines of defense that can be used to counter a domestic violence charge:
- The injuries were due to an accident, not domestic violence.
- You acted only in self-defense or defending someone else (such as a child) rather than initiating the violence.
- The person claiming they were a victim of domestic violence is lying, or they’ve accused the wrong person.
- The injuries had nothing to do with your actions.
Once we’ve done your free case evaluation and strategy session, we can determine what type of defense will work best for you.