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Domestic Violence in California

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Domestic violence is a complex crime so it shouldn’t come as surprise to learn that the laws dealing with domestic violence are equally complicated.

The first step in unraveling this complex system is knowing exactly what domestic violence is. California defines domestic violence as actions that either harm or threaten to harm an intimate partner.

It’s important to understand that there are sub-categories of domestic violence which include:

Domestic battery (actual physical abuse)
Domestic assault (the use of words or actions to threaten physical abuse)

It’s not unusual for domestic violence cases to involve both domestic battery and domestic assault.

California law is written in such a way that only a limited number of people can file domestic violence charges. At this point, domestic violence charges can only be filed by:

✦ Spouses
✦ Registered domestic partners
✦ Live-in lovers (also considered a cohabitant)
✦ Someone who shares a child with the accused
✦ Fiancées
✦ Someone who has been in a steady romantic relationship with the accused.

California law states that both current and former domestic partners can file domestic violence charges.

Many people are surprised to learn that domestic violence is one of California’s wobbler crimes. That means it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. When the prosecutor is looking at the case, they consider many variables when deciding if they want to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges.

Considerations include:

✦ Circumstances surrounding the incident
✦ How badly the victim was injured
✦ The accused’s criminal past
✦ The couple’s history (have there been numerous reports of domestic violence)

If convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault, the accused could spend a year in county jail. If convicted of felony domestic assault, they could be sentenced to four years in prison.

The punishment for misdemeanor domestic battery includes a year in county jail and a $2,000 fine.