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Is domestic violence a felony or misdemeanor offense?

Felony vs misdemeanor domestic violence in California

When it comes to the question, "Is domestic violence a felony or misdemeanor offense in California?" the answer isn't straightforward.

In California, it can be either, depending on the severity of the incident and the laws of the jurisdiction where the offense occurred.

Domestic violence is an issue that affects many people all over the United States including Californians.

Understanding the legal implications of such acts is crucial for the victims and defendants alike.

Key statistics reflecting the gravity of DV issues

Statistics play a pivotal role in understanding the scope of domestic violence.

According to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.

Moreover, the California Department of Justice reports that in 2020, over 160,000 domestic violence-related calls for assistance were made, indicating the prevalence of this issue.

Partner violence account for 20% of violent crimes in California as reported in the 2018 Criminal Victimization Bulletin by the Bureau of Justice Statistics of U.S Department of Justice.

These statistics underscore the importance of recognizing domestic violence as not just a personal struggle but a societal one, necessitating robust legal responses and resources.

This San Diego Domestic Violence Defense Pros article will help you understand whether a DV could be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.

What is considered domestic violence?

What is considered domestic violence varies from state to state. However, in California, under the stipulations of Section 13700 of the state Penal Code, domestic violence is characterized as any form of abuse perpetrated on a person with whom the abuser maintains an intimate relationship.

When an individual willfully or carelessly employs or menaces to employ physical force upon an intimate partner, such actions are recognized as acts of domestic violence.

The state Family Law Code, Division 10 [6200-6460] extends domestic violence to include other family members like children, etc, not just intimate partners.

For more information on this, explore the following resources:

Understanding what could make domestic violence a felony or misdemeanor charge

The classification of domestic violence as a felony or misdemeanor varies from one state to another.

However, certain factors are commonly considered to determine the level of the charge, such as:

  • The severity of the victim's injuries: More serious injuries can lead to domestic violence felony charges.
  • The defendant's criminal history: A history of similar offenses may elevate the charge to a felony.
  • The use of weapons: The involvement of a weapon during the incident typically results in more serious charges.
  • The presence of a protective or restraining order: Violations of these orders during an act of domestic violence are often treated more severely.

The legal distinctions in California

For example, California domestic violence can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. This is known as a "wobbler" in the state.

A “wobbler” is simply crimes that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony in the Golden state.

The state's legal framework aims to balance the scales of justice, providing protection to victims while ensuring the rights of the accused are upheld.

  • Misdemeanor domestic violence: These are less severe cases, often involving incidents without significant physical harm or where the defendant has no prior record.
  • Felony domestic violence: This is reserved for more serious offenses, including cases with severe injuries or where the accused has a troubling history of similar acts.

The San Diego Domestic Violence Defense Pros attorneys are well-versed in these legal nuances and work to provide clarity and representation for those facing such serious accusations.

Examples that highlight the legal distinctions

Consider a scenario where an individual pushes their partner during an argument, causing no injury. This could be seen as a misdemeanor.

Conversely, if that push results in serious injury or involves a weapon, the charge is likely to escalate to a domestic violence felony.

Misdemeanor vs felony DV penalties

When domestic violence incidents are assessed under the law, the nature of the penalties is heavily influenced by whether the offense is classified as a felony or a misdemeanor. The differentiation in penalties underscores the legal system's response to the severity of the crime.

Misdemeanor penalties

Misdemeanor charges for domestic violence often arise from cases where the abuse is less severe — perhaps where no physical injury occurred or was minimal.

Under California law, such as Penal Code §243(e)(1), a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction may involve:

  • A fine of up to $2,000.
  • A jail sentence of up to one year.
  • Mandatory completion of a 52-week domestic batterer's class.
  • A protective order preventing further acts of violence or threats.
  • Community service or probation.

Felony penalties

More severe cases, especially those resulting in significant bodily injury or involving other aggravating factors, may be prosecuted as felonies.

For instance, California Penal Code §273.5 can be applied when an individual inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon an intimate partner.

Domestic violence felony convictions carry more substantial penalties, such as:

  • A potential state prison sentence of two to four years, or more, depending on the circumstances and severity.
  • Higher fines, which can exceed $6000.
  • The possibility of "strike" under California's Three Strikes Law if the crime is severe enough.
  • A restraining order that could be extended for up to 10 years.
  • Loss of gun ownership rights.
  • Mandatory domestic violence counseling programs.

Both misdemeanor and felony domestic violence convictions also carry collateral consequences, such as the impact on:

  • custody arrangements
  • employment opportunities
  • immigration status

Understanding these penalties and navigating the complexities of the charges requires skilled legal advocacy, which is where professionals like our law firm steps in, ensuring the rights of the accused are safeguarded throughout the legal process.

Additional considerations in domestic violence cases

When examining the nature of domestic violence, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor offense, one must consider additional legal elements:

  • Protection orders: Violating a protective order could lead to enhanced charges.
  • Child presence: Committing an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child can result in increased penalties.

Call to speak to a domestic violence attorney

If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence charges, whether a potential DV felony or misdemeanor, it's essential to seek legal counsel.

Contact our law office to speak to an experienced domestic violence attorney.

Our law office is committed to providing the guidance and representation necessary to navigate these challenging circumstances.

Reach out today to ensure your rights are protected and your voice is heard in the legal system.

Updated on December 16th, 2023