Many couples argue in relationships, but not all arguments are considered domestic violence in California. Sometimes, law enforcement arrests someone to break up an argument and prevent domestic violence from occurring. This is especially true when neighbors or other third parties call the police to report concerns about violence.
You might wonder when a heated argument crosses the line to domestic violence. Many innocent people find themselves charged with domestic violence when they have only argued with their partner. If you have been arrested and charged with domestic violence after a heated argument, it’s best to contact a criminal defense attorney who can advocate for you. Below, we take a closer look at California’s domestic violence laws to give you a better idea of the line between an argument and domestic violence.
Defining Domestic Violence in California
In general, domestic violence refers to abusive behavior or threats of abuse between two people who are in an intimate relationship or related by blood or marriage. Domestic violence laws in California consider the following situations as intimate relationships:
- Married couples
- Domestic partners
- Currently dating or previously dated
- Living together or previously cohabitated
- Co-parents who had one or more children together
California’s domestic violence laws also include the following behaviors as abuse:
- Intentional or reckless physical harm to someone or trying to hurt someone
- Sexual assault
- Inciting fear with threats or promises of harm to someone
- Harassment and stalking
- Disturbing someone’s peace or destroying their personal property
In domestic violence situations, it’s also important to remember that abuse is not always physical. Aggressors verbally, emotionally, and psychologically abuse their partners too.
If you were arrested for domestic violence charges and engaged in any of the behaviors above, you need a defense attorney to protect your rights and ensure you get a fair trial. Similarly, if you did not engage in any of these behaviors, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to fight to have your charges dropped.
California Domestic Violence Crimes and Penalties
Domestic violence charges in California can include various crimes, most often battery, abuse, threats, and neglect. Some are felonies and others are misdemeanors. However, many are “wobbler” offenses that can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances, the severity of injuries, and the defendant’s criminal record. Some specific domestic violence crimes in California include:
- Corporal injury to a spouse or inhabitant (CA Penal Code 273.5), which is a felony that carries one to four years in prison for a first offense.
- Domestic battery (CA Penal Code 243 (e)(1), which is a misdemeanor that includes a fine of up to $2000 and/or up to a year in county jail.
- Child abuse (CA Penal Code 273d), which carries a penalty of up to one year in county jail or three years in state prison.
- Child endangerment (CA Penal Code 273a), which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, unless the child faces great danger of bodily injury, escalating the charge to a felony
- Elder abuse (CA Penal Code 368), which is a wobbler which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail or four years in prison depending on whether it’s charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
An argument that includes or leads to any of the above crimes legally constitutes domestic violence. Other domestic violence charges include stalking, damaging a telephone line, revenge porn, aggravated trespassing, and posting harmful information on the internet.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer at Dod Law, APC
Domestic violence cases are complicated and have many layers. If you were simply arguing with your partner, you should not face criminal prosecution that can impact you for the rest of your life. A skilled member of Dod Law, APC’s legal team can protect your rights and build a defense to try and mitigate the negative consequences of your arrest.
Contact us online or call (619) 814-5110 to discuss your case with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn more about how we may be able to help you.