Penalties for instances of domestic violence have become much more severe over the past few years, not only in California, but across the nation. Governments and politicians seek to prove they are tough on crime, yet the crime of domestic violence has many facets. If you have been charged with domestic violence in Los Angeles, you can find yourself extremely frustrated.
First, you may not even have committed the crime, rather your charges stem from a person who is angry with you and wants revenge. Or, if you did commit the crime of domestic violence, perhaps there are extenuating circumstances, yet you find no one seems to want to listen to your side of the story. It can be embarrassing when your personal life is exposed and your children are dragged into the fray, and it can be infuriating when you see the system being manipulated by someone with an agenda.
False Allegations of Domestic Violence Not Uncommon
Typically, prosecutors will file charges quickly in cases of alleged domestic violence, and it will not be until charges are filed that you are offered a public defender. If you are able to hire your own attorney as soon as you feel trouble may be brewing, you are likely to experience a more positive outcome to your charges. In fact, if you have an aggressive, proactive criminal defense attorney on your side, the charges may be defeated before the case begins. A huge amount of those arrested for domestic violence are either innocent of the charges completely, or, at the very least, were not entirely to blame.
In fact, in a 2009 report from the University of New Mexico School of Law, it was noted that domestic violence recantations are almost the norm. The head of the Family Violence Division in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office states that an estimated 90 percent of domestic dispute victims later recant their original statements. Recantations do not always mean no abuse occurred, and, in some cases the victim can be pressured by the perpetrator to recant, and will do so out of fear. Even taking those cases into account, there are still a very large number of false accusations of domestic violence. An organization known as SAVE believes as many as 700,000 people in the United States are wrongfully convicted of domestic violence every year.
Few Safeguards to Protect Those Falsely Charged with Domestic Violence
So, whether you are a good person who made a mistake and now need help navigating the legal maze ahead, or you truly did not commit an act of domestic violence and need an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure the prosecutor and a jury understand that, do not make the mistake of trying to “go it alone.” Having a knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal defense attorney by your side from start to finish can truly make a difference in your future.
Unfortunately, there are few safeguards in our current system to protect innocent people from being accused of domestic violence. The person making the 911 call is almost always deemed the “victim,” meaning if you did not make the call, you will probably be arrested when the police arrived. Further, many people believe the person making the accusations can later drop the charges, and everything will go back to normal. This is absolutely not true. Once an arrest has been made, even if your spouse/partner/girlfriend/boyfriend says he or she wants to have the charges against you dropped, the decision is left entirely up to the District Attorney.
Elements of the Crime of Domestic Violence
Under California Penal Code, Section 273.5, to prove you are guilty of the crime of domestic violence, the state must show you:
- Willfully and intentionally inflicted bodily injury on another person, and
- That person was either your spouse (current or former), a partner, a girlfriend or boyfriend, someone you have a child with, or someone you are having or had a sexual relationship with.
The offense of domestic violence is a wobbler, meaning it can be filed, pled or sentenced as a misdemeanor or a felony. The level of injury to the victim, your prior criminal history, and the skill and experience of your attorney will determine how your offense will be filed, pled or sentenced. In cases where it appears there was only pushing and shoving between partners or spouses, the offense may be charged under California Penal Code, Section 243(e)(1), Battery of a cohabitant or spouse, as a misdemeanor.
Penalties Associated with a Domestic Violence Conviction
The following penalties are possible if you are convicted of domestic violence in Los Angeles:
- If you are convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, you could face up to 364 days in county jail, and a fine as large as $6,000.
- If you are convicted of a domestic violence felony, you could face up to two, three or four years in county jail or up to six years in prison, and a fine as large as $6,000.
- If you are convicted of domestic violence within seven years of a prior domestic violence conviction, or if you have any “strikes” on your record, you will be required to serve time in jail.
- You may be ordered to complete a 52-week class on preventing domestic violence.
- If you are not a U.S. citizen and you are convicted of domestic violence, you could be deported.
- You could lose custodial or visitation rights to your children.
- You could lose your right to possess a firearm.
- You could be ordered to pay up to $5,000 to a women’s shelter.
- You could have a restraining order filed against you, which could potentially prohibit contact between you and the alleged victim for up to ten years.
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
Under California law, violent domestic conduct may be restrained through an injunction called a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO). If a DVRO is filed against you, you must be notified, and copies of the restraining order personally delivered to you. You will have an opportunity to respond to the claims of domestic violence leveled against you, however if you violate the DVRO you could go to jail, be assessed a fine, or both.
If you have been charged with domestic violence, speak to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to ensure your rights and your future are properly protected. Your attorney can help you whether you made a bad decision or you are innocent of the charges, but it is essential that you bring him or her on board quickly.