Is Domestic Violence a Felony in California?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Nov 08, 2023 | Domestic Violence
Is Domestic Violence a Felony in California?

Understanding the legal implications of domestic violence charges in California is crucial. Domestic violence, in some instances, can be charged as a felony depending on several different factors.


For defendants, it’s helpful to understand exactly what domestic violence is and what determines the severity of the charges. 

What Is Domestic Violence?

In California, domestic violence laws are designed to protect against harm or threats of harm from specific individuals. These include current and former spouses, cohabitants, dating partners, and intimate partners. There may also be provisions extended in specific cases to protect parents, children, and relatives from such abuse.

Most Offenses Can Be Felonies or Misdemeanors

Most domestic violence offenses in California hold the potential to be classified as either felonies or misdemeanors, otherwise known as “wobblers.” Their classification hinges on various factors, such as the context of the situation, the severity of injuries inflicted on alleged victims, and the defendant’s criminal history.

Corporal Injury To a Spouse Is a Felony Offense

In California, this charge refers to causing physical harm to an intimate partner. This act is always classified as a felony under California law. Penalties for this offense can vary, including serving one year in county jail, up to four years in state prison, and/or paying fines of up to $10,000.

Common Wobbler Domestic Violence Offenses

Understanding the intricacies of “wobbler” domestic violence offenses is crucial for any defendant navigating California’s legal system. The most common ones include the following:

Domestic Battery

California’s Domestic Battery law criminalizes inflicting force or physical harm on an intimate partner. This offense can lead to a fine of up to $2,000 and/or one year in county jail. 


However, if the domestic battery results in serious injury, this is no longer treated as a misdemeanor but escalates to a felony charge. The corresponding penalties include fines of up to $10,000 and/or up to four years imprisonment.

Child Abuse

In California, child abuse is defined as the act of inflicting corporal punishment or harm on a child, though it excludes reasonable disciplinary spankings. If the behavior is cruel or results in a traumatic condition, it will be considered child abuse, and the offender can face stringent punishments – up to six years in state prison and/or fines amounting to $6,000.

Child Endangerment

California criminalizes any willful act that causes or permits a child under one’s care to suffer or endangers their health and safety. This is known as child endangerment. Examples include a mother who allows her partner to physically abuse her child or a parent running an unsafe drug operation in their home with the child present.


The severity of this crime is determined by the risk level posed to the minor.


If there is potential for great bodily injury, it is charged as a felony carrying penalties of up to six years in prison and/or fines reaching $10,000. 


If the risk of significant harm isn’t present but still places the child in dangerous situations, then it is charged as a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or fines amounting to $1,000.

Legal Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges

Facing domestic violence charges can be a frightening experience, but understanding legal defenses is crucial. Some of the most common include:

False Accusation

Circumstances such as heated family disputes or contentious divorces can lead to false accusations of domestic violence.

Self-Defense or Defense of Others 

If you were protecting yourself or others from harm and used necessary force, this could constitute a valid defense.

Mistaken Identity/Alibi

If you weren’t present during incidents attributed to you and have ways to prove it, an alibi defense can be used to get you off the hook.

Contact an Experienced Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

Remember that each case is unique, and consulting with a legal professional who specializes in domestic violence cases should always be your first step. If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a domestic violence defense lawyer


For more information please contact the Los Angeles Criminal Defense law firm of The Rodriguez Law Group for a free consultation, give us a call at (213) 577-1219 or visit our convenient location:

The Rodriguez Law Group – Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
626 Wilshire Blvd Suite 460,
Los Angeles, CA 90017, United States