Being charged with a crime of domestic violence can have devastating family consequences. Domestic violence can be considered any crime of violence in which a close relationship, such as a cohabitant, spouse, or even a roommate is involved.
Domestic violence frequently arises out of situations of mutual conflict. Often there are no witnesses and when police arrive they have to decide which person to believe in a “he said, she said” argument. In many cases, police will assume that the male involved is the primary aggressor, even when the physical evidence demonstrates that the female of the couple is more likely to blame. At other times, police officers may bring all parties to jail because they are encouraged, by law, to arrest anyone involved in a domestic violence incident, even where they cannot determine the initial aggressor. Thus, domestic violence incidents often result in innocent people being accused.
District attorney offices frequently proceed with prosecution even if the alleged victim insists he/she doesn’t want to press charges. The consequences of a conviction for domestic violence can be severe. The court may impose 52 weeks of classes, 20 hours of community service, restraining orders, parenting classes, restitution, counseling, probation, and jail time even for convictions in first time misdemeanor offenses. In addition, child custody issues may arise. When facing these potentially severe consequences, is critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. An experienced criminal defense attorney will thoroughly investigate the facts and get you the best possible outcome.
Some of the typical domestic violence charges are:
Penal Code 273.5 – Corporal Injury to A Spouse or Cohabitant
Penal Code 273.5 makes it a felony to inflict corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or the mother or father of ones child. The prosecution can use any wound or external or internal injury, whether serious or minor, as a basis for the traumatic condition requirement. PC 273.5 can only be charged where the violence was against spouse or cohabitant, not where it was against a dating partner who did not cohabitate.
Penal Code 240 – Assault
PC 240 is an unlawful attempt to commit a violent injury upon another. No contact is required—and in fact, if contact results, you have committed the more serious offense of battery. A conviction for assault requires that the prosecutor prove that you acted willfully in a way that would likely result in violent injury to another and that you had the present ability to carry out that violent injury. Assault is generally punishable by any of the following, or a combination of the following: a $1,000 fine, six months imprisonment in county jail, community service, non-violence classes. Assault is charged when battery is charged because battery (the unlawful touching of another) cannot take place without the attempt to do so.
Penal Code 245(a)(1) – Assault with a Deadly Weapon
PC 245(a)(1) is the crime of simple assault (PC 240. See above.) with any type of deadly weapon or by means of force that is likely to cause great bodily injury to another. The definition of “deadly weapon” is quite broad—not only does it include obvious objects like knives and guns, but also may be charged where a beer bottle, sharp pencil, car, dog, or even shoe was used. Hands, feet, and other body parts do not count as “deadly weapons,” however, if you use your body to inflict great bodily injury—such as to choke, bite, punch, hit, scratch, or kick—“Assault with a Deadly Weapon” may still be charged. Assault with a deadly weapon may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the type of weapon used, whether the person allegedly assaulted actually sustained an injury, and identity of the victim.
Penal Code 242 – Battery
PC 242 is any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another. Battery may be charged where there was any physical contact—the prosecutor need not prove pain or harm, as long as the prosecutor can prove that the contact was done in a rude, angry, or disrespectful manner. The physical contact need not be to the skin—when PC 242 is charged, physical contact with the person’s clothing or something attached to or closely connected to that person (such as an item that person is holding) may be sufficient. PC 242 is the same offense as PC 243(e)(1) but without the requirement that the injured person be an intimate partner.
Penal Code 243(e)(1) – Simple Domestic Battery
Penal Code 243(e)(1) makes it a misdemeanor crime to inflict force or violence against a roommate, intimate partner, or former intimate partner. PC 243(e)(1) does not require proof of visible injury. PC 243(e)(1) can be charged where the violence was against a dating partner who did not cohabitate—it is not limited to violence against a spouse or cohabitant.
Penal Code 243(d) – Aggravated Battery
Felony or misdemeanor aggravated battery may be charged if the accuser sustained a serious bodily injury. A serious bodily injury may include, but is not limited to: loss of consciousness, concussion, broken bones, disfigurement, a wound requiring stitches, or damage to an internal organ. If PC 243(d) is charged as a felony, it will be labeled a violent felony and may count as a strike under California’s Three Strikes Law.
Penal Code 273(d) – Child Abuse
California Penal Code makes it a crime to inflict any corporal injury or punishment upon a child that results in a traumatic condition. California law allows some latitude for parents to spank a child but draws the line if the contact leaves a mark or is considered cruel. PC 273(d) can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. A conviction for misdemeanor PC 273(d) carries a maximum sentence of one year in county jail and/or a $6,000 fine. If convicted of felony PC 273(d), the sentence may be a two, four, or six year prison term, and a $6,000 fine.
Penal Code 273a – Child Endangerment
California Penal Code makes it a crime to place a child in a dangerous situation or allow a child to be placed in a dangerous situation without taking steps to protect him or her. PC 273a does not require the child to experience actual injury, only that the prosecutor show that the child was likely to suffer injury. PC 273a is often charged when a child was in the vicinity of an incident of domestic violence. PC 273a can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted of PC 273a, the sentence may include any or all of the following: informal probation, up to a year in county jail, up to $1,000 in fines, a protective order or a stay away order forbidding contact with the child, successful completion of a prescribed counseling program, and if alcohol was involved an order to abstain from alcohol.
Penal Code 422 – Criminal Threats
PC 422 makes it a crime to threaten to commit a crime that could result in death or serious bodily injury to another, even if there is no intent to actually carry out that threat, as long as the threat was unequivocal, unconditional, immediate and specific on its face and the threatened individual reasonably feared for his or her safety or the safety of his or her immediate family. PC 422 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor conviction for PC 422 can result in up to a year in jail. A felony conviction for PC 422 can result in up to four years in prison, plus one year if a dangerous or deadly weapon was used. A felony conviction for PC 422 can be considered a “strike” under California’s three strikes law.
Penal Code 591 – Tampering with a Phone Line
PC 591 makes it a crime to tamper with telephone or cable TV lines, such as by cutting the line. PC 591 can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
Penal Code 594 – Vandalism
Vandalism is often charged in domestic violence cases if there was any property damage during the incident. PC 594 makes it a crime to maliciously deface, damage, or destroy property belonging to another person. Vandalism may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the value of damage done. If the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction is four hundred dollars or more, vandalism may be charged as a felony. Prior charges of vandalism also come into play when vandalism is charged.
If you have been accused or charged with domestic violence in San Mateo, Santa Clara, or San Francisco counties, you will need the help of an experienced domestic violence attorney who is familiar with these types of cases. San Mateo criminal defense attorney Thomas Greenberg can provide the legal help you need to fight your domestic violence case effectively.