When Is Domestic Violence a Misdemeanor?

When Is Domestic Violence a Misdemeanor?

California has several different domestic violence crimes. Domestic violence offenses are serious in any case, but these crimes vary significantly in their severity and their punishments. California has both misdemeanor and felony domestic violence crimes. Some may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, making them a wobbler crime in California. Misdemeanors and felony crimes are defined by the punishments they entail. Felony crimes are punishable by a prison sentence or the death penalty. Misdemeanor crimes are punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine. A judge has a certain amount of discretion he or she can use when deciding on how an offense will be charged. Since some domestic violence offenses may be charged as either, it is crucial you speak with a criminal defense attorney if you are facing such charges. In general, the less serious crimes are charged as misdemeanors while the more serious ones are charged as felonies.

Domestic battery and corporal injury to a spouse are two of the most common California domestic violence crimes. Domestic battery is the less serious of the two offenses and is often charged as a misdemeanor. Domestic battery is punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. Some or the entire jail sentence may be stayed, however, a repeat offense would result in a mandatory minimum 48 hours in jail. Domestic battery is defined as a willful and unlawful use of, or attempt to use, violence or force upon someone you are or were in a close relationship with. This can include a spouse or former spouse, past or present girlfriend or boyfriend, past or present fiancé, cohabitant or former cohabitant, the parent of your child, or someone else you are closely related to through blood or marriage. Because domestic battery is a less serious crime, no actual injury has to be present. If the defendant made an attempt to harm the victim and failed, he or she could still be charged with domestic battery under California Penal Code 243 (e)(1). If an injury did occur, the defendant could be charged with corporal injury to a spouse. This crime is typically charged as a felony and is punishable by a prison sentence or a jail sentence plus a substantial fine. Broken bones, wounds, or internal injuries are sufficient injuries to warrant a corporal injury to a spouse charge.

While battery or assault carried out against someone who does not fall into one of these categories is still a crime, it is still an important distinction to be aware of because domestic violence crimes are punished differently than others. For example, if you commit domestic battery, you may be ordered to complete a domestic batterers' program or make payments to a battered women's shelter. These punishments would not accompany a battery charge if the victim were not someone whom you are in or were in a close or intimate relationship with.

It is important to keep in mind that, regardless of the offense, the defendant's past criminal record may also influence how the offense is charged. This is true with many offenses, not just domestic violence. If you have prior domestic violence offenses, your present offense could be charged as a felony, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. There are many things that a judge will consider when deciding how to charge your crime. If you are facing domestic violence charges and have questions about how your crime will be charged, consider consulting with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney may be able to get you a reduced sentence or could have a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. Because felony crimes carry with them prison sentences, it is often worth the effort to fight them. It is crucial you speak with an attorney about the facts and circumstances of your case as well as your prior criminal record to get a better idea of what type of charge you may face.

If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about domestic violence charges, call experienced domestic violence defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we know how to prepare you to successfully defend your case and will not be afraid to take your case to trial. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, attorney Martens is ready to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at MartensLaw@gmail.com to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.

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