Domestic Violence: California Penal Code 273.5

Domestic Violence is physical violence, threatened violence, and abuse which occurs in the following relationships:

  • Married Couples (also known as Spousal Abuse);
  • Cohabiting Couples;
  • Persons who have a child or children in common;
  • Persons in a dating relationship or who were in a former dating relationship; and
  • Persons who were formerly married to each other.

Domestic Violence covers a wide range of abuse, including Spousal Abuse and child endangerment. Any threatening or violent act, even if the accused did not intend to harm or compromise the safety and security of the victim, could be grounds for prosecution under the California Domestic Violence laws. Domestic Violence cases are treated differently than other criminal cases. There are designated Prosecutors and special Domestic Violence Units (DV Units) within the Prosecutor’s office that stand ready to aggressively prosecute anyone charged with Domestic Violence.

Examples of Domestic Violence

  • Threats and intimidation
  • Annoying Phone Calls
  • Stalking (such as following the victim to and from work, and threatening the victim)
  • Physical Assault or Abuse: hitting, slapping, pushing, shoving, kicking, biting, pinching, punching, hair pulling, beating
  • Sexual Abuse: unwanted sexual touching, forced sexual acts, criticizing sexual ability
  • Verbal Abuse: emotional cruelty, constant criticism, name calling, ignoring the victim, degrading remarks, mocking, taunting, swearing
  • Financial Abuse: refusing to pay bills, withholding money from victim, not allowing victim to work, not purchasing family necessities
  • Social Abuse: isolating the victim from family / friends, violating privacy rights of victim, opening and reading victim’s mail, monitoring and listening in on telephone calls, outward jealousy and possessiveness
  • Child Abuse: child endangerment charges can be filed if the child witnesses the violence

Domestic Violence charges may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony. How it is filed by the Prosecutor is based on the seriousness of the case. Severe injuries (including severe cuts and broken bones) will almost always be charged as a felony. No injury or slight injury cases will generally be filed as a misdemeanor. Both prior acts of reported domestic violence and the criminal history of the accused may also influence how the case is filed—usually as a felony.

Variations in How Domestic Violence is Charged

We have seen domestic violence charged as any one of the following:

Simple Domestic Battery:

  • Ca. Penal Code 273.5
  • Intentional Infliction of Corporal Injury:
  • Ca. Penal Code 273.5

Aggravated Battery:

  • Ca. Penal Code 243 (d)
  • Child Endangerment 273(a)
  • Corporal Injury on a Child 273(d)
  • Battery on a Spouse/Mate 273(e)(1))

Domestic Violence Penalties

Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Penalties

  • Brief jail sentence (0 to 6 months County jail)
  • Counseling (52-week program)
  • 40 hours of community service or physical labor (CalTrans)
  • Various fines
  • Stay-Away Order from the victim, including moving out from residence
  • “No Harm, No Strike” Order for couples

Felony Domestic Violence Penalties

  • Jail time (time can range from 3 months in County jail to 3 years in State prison)
  • Counseling (52-week program)
  • 40 hours of community service or physical labor (CalTrans)
  • Various fines
  • Stay-Away Order from the victim, including moving out from residence
  • “No Harm, No Strike” Order for couples

When the Victim Recants or Drops the Charges

In California, you can be arrested and prosecuted for Domestic Violence even if the victim does not want you arrested. In some cases, especially with Spousal Abuse, it is very difficult for the victim to drop charges against the abuser. The Prosecutor can proceed with the criminal case even if the alleged victim decides not to go to court. The Prosecutor is the only one who can drop charges because the victim is merely a witness in a government prosecution.

How We Can Defend You Against Domestic Violence Charges

Exposing the True Facts

False accusations and wrongful arrests occur regularly in the Penal Code 273.5 context. The classic situation is an angry or jealous wife or girlfriend. She thinks he’s cheating on her. She wants to get back at him. So she creates a loud argument and then calls the police. When the officers show up, she lies and exaggerates and accuses him of having become violent with her. The boyfriend gets arrested and charged with Penal Code 273.5 domestic violence. We can help by making sure that the true facts are exposed in a way that does not prejudice the defendant’s case. A victim recanting or dropping the charges can potentially alleviate the punishment or sentence somewhat, however; we must supervise the defendant to make sure he does not threaten the victim into recanting. We will also have one of our investigators assist in bringing out the true facts of the case from the victim and showing that the defendant is innocent. The law regarding domestic violence is complex and highly specialized. This is why it is important that you hire us to defend you. We can successfully defend those who are accused of domestic violence and take advantages of jail alternatives such as counseling and probation. Do not rely on the advice of friends or family members.

Proving the Alleged Act Was Committed in Self Defense

Allegations of domestic violence or spousal abuse can be very difficult for the district attorney to prove. Many times, the Penal Code 273.5 PC charge arose out of a mutual struggle in which the defendant acted in legal self-defense. For example, an angry wife may begin punching at her husband, and he has to shove her away to avoid getting punched in the face.

Showing That the Alleged Act Was an Accident

In the course of a heated argument and struggle, it is not uncommon to strike someone or push someone down on accident. This happens all the time. In the chaos of some mutual pushing and grabbing, for example, the boyfriend may strike his girlfriend, but without intending to hit her and certainly without intending to injure her.

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