Domestic Violence Awareness Month: What is DV under California Law
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. More than 10 million people in the United States are victims of domestic violence each year. Women are twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence as men, but many men are also victims of domestic violence each year.
It is important to raise awareness of domestic violence. Raising awareness helps victims know that they are not alone. It also helps victims find help and resources to get out of an abusive relationship.
What is Considered Domestic Violence in California?
California has broad domestic violence or domestic abuse laws. The laws cover a wide variety of offenses against someone you share a close relationship with now or in the past.
You could face a domestic violence charge under Penal Code 13700 if the victim is your:
- Spouse or former spouse
- The parent of your child
- A former or current romantic partner
- A former or current roommate (cohabitant)
You could also face domestic abuse charges under the Family Code if the victim is a blood relative within two degrees or a relative by marriage. Therefore, domestic abuse applies if the victim is your sibling, grandparent, parent, niece, nephew, uncle, aunt, or other close relative or in-law.
Domestic violence is the act of exerting force or threatening to exert force. Therefore, the laws include:
- Domestic battery
- Child abuse
- Elder abuse
- Violations of protective orders
- Child endangerment
- Cyber-stalking and posting damaging information online
- Criminal threats
The California domestic violence laws define the legal requirements for a person to be guilty of the above offenses.
What are the Domestic Violence Laws in California?
Examples of some of the common charges related to domestic violence include:
Penal Code §243(e)(1) defines the act of domestic battery. The code section makes it illegal for you to touch a person on the above lists in a harmful manner. A harmful manner can include touching the person in anger.
The victim does not need to prove that he or she was injured. The act of shoving, pushing, or a similar action can be sufficient for a domestic battery charge. Domestic battery is a misdemeanor charge.
Penal Code §368 defines the criminal act of elder abuse in California. It can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case. Elder abuse occurs when you financially exploit, willfully neglect, or cause emotional pain or unjustifiable physical pain to a person who is 65 years of age or older.
You could also be charged with elder abuse if you cause or allow an older adult in your case to suffer injuries or to be placed in harm’s way. Also, allowing a person under your supervision to inflict pain and suffering can result in an elder abuse charge.
Elder abuse is a willful act. However, actions that rise to the level of gross negligence can result in an elder abuse charge.
Penal Code §273(d) defines child abuse as:
- Willfully inflicting injury to a child
- Willfully inflicting inhuman or cruel punishment on a child
- An injury or punishment caused the child to sustain a visible injury
- The actions were not reasonable acts of disciplining a child
It is important to understand that it is legal to spank your child in California. However, spanking cannot be excessive. There is much room for interpretation as to what is reasonable or excessive.
It is illegal to threaten someone on the above list or an immediate family member with serious harm. Penal Code §422 defines a criminal threat as a statement that meets all three of these criteria:
- You state that you will cause substantial harm or kill someone
- The person is reasonably in a state of fear because of your statement
- The threat is communicated in writing, verbally, or through an electronic device
Criminal threats may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the facts of the case.
You can be charged with child endangerment even if the child does not sustain a physical injury. Penal Code §273(a) defines child endangerment as:
- Permitting a child in your care to be injured or placed in a dangerous situation
- Willfully causing a child in your care to be injured or placed in a dangerous situation
- Permitting or causing a child to sustain unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain
As with many of the other domestic violence charges, child endangerment can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the harm to the child.
What Should I Do if I Am Arrested for Domestic Violence?
If you are arrested for any criminal charge related to domestic violence, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. The potential consequences for a domestic violence conviction can be severe. You could face thousands of dollars in fines, years in prison, probation, and other consequences.