The state of California describes domestic violence as a criminal act where there are threats of abuse or the abuse actually occurs. Domestic violence can also be defined as a pattern of behavior that is abusive in a given relationship, where an individual uses force to maintain and have control over a partner defined as intimate by the state.

Domestic violence law falls under PEN 273.5 and carries heavy punishments and penalties. The acts of domestic violence as stipulated under this law constitute threats, sexual assault, domestic battery, use of corporal punishment, neglect, elderly abuse, child abuse and neglect, and damage to property.

If you find yourself or a loved one accused of any form of violence categorized as domestic, you need to immediately get in touch with The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm to begin preparing your defense.

Who is considered an Intimate Partner by the State?

Under PEN 273.5, the state considers an intimate partner as:

  • Spouse or Ex-spouse of the defendant
  • Former or current defendant’s domestic partner, registered as such
  • A live-in partner of the defendant, whether presently or previously.
  • Current or Ex-fiance(e) of the defendant
  • Any individual that currently has or used to have an intimate dating relationship with
  • Parents or legal guardians to a child
  • Legally assigned caregivers to a minor or elderly

Various Domestic Violence Acts in California

Some of the everyday acts categorized as crimes of domestic violence in the state of California include:

  • Corporal abuse
  • Domestic battery
  • Criminal threats
  • Child Abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Elderly Abuse
  • Damaging Phone lines

Most offenses are considered as “wobbler offenses,” meaning the prosecutor can charge them as misdemeanors or felonies based on:

  • Circumstances under which the crime was committed
  • How serious are the injuries on the alleged victim
  • The criminal background or record of the defendant

1. PEN 273.5 Corporal abuse or injury to an inhabitant or spouse

Under PEN 273.5, it is illegal under California law to inflict corporal injury resulting in physical injury regardless of how slight it may be to a partner that is intimately related to you.

Penalties and Punishments for Corporal Abuse

PEN 273.5 usually gets to be prosecuted as a felony. Some of the possible punishments or penalties if convicted as a first-time offender include one-year imprisonment in a county jail or confinement in state prison for a period not exceeding four years.

2. PEN 243(e)(1) Domestic Battery

California’s law on battery found under PEN 243(e)(1) makes use of violence or force on a partner that is intimate to you a misdemeanor. As opposed to PEN 273.5, physical injury is not a requirement in domestic battery charges.

Penalties and Punishments for Domestic Abuse

As a misdemeanor, some of the penalties or punishments may include not more than one-year imprisonment in county prison, or a fine not exceeding $2,000 or both.

Possible Defenses for Domestic abuse and Corporal Abuse

  • The defendant acted in self-defense
  • The allegations are malicious and based on falsehoods
  • The injuries are as a result of an accident

What the Prosecutor Must Prove

To be convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in any of these charges, the prosecutor must prove:

  • The defendant caused the injuries
  • The defendant wasn't acting in self-defense
  • The alleged abuse happened

3. PEN 273d Child Abuse 

Under PEN 273d of the California law, it is illegal to cause physical injury or use corporal punishment on a minor. Spanking that is within reason is excluded as child abuse, but any form of cruelty that results in bodily injury is abuse to a minor in the state of California. Some examples of acts that are considered to be child abuse are:

  • Slapping a minor with so much force that an imprint is left on the cheek
  • Punching a child that has stayed out late
  • Using a belt to hit a minor in the name of disciplining and causing bodily harm

The state of California further makes it mandatory to report suspected cases of child abuse, especially from certain professions like health practitioners, teachers, and people in authority.

Punishments and Penalties in Child Abuse Cases

A child abuse charge is prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor.  If convicted as a misdemeanor, the defendant faces a jail time not exceeding a year in a county prison or a fine of not more than $6,000 or both.

If a defendant gets convicted of a felony, he or she is likely to serve two, four or six years jail time and if with a prior conviction of child abuse, an additional 4 years get added to the sentence. A fine of not more than $6,000 is charged or face both jail time and a fine.

It is also possible for a judge to sentence the defendant to summary probation if convicted of a misdemeanor or formal probation if the conviction is a felony.

Common Legal Defenses on Child Abuse charges

  • The allegations against the defendant are based on falsehoods
  • Injuries on the minor were not as a result of abuse
  • There was an accident that caused the injuries
  • The defendant was rightfully disciplining the minor

4. PEN 273a Child Endangerment

Child endangerment falls under the PEN 273a.  The law considers it a criminal offense when an

individual willingly allows a minor under their care to:

  • Be exposed to and suffer physical harm
  • Allow the health and wellbeing of the minor to be endangered

For instance, when a mother that allows their partner to hit their child or when a parent or guardian runs a meth lab at home.

The child can also be exposed to great bodily harm (GBI) which under the California law is under PEN 12022.7. GBI refers to causing significant physical injuries to a child but not insignificant ones.

Whatever is constituted under PEN 12022.7 is determined on a case to case basis.

Various factors are considered by the judges, prosecutors, or the juries before determining if the injuries constitute GBI. Some of these factors, among others include:

  • How severe the injuries are
  • How much pain the minor has been subjected to as a result of the injury
  • If there is any medical care required

Penalties and Punishments

The endangerment of a minor is prosecuted as a misdemeanor that is punished by sentencing the offender to jail time not exceeding six months.

If there is a determination that it is a significant bodily injury, the case gets prosecuted as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If a defendant is convicted of a felony, the sentence could be two, four or six years imprisonment in a state prison or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.

Common legal defenses for Child Endangerment

  • The defendant can claim the alleged endangerment was not intentional
  • That they were within their rights to legally discipline the minor
  • The accusations are based on falsehoods
  • Someone else and not the defendant was with the child at the time of the alleged offense

What the prosecutor must prove on PEN 273a charges

  • That the defendant intentionally put the minor at harm’s way
  • That the defendant put the minor in a situation that could be dangerous
  • That the alleged endangerment happened.

5. PEN 270 Child Neglect

According to the state of California, when a parent willingly disregard their obligations of providing food, medical care, clothing or shelter to a child, they are considered to have committed a crime under PEN 270.

Penalties and Punishments

Neglecting a child is prosecuted as a misdemeanor, and it is punished with a fine not exceeding $2,000 or jail time in a county jail for a year or both.

Possible Defenses on Child neglect charges

  • The allegations are based on falsehoods
  • The defendant is not the legal guardian or parent
  • The defendant had no means to provide for the child at the time the alleged incident

What the Prosecutor must prove

  • That the defendant is the legal guardian or parent of the minor
  • That the minor was neglected
  • That the defendant was able financially and healthwise and intentionally neglected the minor

6. PEN 368 Elder Abuse

The state of California under PEN 368 makes it an offense to do any or all of the below on a person that is 65 years or older:

  • Neglect and endangerment – where a caregiver willingly subjects an elderly to a situation that is dangerous and detrimental to their health and well-being
  • Financial fraud – this is exploiting a senior financially by either stealing from them or lying to them about their finances
  • Physical Abuse – it involves inflicting injuries or pain on an elderly
  • Emotional abuse –this is evidenced where a senior is subjected to mental torture, ridicule, or isolation.

Some common scenarios that may result in elder abuse charges in the state of California may include:

  • When an individual takes advantage of the mental capability of an elderly and diverts their social security payments for his personal use
  • Sexually molesting a senior by a caregiver
  • An adult mandated to taking care of a senior withholding their medication.

Penalties and Punishments for Elderly Abuse

If accused of any of these, a prosecutor can charge you with a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted on a misdemeanor, the sentence can be a jail time not exceeding a year while if found guilty of a felony; punishment can include imprisonment of not more than four years in

state prison.

Possible Legal Defenses for Elderly Abuse

Elder abuse under PEN 368 carries steep penalties. Cases of elderly abuse are taken very seriously by prosecutors because of the high dependency the elderly have on their caregivers. Being charged with elderly abuse is usually very stressful and devastating to the caregiver, but various legal defenses that can help fight against these charges. They include:

  • The defendant is falsely accused of committing the offense
  • It is a case of mistaken identity
  • There is no sufficient evidence to support that the abuse took place.

What the Prosecutor must prove in Elderly Abuse Case

To be convicted under PEN 368, the prosecutor must prove:

  • The defendant willingly subjected or inflicted unjustified physical pain to the elderly as well as mental torture or placed the elderly in a position for someone else to do it
  • That you knew that the victim was above 65 years old
  • That your behavior happened under circumstances that could have resulted in physical injury or death

7. PEN 422 Threats of a Criminal Nature

Threatening someone with harm is considered a criminal offense under California law and is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony. It is a criminal threat when you threaten to cause death or injure a person physically and the person:

  • Always lives in fear of his or her life or that of their loved ones
  • Was issued with a definite and specific threat
  • The alleged victim received the threat verbally, in writing or through electronic means like an email or a text message.

Criminal threats are not charged on the ability to carry out the threat or not but on the basis that a threat was issued. For instance, if you:

  • Threaten to shoot a person while you have a gun in your hand
  • Call your former boss and threaten him and the rest of his staff to watch their backs
  • Using a text message to tell your ex you will break their car.

Penalties and Punishments for PEN 422

If charged with criminal threats, you can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. If convicted as a misdemeanor, the judge can sentence you to jail time not exceeding one year in county prison. Should you be convicted of a felony, you can be imprisoned in the state prison for a period not exceeding four years.

If you are found guilty of threatening to use a dangerous weapon, your sentence is likely to be increased with one more year.

Possible Legal Defenses for PEN 422

Regardless of whether a threat was made, some of the defenses can be:

  • The threat was not specified, and it makes it vague to determine if there indeed was a threat
  • The victim of the threat had no reason to be afraid for their safety or that of their loved ones
  • The threat victim was not in fear but is lying by claiming to be in fear
  • The fear inflicted was momentary for that particular time only
  • The threat was in gesture but not verbal or in writing
  • The accuser is lying and no threat occurred

During PEN 422 proceedings, the prosecutor must prove

To get convicted as a misdemeanor or a felony, the prosecutor must prove:

  • That the threat indeed did occur
  • That the recipient of the threat was indeed living in fear
  • That the offender had a deadly weapon at the time of issuing the threat
  • That the offender had the means to execute the threat.

8. PEN 591 Damaging Phone Lines

It is a criminal offense to maliciously destroy a phone line or equipment, especially when a domestic abuser does this to prevent the victim from making calls for help.

Penalties and Punishments for PEN 591

The charges for damaging telephone lines and equipment can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony in the state of California. The prosecutor decides how to charge the offense based on the nature of the offense, how much damage was caused, and the motive for the destruction. The prosecutor also considers the criminal background of the defendant before

settling on how to prosecute the offense.

If convicted of a misdemeanor, you can face jail time of up to a year, or pay a fine not exceeding $1,000 or both. A misdemeanor can also be sentenced to summary probation.

If convicted as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to formal probation, face prison time of sixteen, twenty-four, or thirty-six months in county prison. The defendant can also be charged a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both fine and jail time.

Possible Legal Defenses for Damaging Phone Lines and Equipment

The most common legal defense is that of an accident. The defendant can claim that they had no intention of damaging the phone lines or equipment, that it was purely an accident.

What the Prosecutor must Prove for PEN 591 Charges

To get a conviction, a prosecutor must prove that:

  • The defendant intentionally, and maliciously caused damage to the phone equipment and lines
  • That the defendant had a motive behind the destruction.

Other Consequences You Will Face If Convicted of Domestic Violence

If convicted of abuse or battery, there are more consequences other than jail time and fines. Based on the state law on domestic violence, if convicted, the accused may face some or all of the highlighted consequences:

  • Must serve a minimum mandatory jail term of a month even when the conviction was a misdemeanor.
  • If found guilty of domestic abuse, you may be required to pay restitution to the victim. In the state of California, this may include lost wages, medical bills, counseling, and property damage. Besides, the defendant is sentenced to contribute $500 to programs that advocate and educate against domestic violence.
  • Most judges will sentence a convicted batterer to a year of counseling and treatment program.
  • If convicted of domestic violence, the conviction appears as a criminal record on the defendant, making it almost impossible to get jobs, housing, among other benefits.
  • When convicted of domestic violence, you will probably be prohibited from having custody of your children, but in some cases, visitation may be allowed.
  • Convicted domestic violence defendants in the state of California automatically lose gun ownership rights.

Restraining Orders According to The State of California

Victims of violence in the homes, according to California law, are allowed to seek a restraining order or protective order against their abusers. The restraining order, in this case, is obtained through the criminal or civil courts.

To get a restraining order, the victim doesn’t have to be injured physically but is required to prove:

  • They have been abused or been threatened with abuse, or their child has been threatened or abused.
  • Existence of a relationship that is considered intimate between the said abuser and the victim or a relative

Violating a Restraining Order

Violating a protective order is considered a crime in the state of California and is charged as a misdemeanor if the victim was not physically hurt.

If charged with being in disobedience of a protective order, the following are the possible legal defenses:

  • The restraining order was illegally obtained
  • The defendant wasn’t made aware of the protective order
  • There was no intent to violate the order by the defendant
  • The alleged victim falsified the accusations

Domestic Violence Plea Bargains

With an experienced The LA Criminal Defense law firm, a defendant can be able to ask to plead guilty for a lesser charge. As a defendant, if you plead guilty, you will avoid the many negative consequences that are a result of a conviction on domestic violence.

Some common offenses that are lesser, and a defendant may consider pleading to are:

  • PEN 415 that deals with disturbing peace
  • PEN 602 dealing with trespassing.

Should you plead to any of the above crimes as lesser crimes, you are likely to have the following advantages:

  • You do not automatically lose custody of your children
  • You maintain the privilege to keep or obtain a firearm
  • If you are a non-citizen of the United States, you will not be deported.

Domestic violence is considered a severe crime in California. The law enforcement officers are also tasked to ensure that an offender is prosecuted and the most substantial punishment is given to him or her. If accused of any of the above domestic violence violations, your reputation is tarnished, you would lose your job and credibility and in some cases, the custody of your children among other stiff penalties. The financial burden and jail time that a convicted offender is likely to face can be frustrating. There are also instances where an individual can be falsely accused, or they were not even aware that their actions constituted a violation. When you find yourself faced with domestic violence charges, it is advisable to hire a lawyer to help you with your defense.

Finding a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

As you can see in this article, child abuse happens in many ways, and the law is not kind to people who are accused of abusing a child. Any action that triggers harmful consequences to a minor, visible or invisible, is considered unlawful regardless of intent. The California Penal Code provides various statutes for sexual abuse of children and contravening these laws could mean spending years behind bars.

Apart from parents and caregivers, children can be abused at the hands of religious people, teachers, extended family, and neighbors. Whatever the scenario, being charged with child abuse is a weighty issue that requires the best criminal defense attorney. Contact The Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney at 310-935-1675 so we can determine the best possible line of defense to address these charges.