Domestic violence under California State laws is when:

  • Your current spouse
  • Your former spouse
  • Girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Someone you have a child in common with
  • Someone you currently or previously have lived with
  • Someone you are a relative to through marriage or blood

Commits one of the following:

  • Assaults you sexually
  • Attempts to cause or does cause you physical injury
  • Creates a fear that you or another person is in imminent danger of severe bodily injury
  • Uses force to batter, attack, strike or molests you
  • Stalks you
  • Harasses or threatens you either through phone calls, emails, in person, or any other form of contact
  • Destroys your personal property
  • Disturbs your peace

In the State of California, under Penal Code 243 (e) (1), and Penal Code 273.5, it is a crime to threaten harm or to harm an intimate partner. Unfortunately, many innocent people get caught up under these Penal Codes and face a conviction with devastating results.

If you have been arrested for domestic violence charges and are facing a possible conviction, you need experienced legal counsel right away. These charges are taken very seriously in the California courts, and you need an attorney who understands the court systems and has the experience to fight these charges. The Law Offices of Fountain and Hattersley are ready to talk to you about the charges and will help you build a defense to protect your future.

The Sentencing of a Conviction for Domestic Violence in California

Being convicted of domestic violence in California means you are facing either a prison sentence or at the least, jail time. A conviction of this crime can also result in:

  • Victim restitution or paying a fine
    • A person who is a victim of a crime is entitled to restitution. The restitution is designed to compensate a victim for economic losses that are connected to the crime. A victim is a person who has suffered directly from psychological, physical, or financial harm. It can also include the family of the victim who has suffered this harm, or a business, government, or other entity who has suffered a loss due to another individual’s criminal act.

Losses can include damaged, destroyed or stolen property, therapy or medical costs, lost wages, damage done to property or a business, along with any legal fees that have been incurred.

  • Required participation in a Batterer's Intervention Program
    • Batter’s Intervention Program (BIP) is 52 weeks of domestic violence classes. Those convicted of domestic violence in California are required to complete this program as part of the probation terms. Most domestic violence (DV) convictions include, as part of the sentencing, that the defendant attends these classes. Whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony conviction, the State can add these classes to the list of consequences during sentencing.

Batter’s Intervention Program combines counseling and education and focuses on the effects abuse has on a victim, the cause of the abuse, and the changes the defendant  must take to prevent a repeat offense.

If the defendant should fail to complete the domestic violence course, it is considered a violation of probation, and they may face fines or jail time.

  • Completing minimum jail time
    • Most counties in California will impose a minimum thirty-day sentence on someone convicted of domestic violence. This sentence is used even on first-time offenders and also on misdemeanor charges.
  • Having a protective or restraining order placed on you
    • A restraining order is an order by the courts to protect someone from being threatened, stalked, harassed, sexually, or physically abused. The person who requests the straining order is considered the ‘protected person’ and the person it is issued against is the ‘restrained person.’

      The restraining order stops specific acts by the ‘restrained person’ against anyone named as the ‘protected person’ against:

      • Being contacted through messages or calling
      • Battering, striking, or a physical attack
      • Stalking
      • Being threatened verbally or physically
      • Being sexually assaulted
      • Being harassed through any measures or methods
      • Having their personal property destroyed
      • Having their sense of peace disturbed

      If a restraining or protective order is intentionally violated, it is considered a misdemeanor and can result in a fine up to $1,000, jail time, or both.

  • Losing gun rights
    • Even if you lawfully own a gun in California, you are subject to several restrictions. Those prohibited in the State of California from owning or possessing a firearm include:
      • Anyone convicted of a felon in any jurisdiction
      • Anyone addicted to narcotics
      • Anyone with two or convictions under Penal Code 471 for brandishing a weapon
      • Anyone convicted of specific misdemeanor offenses under Penal Code 273.5 (domestic violence)
      • Anyone suffering from mental illness
      • Those under the age of 18

    If you are prohibited from owning a gun, you also cannot own ammunition. Federal law imposes a lifetime ban on owning a firearm if convicted of domestic violence crimes. The only option open to someone facing this ban is to receive a Presidential pardon. These pardons are seldom granted.

  • Loss of custody rights
    • If convicted of a domestic violence crime, you face losing custody of your minor children; however, visitation rights may still be available. In domestic violence cases, when child custody is being determined, a criminal conviction is not necessary for the judge to determine if domestic violence should be taken into consideration.
  • Having a permanent criminal record
    • One of the most serious consequences of a conviction for domestic violence is that this charge will be placed on your permanent criminal record. This record will cause life-time difficulties in gaining employment, housing, and other benefits.
  • Suffering immigration consequences if a non-citizen
    • If convicted of domestic violence as a non-citizen, you face possible deportation. It can even be that you will be unable to re-enter the United States.

Most of these sentencing consequences can apply to a defendant even if you are sentenced to:

  • Summary Misdemeanor Probation
    • Summary probation is generally set for one to three years in the State of California, though in some cases it can last up to five years. During probation, as a defendant, you have to comply with specific conditions such as paying restitution, performing community labor, and attending counseling. If a defendant does not comply with the conditions, the judge can revoke probation and send the defendant to jail.
  • Formal or Felony Probation
    • Felony probation is generally set from three to five years. The convicted offender must report to a probation officer on a regular schedule. Other conditions of probation can include paying restitution and doing some jail time. If the offender fails to comply with the terms of probation, the judge can revoke the probation and send them to prison.

The Law Offices of Fountains and Hattersley can help you fight back against these legal charges. If you’ve been arrested for a domestic violence offense, you want legal representation as soon as possible to protect your reputation and future.

Common Domestic Violence Penalties and Crimes

In California, common crimes of domestic violence include neglect, threats, abuse, and battery. Some charges may be filed as misdemeanors and others as felonies, depending on the circumstances of the offense. A lot of these crimes are considered ‘wobbler’ offenses that can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors.

  • Wobbler Offenses

    In California, crimes are sometimes considered ‘wobbler’ offenses as they can be punished as either misdemeanors or felonies. In most of these cases, the prosecutor will determine how the charge is filed. Judges can also decide how to sentence a defendant when the case is presented as a ‘wobbler.’

    Some of the crimes in California that may qualify as wobbler cases include:

    • Sex crimes
    • Fraud crimes
    • Crimes of domestic violence

    There are also certain crimes in the State of California that can be charged as ‘wobbler’ offenses. These crimes ‘wobble’ between being misdemeanors and non-criminal infractions. These crimes can include disturbing the peace, criminal trespass, and many Vehicle Code violations.

    • Common Wobbler Offenses include:
      • Sexual battery
      • Statutory rape
      • Spousal battery
      • Making criminal threats
      • Forgery
      • Grand theft
      • Vehicular manslaughter
      • Assault with a deadly weapon
      • Child endangerment
      • Lewd acts with a minor
      • Burglary
      • Carrying a loaded firearm in public
      • Stalking
        • Common Wobbler Offenses include:
          •  Criminal trespass
          •  Driving without a license
          •   Disturbing the peace
          •   Driving with a revoked or suspended license
          •   Failure to appear for a traffic violation
          •   Exhibition of speed

These are some of the common domestic violence crimes:

Corporal Injury to an inhabitant or spouse

Under Penal Code 273.5 in California, it is illegal to inflict corporal injury that causes even slight physical harm to an inhabitant or your spouse. This charge would be filed as a felony, and consequences could include jail time up to one year or up to four years in prison.

Domestic Battery

Penal Code 243(e)(1) covers California’s domestic battery laws, which makes it a misdemeanor if you inflict violence or force on an intimate partner. Under this penal code, the law does not require there be a visible injury. Domestic battery is a misdemeanor and punishable up to $2,000 and one year jail time.

Child Abuse

Under Penal Code 273d, it is a crime to cause corporal punishment or injure a child. Reasonable spankings are an exclusion, but any discipline deemed cruel, or that causes an injury to a child is considered child abuse under California law. The first conviction of child abuse is punishable by up to one year in jail or three years in prison.

Child Endangerment

Under California Penal Code 273a, it is a crime to allow a child in  your care to suffer harm or have their health endangered. Child endangerment is most often a misdemeanor, and punishable with up to six months in jail. When a child is found to be at risk for severe bodily harm, the charge becomes a wobbler.

Failure to Provide or Neglect of a Child

Penal Code 270 in California law covers the crime of willfully failing to provide necessary care or to neglect a child. When necessary care such as medical care, shelter, and food are not properly given a child, it is a crime. If convicted under this penal code, you can receive up to $2,000 in fines and one year in jail.

Elder Abuse

California Penal Code 368 states it is a crime to inflict physical or emotional abuse, endanger or neglect, or commit financial fraud on a victim 65 years or older. This charge is a wobbler and punishable for up to one year in jail. If convicted as a felony, the sentence can include up to four years in prison.

Criminal Threats

Penal Code 422 makes it a crime when you threaten someone with severe harm and is a wobbler. If charged as a misdemeanor, you face up to one year in jail, if charged as a felony, the sentence can be up to four years in prison. A felony conviction of a criminal threat counts under the California Three Strike law.

  • Three Strike Law

    In the State of California, the Three Strike Law is one of the most stringent sentencing schemes in the country. This law made it possible for people convicted of violent and non-violent crimes to receive a life sentence in prison.

    In 2012, a reform (Proposition 36) to the Three Strike Law was passed so that there was no longer a mandatory 25-year to life sentence after three strikes unless the third strike was considered a violent or serious felony.

    In 2014 another measure (Proposition 47) was introduced to reduce the prison population. This measure allowed for low-level drug and theft-related felonies to be petitioned and have their crimes reclassified as misdemeanors. The judge determines the reclassification.


Penal Code 646.9 prohibits a person from threatening or harassing another to the point where the person fears for their safety or the safety of their family. This charge is a wobbler and can be charged as a felony, depending on the defendant’s criminal history. As a misdemeanor, the sentencing can be up to one year in jail, and as a felony, the penalty can be up to three years in prison.

Damage of a Telephone Line

Penal Code 591 states it is illegal to damage or cut a phone line or phone equipment. This action is when a defendant is cutting phone services that will prevent the victim from calling for help. Charges under this penal code are wobblers, and if charged as a felony, a conviction brings a sentence of up to three years in prison with up to $10,000 in fines.

Aggravated Trespass

Penal Code 601 states it is a crime when a person makes a criminal threat and then carries the threat out at the victim’s workplace or home within the next thirty days. This charge is a wobbler, and if convicted as a felony, it carries up to three years in jail.

Revenge Porn

California Penal Code 647(j)(4) is a misdemeanor, ‘cyber-harassment’ crime, and occurs when someone intentionally distributes sexual photos of another such as their intimate partner or ex-partner. The intent behind the distribution was to cause the person emotional distress. A conviction of revenge porn is punishable for up to one year in jail with up to $1,000 in fines.

Harmful Information Posted on the Internet

Penal Code 653.2 states it is a crime to post or email harmful information regarding another on the internet with the intent to cause that person to be harassed. Charges under this penal code are often used when someone uses the internet to get revenge on another during a domestic dispute. Conviction of this crime carries a one-year jail sentence and up to $1,000 in fines.

Defense of Domestic Violence Charges in California

Being convicted of domestic violence in California carries some serious consequences. These charges, if lead to a conviction, can impact your future, and you need experienced defense attorneys working with you to get through this complicated legal process.

Legal defense against these charges can include:

  • The act was an ‘accident’
    • Using an accident to your actions may be complex to prove. In California criminal law, your conduct can be excused as an ‘accident’ if:
      • You did not intend to do harm or had no criminal intent to cause harm
      • You did not act negligently
      • You were working in legal conduct at the time of the accident

Proving your actions fall under one of these conditions can absolve you all charges and criminal liability. ‘Accident’ as a legal defense applies when a defendant has no criminal intent, didn’t engage in culpable negligence, or had no evil intent when the action occurred. This defense applies when you are involved in what is otherwise considered ‘lawful’ conduct.

When The Law Offices of Fountain and Hattersley use ‘accident’ as your defense against domestic violence charges, the burden is on you and their office to prove you acted without culpable negligence or criminal intent.

Proving your actions were accidental against domestic violence charges means your defense must show that you did not intend for the result of your actions to cause harm. It must also show you had no intent to cause the victim harm.

  • The victim’s injuries are not a result of your actions
  • You acted in self-defense or were defending another from harm
    • In the State of California, a person has the legal right to use force when protecting themselves or others. This right is only applicable under reasonable circumstances. Reasonable circumstances mean that you need to have:
      • Reasonably thought you were in immediate danger of being injured, killed, or touched unlawfully
      • Rationally thought you needed to use force to prevent harmful actions from the alleged victim
      • Used only the amount of force necessary to prevent harm to yourself or others

    In the State of California, the ‘stand your ground laws’ means you are under no obligation to retreat’ or run away before applying self-defense tactics to protect yourself. Self-defense is a useful legal defense to several California crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon, murder, battery on a police officer, and aggravated battery.

  • The alleged victim made a false accusation
    • Many times domestic violence allegations are made out of jealousy, anger, or as an attempt to gain custody of minor children

Having legal representation as soon as charges are filed will help your case immensely. The Law Offices of Fountain and Hattersley may be able to negotiate a plea in your favor to bargain for a lesser charge or have the charges dismissed.

An experienced domestic violence attorney can often negotiate with the prosecution to allow you to plead guilty to a lesser offense than the one charged to you. This plea can avoid the negative consequences of receiving a conviction for a domestic violence crime. The advantage for you pleading to a lesser offense could be retaining the right to own a firearm, not losing custody of minor children, or not being deported.

Another defense strategy could be to try and get a deferred entry judgment or pre-trial diversion program. A pretrial diversion is when the accused agrees to successfully complete a batterer’s program in order to have charges dismissed. This strategy is only eligible to a defendant depending on the specific allegations in the case, where the defendant lives, and the criminal history of the accused.

Law enforcement officials in California take domestic violence crimes very seriously, and if charged with one of these crimes, you need experienced legal representation. The Law Offices of Fountain and Hattersley understand how the legal system works in California and has years of experience working with law and court officials. When we can become involved in your case early, it can mean the difference between winning and losing your case.

Pasadena Domestic Violence Attorney

If you are facing domestic violence charges, you need to call the Law Offices of Fountain and Hattersley immediately at 626-793-4111. Early legal intervention with your charges could help save your reputation and protect your future from the serious consequences these charges threaten. Call today, and we will discuss your case and your rights on how to fight and defend yourself against domestic violence charges.