Domestic violence is the type of crime that's hard to identify because many victims this sort of abuse keep quiet about their problems. After all, the victims of domestic violence are always in close relationships with their abusers, and it can be hard to turn against someone who you love even when they're hurting you. It's always important to report instances of domestic abuse right away, but as soon as this type of abuse becomes physically violent, there's no longer any excuse for keeping quiet.

Are You Suffering from Domestic Violence in California?

Even if you're the recipient of domestic violence, it can sometimes be hard to recognize that you're subject to this type of abuse. You may think that you're just working things out in your relationship or that your partner is simply stressed out or having a hard time. There are a million excuses that victims of domestic violence try to use to normalize their situations, but the only way to regain any degree of true normality is to face the truth.

If your partner has physically harmed you in a fit of rage, that's an example of domestic violence. If they repeatedly hit you to vent stress every day when they get home from work, that's domestic violence too; domestic violence takes many forms, but it always feels the same when you're the victim of this type of crime. The feelings of betrayal and confusion associated with domestic violence seem almost designed to keep you quiet about your abuse, but the only way to do the right thing is to stand up for yourself and seek legal help.

Any time that someone who's close to you physically harms you, an instance of domestic violence has occurred. However, if the instance of domestic violence was a one-off incident or even a potential accident, that you're confident doesn't represent a pattern of behavior, you may want to hold off on pursuing interaction with law enforcement for a brief period as you try to sort things out on your own. On the other hand, if you fear that the violence constitutes a pattern of behavior that endangers you, it's important to seek legal help right away.

How Is Domestic Violence Defined?

Legal authorities in California sometimes use the terms "domestic abuse" and "domestic violence" interchangeably, which can be somewhat confusing. Domestic abuse can refer to actions that aren't even physical in nature, which is why the state of California generally uses the term "domestic violence" for only those instances of domestic abuse that involve actual physical contact. Actions that are threatening in nature are often considered domestic abuse, but examples of crimes related to domestic violence include domestic battery (Penal Code Section 243(e)) and the infliction of a corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant (Penal Code Section 273.5). Certain types of domestic abuse beyond these particular parts of the California penal code may still be considered domestic violence, and the state of California broadly defines domestic abuse as any action that involves:

    • The physical harm or attempted physical harm, whether intentionally or recklessly, of a person in a close relationship to you;
    • Sexual assault, which includes unwanted groping, rape, or attempted rape;
    • Instilling serious fear or terror in someone in direct response to your actions.

California law also includes "disturbing someone's peace" as grounds for charges of domestic abuse. This particular part of the legal framework surrounding domestic abuse is intentionally vague, and it serves as a catch-all for actions that might not be explicitly named within the various statutes pertaining to circumstances of domestic violence. In most cases, California judges rule that someone's peace has been disturbed when there have been multiple intentional efforts to make someone uncomfortable or unable to rest. However, if a person you're in a close relationship with mows the lawn under your window once early in the morning while you're sleeping, this most likely won't count as domestic abuse in the eyes of a California judge.

Have You Been Accused of Domestic Violence?

If a loved one has accused you of domestic violence, you'll need to take action right away. Whether you actually committed domestic violence or not, your future will be decided by court proceedings in which the person who has the most compelling story wins. If your loved one has bruises, fractures, or other injuries which they claim are the result of domestic violence, it's even more important that you find qualified legal assistance right away. To defend people who are being abused at home, California law takes great measures to protect victims of domestic violence, and if you don't protect yourself effectively, you could quickly be evicted from your house, lose access to your children, and even face prison time.

Who Can Commit Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is different from other types of abuse that a person might encounter out in the world; for actions to be considered domestic abuse, they must originate from someone who is in a close relationship with you. The state of California defines a close relationship as being between spouses or domestic partners. Even if you're divorced or separated from your partner, the state still considers the two of you to have a close enough relationship for domestic abuse to take place. If you're currently dating someone or you used to go out with them, this is also considered a close relationship, but a California judge might not rule that you have a close relationship with someone if you only went out on one date together.

Even if you never married or became domestic partners, if you have a child with someone, you are in a close relationship with them, and the term "close relationship" also applies to immediate familial relationships like son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, grandmother, and grandfather. While "domestic abuse" and "domestic violence" may be used interchangeably in some California law enforcement settings, it's important to note that the same definition of a close relationship pertains to both domestic abuse and violence.

Is Domestic Abuse a Crime?

Under certain circumstances, domestic abuse can, indeed, be a crime. In many cases, there is no specific crime to prosecute in the instance of domestic abuse; in other words, there are no visible injuries, or the abuse was not physical in nature. If, however, the person in a close relationship with a victim physically assaults them and causes serious injury, this circumstance is sometimes ruled as a felony offense. There are certain actions that an abused person can take to protect themselves from an abuser, and if an abuser violates court orders pursuant to these actions, this circumstance is always seen as a crime.

What Are the California Statutes Regarding Domestic Violence?

A variety of statutes protect California citizens from domestic violence. While domestic abuse is itself not a crime, many of the actions that qualify as domestic abuse are, and if it is found that your abuser has committed one of these crimes, you may be afforded more immediate and effective legal protective measures that would be offered otherwise. The main sections of California law that deal with domestic violence are California Penal Code Sections 240-248 and California Penal Code Sections 270-273.5, and these portions of the California penal code lay out the legal framework surrounding the prosecution and punishment for domestic violence:

  • Section 243(e): Within the California penal code section regarding battery, there is a section specifically devoted to battery within a close relationship. Battery is defined as the "willful and unlawful use of force or violence against the person of another," and it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
  • Section 243(d): In some instances of domestic violence, Section 243(d) may be invoked, which is almost always charged as a felony offense. This section of the penal code has to do with "serious bodily injury," and it deals with injuries that are more intensive than those that are usually considered to be "battery."
  • Section 273.5: While this section of the penal code is largely redundant with the code section regarding battery, some prosecutors may decide to charge a suspected perpetrator of domestic violence with willful conduct leading to "corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition." The main way in which this statute varies from the statutes on battery is that it is used when the battery has led severe psychological distress in the form of disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It's also important to note that since domestic abuse often occurs in tandem with child abuse, California Penal Code Section 273(d) may also apply in the instance of domestic violence. Child abuse is considered a very serious crime in the state of California, and when it is conjoined with charges of battery or bodily injury, sentencing can become quite severe.

What Do You Do if You've Been Accused of Domestic Violence?

If you've been accused of domestic violence, you should get away from your accuser as quickly as possible. In the United States, the right of an accused person to the assumption of innocence and right to a fair trial is enshrined into law, but you don't want to give your accuser any more fodder to fuel their case. Any type of interaction with your accuser could count against you once they have contacted law enforcement or begun the restraining order process, so you should voluntarily vacate a shared home and start thinking about your options.

The best way to proceed is to find a qualified legal team who will help you represent your case before a judge. While the law is always designed to be purely objective, if you can't summon a powerful argument to defend yourself when you've been accused of domestic violence, you may be found guilty even if you've done nothing wrong. The last thing that you want to do is try to defend yourself in court, and even if you have a good idea of what you'd like to say to a judge, the person to say that to is your lawyer, not the judge his or herself.

If you've been wrongfully accused of domestic violence, it's natural to feel indignant or under siege. If you simply allow the legal process to play out as it should, however, you'll receive your vindication in due time. If you have actually perpetrated domestic violence, your chances of receiving a moderate sentence are greatly improved if you work with a professional legal team.

Are There Any Defenses Against Charges of Domestic Violence?

In the spirit of fairness under the law, persons charged with domestic violence are given the opportunity to defend themselves, and the defense argument that is usually used in these instances is that the violence was inflicted in the course of self-defense against an intimate partner or a close relation in a "mutual combat situation." These situations occur when both people involved in the violence are willfully fighting each other, and if it can be demonstrated that you were only trying to defend yourself from your partner, who was the main instigator of the violent conflict, you may be able to have all of the charges against you dropped.

What Is Your Recourse If You're the Victim of Domestic Violence?

In some cases, law enforcement officials may recognize that you have been the victim of domestic violence, and the process of bringing down justice on your abuser will begin automatically without any need for your further input (except in the courtroom). However, if an instance of domestic violence doesn't involve a visit from law enforcement, you will need to file for a restraining order instead.

What Are the Varieties of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders?

  • Criminal Protective Orders (CPOs): If you are the victim of domestic violence, it's likely that you'll be issued with a criminal protective order. Domestic violence almost always involves a crime, and CPOs are given out to the victim when a person is charged with a domestic abuse-related crime. Whenever a law enforcement officer feels that a crime has been committed in a domestic abuse situation and they issue an arrest, a CPO is also issued immediately. CPOs have the same effects as other types of restraining orders, but they may actually be easier to acquire. CPOs go into effect the moment that your abuser is arrested, and they last until your abuser's court date. If a California judge determines that your abuser is guilty of a domestic violence-related crime, the duration of your CPO is automatically extended to three years. At the end of this three year period, if you feel that your abuser is still a danger to you or your family, you can petition for a renewal of your restraining order. Since instances of domestic abuse where a crime has clearly been committed are considered under California law to be much more serious than instances where there is no clear crime, obtaining CPOs doesn't require a lot of legwork on the part of the victim; the victim of domestic violence doesn't even need to show up in court to receive a CPO.
  • Emergency Protective Orders (EPOs): If a law enforcement officer finds that you have been the victim of domestic abuse but they do not find evidence of a crime, they may issue an EPO. These types of restraining orders only last a week, and they are designed to give you the opportunity to make your way to a courthouse to seek out a more permanent solution.
  • Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs): When you go to a courthouse after being provided with the protection of an EPO, you will be given paperwork to apply for a TRO. These types of restraining orders last a maximum of 30 days, and they serve as stopgap measures to protect you from your suspected abuser while you wait for your case to be heard before a judge.
  • Permanent Restraining Orders (PROs): If the judge finds that you were the victim of domestic abuse (but not domestic violence), they will issue a PRO, which lasts five years from the date of the ruling. These restraining orders serve the same purposes of EPOs or TROs, but they last longer.

Find a Domestic Violence Lawyer Near Me

Whether you've been the victim of domestic violence or you've been accused of a domestic abuse-related crime, it's important to acquire adequate representation for your court date. Victims of domestic abuse will need to be able to clearly and concisely explain their situations to California judges, and domestic abuse lawyers are the only people who can take on this task with cleverness and poise. For alleged perpetrators of domestic violence, lawyering up is even more essential; if you don't represent yourself effectively, you could be subject to serious penalties that follow you long after you are no longer incarcerated. To work with experts in the Vista area who know the ins and outs of domestic violence law, call the offices of Vista Criminal Attorney Law Firm at 760-691-1551 today.