Domestic violence includes domestic or spousal abuse, battering, or making threats that someone would reasonably place a person in fear that they were about to be physically harmed. Examples of domestic violence include:• Stalking • Harassment • Destroying someone’s property • Trespass • Social or economic deprivation • Battery • Sexual assault • Threats of violence
The person who is being threatened or harmed must have been in an intimate relationship. This includes the following:•Spouse or ex-spouse •Parent •Same-sex partner •Person sharing custody of a child •Roommate or ex-roommate •Girlfriend or boyfriend living together or who once lived together •Current or former fiance
If charged as a simple domestic battery, you face a misdemeanor conviction. A simple battery need not involve physical violence, but can be a threat of force or any contact without consent and if done in an angry or offensive way.
An offender’s record of a simple battery conviction can be sealed within two years of the conviction and cannot be used as a “prior” offense to enhance a domestic violence charge or sentence.
If there is serious bodily injury such as a concussion, broken limb or lacerations requiring stitches, you can be charged with Aggravated Battery, which is a felony. If you had a previous conviction for an aggravated assault within the past 7 years, you can be charged with an aggravated crime.
A domestic violence conviction is generally a misdemeanor unless there was a sexual assault or serious and permanent injuries resulted. It also depends on your criminal history and prior acts of violence. A misdemeanor conviction in California carries a minimum of 3 years of informal probation and up to 1 year in county jail. If you had a prior offense within 7 years, there is a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 15 days. It is 60 days if you had at least 2 prior convictions within 7 years.
You also face up to $6,000 in fines, or $10,000, if you had a prior conviction
Other aspects of your sentence include a payment to a battered woman’s shelter of up to $5,000 and reimbursement of medical expenses to the battered victim. You also face a protective order against any further act of violence against the victim and/or a restraining order prohibiting you from any contact with the victim for up to 10 years.
Typically, the court will order an offender to participate in a community service program or class regarding spousal battering.
A felony carries formal probation and up to 2-4 years in state prison, or up to 5 years if you had a prior conviction for sexual assault or other aggravated assault. Your sentence can be enhanced if the victim or anyone else involved in the incident, regardless if they were an intimate partner, sustained great bodily harm.
You also face a “strike” under California’s Three Strikes Law. A second strike will double your sentence. Three strikes carries a term of 25-years to life in state prison.
You must also comply with any court-ordered community or treatment programs and with any restraining and/or protective orders.
Possible defenses include self-defense if the aggressor was the other party and you were defending yourself against violence.
The credibility of the accuser may be an issue, especially if there are other circumstances such as a pending divorce or child custody dispute where the accuser may be motivated to fabricate a domestic assault charge.