Domestic violence is one of the most commonly prosecuted offenses in California. Victims of domestic violence need to know their rights and legal options to protect themselves and their families from further harm. When individuals are accused of domestic violence, they should understand the value of legal representation, especially when they are wrongfully accused
Domestic violence cases are some of the most complex criminal cases in California due to the fact that evidence is often nebulous, and many domestic violence issues boil down to one party’s word against another’s. Physical evidence may be questionable or minimal, and domestic violence is an offense vulnerable to false accusations. These cases often lead to family law disputes as well. Therefore, everyone needs to understand the domestic violence laws of California and how these cases function.
For example, when a person is arrested on a domestic violence offense, he or she can ultimately be charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstance. There are significant differences between felony and misdemeanor level offenses in California. You should also know that cases that start out as felonies can sometimes be reduced to misdemeanors.
The term “domestic violence” broadly applies to any incident of violence involving members of the same family, members of the same household, or parties with close personal connections. Domestic violence can also apply to former domestic partners and roommates. Some of the most commonly reported types of domestic violence in California include:
Physical violence. Hitting, kicking, slapping, or choking a family or household member can lead to severe injuries and constitutes domestic violence.
Child abuse and neglect. Harming a child is one of the most aggressively prosecuted forms of domestic violence in California. The offender can expect to face the harshest possible penalties if they abuse a child or fail to provide a child with basic living needs.
Sexual assault. Sexually abusing a family member not only constitutes domestic violence but will also lead to prosecution for sex crimes.
Stalking and harassment. Stalking someone is following them without their knowledge or with the intent of intimidating them. “Harassment” can define many different behaviors pertaining to persistent unwanted contact with the victim.
Terroristic threats and emotional abuse. An abuser does not necessarily need to make physical contact with a victim to qualify for domestic violence prosecution. However, persistent emotional abuse, intentionally isolating the victim, terrorizing, and threatening a victim are all potential grounds for domestic violence charges.
When the police respond to a call concerning domestic violence, they have a legal obligation to protect the victim. This typically requires removing the alleged aggressor from the household and placing them under arrest. If you are falsely accused of domestic violence, it can seem as though the police are automatically taking the accuser’s side and that the entire system is working against you. Consulting an experienced domestic violence defense attorney is the best thing to do in this situation.
Domestic violence is a crime in California, but domestic violence cases often generate criminal cases and family law disputes. The victim of domestic violence has the right to petition the court for a restraining order to prevent their abuser from harming them further. A judge will likely grant a temporary restraining order immediately following a report of domestic violence that will last until a formal hearing can be held.
An individual convicted of domestic violence could face substantial penalties outside of their criminal case. For example, they may be forced to move out of their home and could lose custody of their children if their domestic violence case involves any type of child abuse or neglect.
Victims of domestic violence should consult family law attorneys as soon as possible to begin working on their custody-related concerns. If an abuser poses a danger to children, the children’s custodial parent should do everything they can to establish formal legal protections. They can also begin working on a petition for sole custody to prevent the abuser from having the opportunity to harm their children.
Zentz & Zentz attorneys have years of experience handling domestic violence cases, and the following are some of the most common questions the firm fields concerning domestic violence cases in California.
Predicting the outcome of any domestic violence case requires careful consideration of the unique details of the case. Many domestic violence cases end with dismissed charges. When the accuser cannot substantiate their claims, or the prosecution fails to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the alleged offender may avoid conviction. However, if guilt is proven, the victims can expect expensive protection through a restraining order against the offender. In addition, the offender could lose child custody or visitation rights and face civil liability for the victim’s damages.
The police responding to a call for domestic violence will take statements from everyone involved in the situation. If the case leads to a more extensive criminal investigation, these statements will be cross-referenced by the attorneys handling the case. The police may also take photos of the alleged victim’s injuries and any physical signs of violence they detect at the scene. Photographs, witness statements, and medical reports are the most commonly referenced evidence in domestic violence cases.
The most important thing to do when you are wrongfully accused of domestic violence is to exercise your constitutional right to remain silent and secure legal counsel. You may be tempted to explain the situation and clear yourself of charges, but it’s vital to remember that the law skews in favor of protecting the alleged victim. Consult a defense attorney as soon as possible, and they can help you determine the best way to clear your name.
Zentz & Zentz has years of experience helping our clients navigate the most complex cases, including those pertaining to domestic violence. We understand what could be at stake in any domestic violence case, including loss of custody rights and significant financial penalties. If you find yourself in this situation or have been wrongfully accused of committing any type of domestic violence, we can help. Contact Zentz & Zentz today to schedule a consultation with our team and get the answers you need to your most pressing questions regarding California’s domestic violence laws.