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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence & what you need to know

California law defines domestic violence as a criminal act between parties who are involved in a family or intimate relationship. This can include spouses, former spouses, cohabitants, former cohabitants, parents who share a child together, and dating partners. It may come as a surprise to know that many domestic violence victims are male, in spite of the widespread misconception that domestic violence victims are almost always female.

Domestic violence covers a wide range of abuse, including child endangerment, which is a separate charge. Any threatening or violent act, even if the accused did not intend to harm or compromise the safety and security of the victim, could be grounds for prosecution under California domestic violence laws.

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Being that California is a mandatory arrest state when it comes to domestic violence, police are obligated to make an arrest if there is sufficient probable cause to do so. What this means is that if probable cause exists the arresting officer has no discretion as to whether to arrest you or not. If you are arrested for domestic violence, do not apologize to the alleged victim or make any statements to the police. Even if you are completely innocent, you cannot “talk your way” out of your situation once the police arrive on the scene. By speaking you are only helping the police find probable cause to arrest you…and it is not your job to make their job easier!

In the past, police officers could only make an arrest if they actually witnessed an act of domestic violence. Since the 1980’s, however, the law has allowed that the presence of visible injuries such as bruises or black eyes was sufficient probable cause to make an arrest. In more recent years, the mere assertion by a party that a domestic partner threatened or intimidated them can trigger an arrest. The courts defend this by arguing that probable cause involves something less than certainty but more than suspicion, and to the degree that a law enforcement official suspects that someone may be guilty of domestic violence, they have the right to make an arrest.


Domestic violence is a general term for a number of different crimes occurring between people in intimate relationships. The most common type involves battery, which is defined by California Penal Code Section 242 as the “willful and unlawful use of force or violence against the person of another”. Penal Code Section 243(e) states that when battery takes place between intimate parties it can be classified as domestic violence. Prosecutors can seek a conviction under Section 242(d) if the violence involved “serious bodily injury”; if there is a “corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition” the relevant part of the Code is Section 273.5.


Courts in California take allegations of domestic violence extremely seriously. Certain domestic violence convictions can put an offender behind bars for up to four years and result in up to $6,000 in fines. Other less serious convictions can still result in prison terms of up to one year and fines of up to $2,000. Additional consequences may include mandatory counseling, losing the right to return home or to see one’s children, or parole or probation. The charges can be filed as a felony or misdemeanor depending on whether the victim sustained injuries, if prior abuse was reported or if the individual being charged has a criminal record.


Self-defense is the most common kind of defense in domestic violence cases. This means that you acted or threatened to act violently in order to protect yourself. Other common defenses in domestic violence cases include but are not limited to insufficient proof, the wrong suspect being arrested, the fact that the other partner consented to the violence or the allegations made against the defendant are deliberately false. Regardless of the specific facts in your case, you should speak with your domestic violence lawyer about your case before deciding on an approach to your criminal defense. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose from attempting to make excuses or explain yourself to police.

At LeahLegal, we understand that relationships can be complex and are often times difficult. People argue and arguments frequently escalate. An unfounded charge of domestic violence can ruin more than just your reputation – it can put you behind bars for years and keep you from seeing your loved ones. Remember - if you are charged with a domestic violence crime, do not speak directly to the police or detectives. Nothing you can say will help you and can and will only be used against you. Even when the evidence against you may be overwhelming, a good domestic violence lawyer can often get your charges – and the consequences – significantly reduced. We can also help if you have been served with an emergency restraining order or protective order. Call LeahLegal today to schedule a free consultation about your domestic violence case.

For an attorney who will help you navigate through this difficult, emotionally charged process please call (818) 484-1100 for a free initial consultation.

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