According to the California PC 13700, you could face domestic violence charges if you commit abuse against an intimate partner. The law defines abuse as intentionally or recklessly using or threatening to use physical force against your intimate partner. Domestic violence can attract felony or misdemeanor charges depending on the circumstances of your case. Some of the potential consequences of domestic violence are jail time, participation in batterer’s intervention program, loss of custody rights, restraining order, loss of your gun rights, immigration consequences, and a permanent criminal record.

Definition Of An Intimate Partner

The following qualify as an intimate partner under California law:

  • Your current or former spouse
  • The current of former fiancée
  • Current or former registered domestic partner
  • A current or former cohabitant or live-in romantic partner
  • A person with whom the defendant has a child
  • A person you are currently dating, or you were seriously dating in the past

For custody disputes, the law outlines other people who qualify as the defendant's intimate partners:

  • The defendant’s child
  • A person is related to the defendant by blood, marriage, or within the second degree. These people include brothers, sisters, step brothers and sisters, grandchildren, grandparents, uncles, aunties, uncles, nieces, nephews.

The Common Forms Of Domestic Violence

The common domestic violence crimes under California law include abuse, battery, threats, and neglect. Some crimes are misdemeanors, while others are felonies. However, most crimes are wobblers, chargeable as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the defendant’s criminal history, the seriousness of the victim’s injuries, and the circumstances of the crime. Some of the typical domestic violence crimes are:

Gender-based Domestic Violence

According to California law PC 273.5, it is a crime to inflict corporal or physical injury resulting in a minor physical injury on an intimate partner or spouse. The violation of PC 273.5 is a felony. The potential consequences for the crime range from a jail time of one year to four years in a state prison in California

You could also violate the California PC 243(e)(1) if you inflict force or violence on your intimate partner. Unlike PC 273.5, where the victim needs to have suffered a visible injury, you could be prosecuted under PC 243(e)(1) even if the victim doesn't suffer visible injuries. The violation of PC 243(e)(1), commonly known as domestic battery, is a misdemeanor crime. The potential penalties for the crime include a jail time of up to one year in county jail and a fine that doesn't exceed $2,000.

Domestic Violence On a Disabled Person

Persons with physical or mental disabilities could be particularly vulnerable to domestic violence. As outlined by the California PC 368, crimes against elders or dependent persons deserve special consideration and protection. Elders and disabled persons are often confused, mentally or physically impaired, on certain medications, incompetent, and incapable of protecting themselves. Disabled and senior persons also have limited capacity to understand and report criminal conduct, including domestic violence. They also have a limited ability to testify on their behalf during court proceedings.

Physical or emotional abuse on a person with a disability can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the nature of abuse and the seriousness of injuries the victim suffers. For the prosecutor to convict you of felony abuse of a dependent person, the following must be evident:

  • You intentionally and with criminal negligence subjected a dependent adult to unjustifiable pain or mental suffering or allow another person to do so
  • You acted under circumstances that could cause great bodily injury or death
  • You knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was a disabled person.

If you face felony charges under Section 368(b), the penalties can be severe, especially if the disabled person suffers great bodily injury, death, or if the person is above 70 years. The consequences for a felony conviction of domestic violence against a disabled person include:

  • Imprisonment of up to one year in a county jail
  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $6,000
  • Both the fine and the imprisonment or imprisonment of two years, three years, or four years in a state prison

If your actions make the victim suffer great bodily injury, you will face a penalty enhancement as follows:

  • Additional imprisonment of three years if the victim is below 70 years
  • An additional five years imprisonment if the victim is above 70 years

If your abuse results in the victim’s death, you will face enhanced penalties as follows:

  • Additional imprisonment of five years if the victim is below 70 years
  • Additional imprisonment of 7 years if the victim is above 70 years

If the prosecutor charges a violation under Section 368(b) as a misdemeanor, you could face the following penalties:

  • A summary probation
  • A jail time of up to one year
  • A fine of up to $6,000. For a second or subsequent offense, you can face a fine of up to $10,000

The charges of abuse of a disabled person are not exclusive. Therefore, if you commit an offense or violence against a disabled person, you could face other charges alongside charges under Section 368. The additional charges will carry their own penalties.

Child Abuse

The California PC 273d defines the crime of child abuse, also known as corporal injury on a child. You will face charges under this statute if you inflict physical injury or a cruel punishment on a child below 18 years. The willful intention of the following on a person below 18 years will qualify as child abuse:

  • Any inhuman or cruel corporal punishment
  • Any injury that leads to a traumatic condition

Corporal punishment refers to physical punishment instead of emotional punishment. A traumatic condition is a wound or any other bodily injury, either minor or serious, that results from the direct application of force on the victim. The law requires the defendant to inflict the injury willingly to face child abuse charges. Willful infliction of injury means that the defendant acts on purpose. It doesn’t mean that the defendant intended to injure the child or break the law.

Acts that qualify as child abuse include punching, slapping, hitting, pushing, kicking, choking, shaking, burning, or throwing an object at a child. The list is endless. Any act that is cruel or causes a traumatic condition is a form of abuse.

California law does not consider spanking a form of child abuse provided:

  • The spanking is for disciplinary purposes
  • You don’t use excessive force under the circumstances

However, this area remains controversial because what is acceptable today might not be acceptable in the future. Judges use their discretion to determine whether the spanking, using an object or bare hand, was excessive or not.

For the prosecutor to charge you with child abuse, they have to prove several elements of the crime:

  • It should be evident that you intentionally inflicted inhuman or cruel punishment or injury on a child below 18 years
  • The punishment you inflicted on the child caused a traumatic condition
  • When you inflicted the injury, you were not disciplining the child

The violation of PC 273d is a wobbler chargeable as a misdemeanor or felony. Usually, the first offense of child abuse will attract misdemeanor charges. However, you could face felony charges if your act was particularly cruel, the injury you inflicted on the child was extremely severe, or if you have a prior conviction of child abuse.

If charged as a misdemeanor, child abuse is punishable by:

  • A jail time of up to one year in a county jail
  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $6,000
  • The judge might sentence you to misdemeanor probation instead of jail time

For a felony child abuse offense, the applicable penalties are:

  • A jail time of two, four, or six years
  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $6,000
  • The judge could sentence you to formal probation instead of jail time

You can use the following legal defenses to fight child abuse charges:

  • You are a victim of false allegations
  • The injuries resulted from something else but not your actions
  • You were lawfully disciplining your child
  • The injuries were accidental

Elder Abuse

The California PC 368 outlines the crime of elder abuse. This statute defines the crime as the infliction of physical or emotional abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect on a person who is 65 years and older. For the prosecutor to charge you with misdemeanor elder abuse, he or she should prove that:

  • You intentionally or with criminal negligence subjected an elderly victim to unjustifiable mental suffering or physical pain
  • Your actions could have endangered the health or the life of the elderly person
  • You knew, or you should reasonably have known, that the victim was an elder above 65 years

For the prosecutor to charge you with felony elder abuse, the following must be evident:

  • You intentionally or with criminal negligence subject an elderly person to mental suffering or physical pain
  • Your conduct could have caused great bodily injury or even death
  • You knew, or you should reasonably have known, that the victim was above 65 years

Any of the following qualify as elder abuse:

  • Physical abuse — This refers to the infliction of injury or unjustifiable pain on a senior
  • Emotional abuse — Emotional abuse could take the form of ridicule or isolation
  • Financial exploitation — This is also known as elder financial abuse or senior fraud
  • Neglect and endangerment — This involves placing a victim in a situation that might endanger their life or health

There are many forms of financial abuse, including embezzlement, fraud, and theft. In most financial abuse cases, the defendant is usually the elder's caretaker. The prosecutor must prove that the victim was above 65 years when they committed financial elder abuse.

If you commit misdemeanor elder abuse, the consequences include:

  • A jail time of up to one year in a county jail
  • A fine that doesn’t exceed $6,000
  • Paying restitution to the victim

If charged as a felony, the consequences for elder abuse include:

  • Imprisonment in a California state prison for up to one year
  • A fine that does not exceed $6,000
  • Paying restitution to the victim

A violation of PC 368 could have negative immigration consequences. Depending on the circumstances of your case, elder abuse could qualify as a crime of moral turpitude. Committing a crime of moral turpitude will result in the defendant being marked inadmissible into the United States or deported.

A conviction of felony elder abuse could adversely affect your gun rights. According to California law, a convicted felon should not possess or own a gun. Some of the legal defenses you can use to fight elder abuse charges are:

  • You didn’t act willfully
  • You did not inflict abuse or harm on the senior
  • You are a victim of a false accusation

When The Defendant Can Receive Probation Instead Of Jail Time

Upon committing a domestic violence crime, the judge might be willing to sentence you to probation:

  • It is your first crime
  • The defendant doesn’t suffer significant injuries

The judge is likely to award probation if the crime is a misdemeanor. Usually, domestic violence attracts felony charges when the victim sustains significant injuries. If the judge sentences the defendant to probation, but they violate the probation terms, the judge will cancel the probation and send the defendant to jail or prison.

Additional Consequences Of A Domestic Violence Conviction

A domestic violence conviction could result in more than jail time and fines. Some of the additional consequences include:

  • Minimum jail time — Most counties in California impose a minimum jail time of 30 days. The minimum jail time applies even if it is your first offense or the victim did not suffer injuries.
  • Payment of restitution to the victim — The court could order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim to cover medical costs, property damages, lost wages, and mental health counseling.
  • Participating in a batterer’s program — In most cases, judges require persons convicted of domestic violence to attend a year-long counseling and treatment program. Even if the judge sentences the defendant to a summary or formal probation, this might
  • Permanent criminal record — A domestic violence conviction will go to your permanent criminal record. The conviction will appear anytime someone conducts your background check. A domestic violence conviction can make it challenging for you to gain state licensing, employment, or other benefits.
  • Loss of custody rights
  • Loss of gun rights

Find A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

A domestic violence conviction has severe penalties that could affect many areas of your life. Therefore, it is advisable to contact an attorney when you face domestic violence charges. For reliable legal representation in Los Angeles, CA, we invite you to contact the Law Office of Sara L. Caplan. Call us at 310-550-5877 and speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys.