Guide To Domestic Violence Penalties

Last Modified: January 22, 2024

A domestic violence charge can affect many different aspects of your life. Read more about the penalties and charges associated with a domestic violence charge.

Domestic Violence Penalties

California law defines domestic violence as the act of willfully inflicting physical force or violence upon a spouse or former spouse, cohabitant or former cohabitant, co-parent, fiancé(e), or someone with whom the offender has or previously had an engagement or dating relationship. The two main domestic violence crimes in California are Penal Code § 273.5 PC (corporal injury to a spouse) and Penal Code § 243(e)(1) PC (domestic battery), and you don’t have to know much about California law to know that the penalties for these violent crimes are serious.

Penal Code § 273.5 can be charged in any situation where a person “willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a victim,” when the alleged victim falls into any of the categories mentioned above.

Penal Code § 243(e)(1) can be charged in any situation where a person commits a battery (any willful and unlawful use of force or violence) against a person who falls into any of the categories mentioned above.

There are other criminal charges you could face if you are involved in a domestic violence incident, such as Penal Code § 245 PC (assault with a deadly weapon)Penal Code § 240 PC (assault)Penal Code § 242 PC (battery)Penal Code § 422 PC (criminal threats)Penal Code § 273a PC (child endangerment), or Penal Code § 368 PC (elder abuse), among others.

Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction

Jail or Prison Time

The most serious penalty levied against a person convicted of domestic violence is imprisonment in county jail (for a misdemeanor offense) or state prison (for a felony offense). Any person found guilty of violating Penal Code § 273.5 faces imprisonment in California state prison for two, three, or four years, or in county jail for no more than one year.

Any person found guilty of violating Penal Code § 243(e)(1) faces imprisonment in county jail for no more than six months. A domestic violence conviction may also result in probation, which consists of its own requirements, mandatory participation in a batterer’s counseling program, and a court order (restraining order) protecting the alleged victim from violence.

Fines and/or Victim Restitution

The fines associated with domestic violence charges can be substantial, depending on the type of charge and the defendant’s criminal history.

For instance, the fine for a charge of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse is up to $6,000 for a first offense, while the fine for a domestic battery charge is up to $2,000. For a second or subsequent offense, the associated fines are increased. In addition to court fines, individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes may also be required to pay restitution to the alleged victim and/or make payments to a battered women’s shelter.

Loss of Certain Rights

A domestic violence conviction may also have severe collateral consequences that can adversely impact your personal and professional life for years to come. If you are convicted on felony charges of domestic violence, you could lose your right to vote, own or possess a firearm, pursue higher education, gain certain employment, serve in the military, or obtain a professional or business license.

A domestic violence conviction can also have adverse immigration consequences for non-U.S. citizens, possibly including deportation or inadmissibility to the United States. If you are involved in a custody dispute, you could even lose custody of your children upon conviction.

Criminal Record

If you are convicted of a Los Angeles domestic violence crime, the conviction will go on your permanent record and will appear any time someone does a routine background check on you. This can pose a serious problem when it comes to obtaining housing, employment, state licensing, loans, or other benefits. Furthermore, a prior conviction for domestic violence can be used to enhance the criminal penalties you may face for any subsequent criminal offenses.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Crimes

A person arrested for domestic violence in Los Angeles may ultimately be charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime, depending on several different factors, such as the nature and severity of the alleged offense. A felony is the most serious type of criminal offense in California and the consequences of a felony conviction are far more severe than a misdemeanor.

Take, for example, the criminal sentencing associated with felony and misdemeanor crimes in Los Angeles. Individuals convicted of felony domestic violence offenses can be sentenced to several years in a California state prison, while misdemeanor offenses are punishable by up to one year in county jail.

Some domestic violence offenses, like Penal Code § 273.5 PC, are always charged as felonies, while others, like Penal Code § 243(e)(1) PC, may be charged as misdemeanors. Some California domestic violence crimes are “wobblers,” which means the prosecutor can choose to charge these crimes as misdemeanor or felony offenses based on the facts of each individual case.

Typically, the decision to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges for a domestic violence crime is made at the time the prosecution charges the offense. However, some domestic violence cases that start out as felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors, if the facts of the case warrant a more lenient charge.

An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to get a felony domestic violence crime reduced to a misdemeanor, if the offense is a wobbler.

How Our Los Angeles Criminal Attorneys Can Help

The penalties associated with domestic violence offenses can cause lifelong challenges for convicted offenders. Unfortunately, even if you didn’t do anything wrong, simply being accused of a domestic violence crime can have a lasting negative impact on your life. False accusations of domestic violence are far more common than you might think, and the stigma surrounding domestic violence allegations means innocent people can suffer the adverse effects of domestic violence charges without ever having committed a crime.

If you have been charged with a domestic violence offense in Los Angeles, do not hesitate to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and build the strongest possible defense against the charges.

Domestic violence penalties in California can be harsh and long-lasting. Having a knowledgeable domestic violence defense lawyer on your side can significantly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in your case.

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