Actor Rick Schroder, of NYPD Blue Fame, was recently arrested on felony domestic violence charges in Los Angeles. This is the second time Schroder has been arrested for domestic violence in less than a month. According to reports, he and his girlfriend got into a verbal dispute which then escalated into a physical incident. Schroder is accused of refusing to allow his girlfriend to leave their home and punching her in the face.
Domestic Violence Charges in California
Crimes of domestic violence can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. Several factors will influence how a crime is charged. These can include:
- Prior criminal record
- History of domestic violence, and
- Harm suffered by the victim.
In some cases, the defendant’s attitude show of remorse can also factor into the equation.
Felony Domestic Violence
Felony domestic violence is defined under Penal Code Section 273.5 PC. The crime involves (a) willfully or intentionally inflicting a physical injury on an intimate partner and (b) causing a traumatic condition.
It’s important to understand each of the elements of the crime.
An intimate partner can include a current or former:
- Dating partner, or
In other words, an intimate is someone with whom you’ve lived or been romantically involved.
You don’t have to intend to hurt your intimate partner to be guilty of felony domestic violence. They must simply suffer a traumatic condition as a natural result of your violent behavior.
A traumatic condition is defined in 273.5(c) PC as any “condition of the body, such as a wound or external or internal injury, whether of a minor or serious nature, caused by a physical force.”
Willful or Intentional Behavior
Willful behavior doesn’t mean that you necessarily intended for your partner to get hurt. Instead, willful behavior means that you know what you’re doing, intend to do what you’re doing, and aren’t under duress or Force. Put another way, willful behavior is not an accident.
Penalty for Felony Domestic Violence
In California, felony domestic violence is punishable by:
- Between 2 and 4 years in a California State prison
- Up to $6,000 in criminal fines, and
- Formal probation.
A judge may also issue a permanent restraining order for up to 10 years.
If you are convicted of a felony, you may also be subject to devastating collateral consequences. These can include:
- Loss of gun ownership rights
- Loss of state benefits
- Job loss and limitations on future opportunities, and
- Adverse child custody decisions.
Penalties can be more severe if you have prior convictions or inflict great bodily injury upon your victim.
Defend Domestic Violence Charges in California
Just because you’re charged with a crime doesn’t mean that you’ll be convicted. You still have the right to defend yourself in court. Your defenses should help to explain, excuse, and/or justify your alleged behavior.
Defenses that can be offered in a domestic violence case include:
- Mistaken identity
- False accusation
- Violations of your constitutional rights.
The stronger your defense, the harder it will be for prosecutors to prove their case against you. In turn, they may be more inclined to offer a plea or drop the charges. The best thing you can do if you find yourself in the situation is to work with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.