When Is Domestic Violence a Felony?

When Is Domestic Violence a Felony?

California has several domestic violence charges, each carry its own standard sentencing. California has both misdemeanor and felony domestic violence crimes. In general, misdemeanor crimes are less serious than felony crimes, and thus are punished less severely. Misdemeanor crimes are crimes punishable by a fine and/or a county jail sentence of up to one year. Felony crimes differ from misdemeanors in the possible punishments. California law defines felony crimes as any crime that is punishable by a prison sentence or by the death penalty. Many of California's domestic violence crimes can be charged as misdemeanors but certain circumstances may warrant a felony charge.

Domestic battery, also called spousal battery, is typically charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000. Domestic battery is one of the less serious domestic violence charges. Battery is defined as the willful and unlawful infliction of force or violence against another person. It is important to note that no actual injury need be sustained for battery to occur. What matters is that the defendant willfully made an attempt to or used force or violence upon another person. Aggravated battery, however, may be charged as a felony. The victim must have sustained a serious injury, such as a broken bone, for a battery charge to be considered aggravated. When deciding on whether the battery will be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, the judge will consider the defendant's criminal record, the circumstances of the case, and the severity of the injuries the victim sustained. Aggravated battery is not a domestic violence specific crime, but you could still face this charge if you cause serious injury to someone you have or have had a close or intimate relationship with, such as a spouse, girlfriend, or the parent of your child.

Corporal injury to a spouse resulting in a traumatic condition is a more serious California domestic violence crime and is charged as a felony, punishable by two, three, or four years in a state prison, or by one year in a county jail, and/or a fine of up to $6,000. Corporal injury is the willful infliction of corporal injury, not in self-defense, resulting in a traumatic condition, or injury. For a crime to be considered corporal injury to a spouse, the victim must be a spouse or former spouse, a cohabitant or former cohabitant, a past or present girlfriend, boyfriend, or fiancé, or the parent of your child. The traumatic condition the victim sustained must be an external or internal wound or injury, but need not be grave or life threatening. It does, however, have to be more serious than just minor pain or emotional distress. If you did not willfully inflict corporal injury or did so out of self-defense, you cannot be convicted.

In general, the seriousness of the injuries the victim sustained and the defendant's prior criminal record will both be determining factors in how a crime will be charged. This is true with many California crimes, not just domestic violence offenses. If you are facing domestic violence charges, whether you think you will be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, consult with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney right away. A skilled attorney can evaluate your case and may be able to have your charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor if he or she can successfully challenge the evidence against you. The difference between these charges is significant; you could face several years in prison for a felony domestic violence charge but will only face up to one year in a county jail for a misdemeanor charge. A felony domestic violence charge may also be a strike on your criminal record, and if you get three strikes, you could face a 25-year to life sentence. Because of this, it is important to speak with an attorney about your chances of having a felony domestic violence charge reduced to a misdemeanor.

If you are in the Visalia, Hanford or Tulare area and are facing felony domestic violence charges, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens is here to help you. Domestic violence defense attorney Christopher Martens will work hard to defend your rights and your dignity in court. Attorney Martens has handled thousands of cases over a span of ten years of criminal defense practice and can fight hard for your rights in court. Contact attorney Christopher Martens for experienced criminal defense counsel today. Contact our office 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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