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Understanding What Constitutes a Domestic Violence Charge in California


It’s estimated that more than 12 million women and men will become the victim of domestic violence this year – that’s roughly 24 people every minute. Domestic violence comes in many forms, but most commonly involves threats or acts of violence among members of the same household. In the state of California, domestic violence is taken very seriously, and if police are called to the scene, chances are that someone will be arrested.

While it’s easy to spot the abuser in many domestic violence cases, sometimes the nature of a particular incidence is more complex and leaves questions about who is at fault in a domestic violence case.  To better understand this, let’s talk about what the domestic violence laws are in California and how they affect the individuals involved.

Domestic Violence Laws in California

The California Penal Code outlines the state’s laws regarding domestic violence, including battery. According to the law, domestic violence occurs with an individual commits a violent criminal act against a person with whom they are in a specified relationship with. The relationships covered under California’s domestic violence law include spousal relationships, former spouses, domestic partnerships, cohabitants or former cohabitants in a home, the other parent of an individual’s child and dating relationships.

Additionally, when domestic violence is brought up in a custody determination, the California Family Code states that violence against any person that the defendant is related to through either blood or marriage is also considered domestic violence.

What Constitutes a Domestic Violence Charge

Domestic violence can involve abuse or even the threat of abuse to someone that the defendant shares a domestic relationship with. For this purpose, abuse can be defined as intentionally or recklessly hurting or attempting to physically hurt someone, including sexual assault. This can be extended out to include threats that make the victim reasonably afraid for their own safety or that of someone they care about.

When intent can be proven, behaviors such as stalking, harassing, destroying property or disturbing the alleged victim’s peace are also considered crimes of domestic violence.

When Domestic Violence Isn’t Cut and Dry

With many domestic violence cases, it’s very clear to assess the circumstances of the case and demonstrate guilt beyond a doubt. Victims of domestic violence are highly protected by the state of California, as they should be. Occasionally, the circumstances of the case are more complex and it’s these cases that deserve a greater degree of attention.

While it’s never appropriate to physically harm someone within a domestic relationship, sometimes it may be done out of perceived self-defense. The problem here is that when an officer arrives on the scene, they are immediately more likely to take the side of the person who made the call. Similarly, in cases of mutual physical assault, some arresting officers are more likely to view the male as the aggressor, whether he was the instigator or not.

Other times, there may be lack of willful intent in domestic violence cases that must be looked at. For example, shoving someone out of the way in an effort to leave and unintentionally causing that person to fall and sustain injury. Unfortunately, some domestic violence charges result from false accusations with the malicious intent to destroy the other person’s life. Not all cases of domestic violence are as straightforward as they seem.

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If you’re facing domestic violence charges, we’re the Los Angeles defense team that wants to hear your side of the story. Contact Premier Federal Criminal Defenders for a free consultation and let’s begin discussing your case and the best strategy for protecting your freedom.

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