When Is Domestic Violence A Felony Offense in California?

In California, domestic violence is a serious crime. The state aggressively prosecutes those who commit domestic violence. In most cases, a person accused of domestic violence is charged with a misdemeanor offense. However, under certain circumstances, domestic violence can result in felony charges for the alleged offender.

Domestic Violence in California

The relationship between parties is what distinguishes domestic violence from other assault and battery offenses. According to California law, domestic violence occurs when one person abuses or threatens to abuse a person with whom they share or have shared a domestic, intimate, or family relationship. A victim of domestic violence can include:

  • A current or former spouse or domestic partner
  • A current or former cohabitant
  • A current or former fiancé or fiancée
  • Someone with whom they’ve had a child
  • Someone with whom they are in or have been in a dating relationship
  • A close family member

Abuse can include physical and non-physical abuse. Physical abuse can consist of:

  • Intentionally or recklessly hurting someone
  • Intentionally or recklessly attempting to hurt someone
  • Threatening someone with imminent serious bodily injury
  • Sexual assault
  • Disturbing the peace

Examples of non-physical abuse can include stalking, harassment, preventing someone from leaving or escaping, preventing communication, exposing children to domestic violence, and exposing children to drug abuse/illicit drug use.

The Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction

A conviction for domestic violence in California can have major consequences:

  • Jail time (for some DV offenses, mandatory jail time)
  • Fines
  • Victim restitution or payments to a battered women’s shelter
  • Probation
  • Court ordered year-long batterers’ program
  • Permanent criminal record
  • Loss of custody rights
  • Loss of gun rights
  • Restraining orders

Domestic Violence is a “Wobbler” Offense in California

Domestic violence is considered to be a “wobbler” offense in California. This means that prosecutors have the option of filing either misdemeanor or felony charges against the accused. They make their decision based on several factors, including:

  • The circumstances of the offense.
  • The seriousness of the alleged victim’s injuries.
  • The defendant’s criminal record (if any).

Domestic violence cases that involve inflicting corporal injury that resulted in a traumatic condition upon an intimate partner, result in serious bodily injury or were likely to result in serious bodily injury, or situations where the accused has certain prior battery convictions or prior a prior domestic violence conviction can be boosted up to felony charges.

Domestic battery, corporal injury, criminal threats, stalking, damaging a phone line, aggravated trespassing, child abuse or endangerment, and elder abuse are all examples of “wobbler” domestic violence offenses that could result in felony charges.

Under California law, any person who willfully inflicts a corporal injury that results in a traumatic condition for an intimate partner is guilty of a felony. A traumatic condition is any wound or bodily injury that was caused as a result of the direct application of physical force.

Defenses Against Felony Domestic Charges

Just because someone is charged with domestic violence doesn’t mean they’re guilty. In these cases, it’s vital for the accused to work with an experienced domestic violence attorney to defend themselves against the charges. Possible defenses against felony domestic charges include:

  • The accused was acting in self-defense.
  • The accused was acting in defense of others.
  • The victim’s injuries were unintentional and resulted from an accident or mistake.
  • The DV accusations are false, made out of anger, jealousy, or a desire to gain the upper hand in a divorce or child custody proceeding.
  • The victim’s injuries did not result from the accused’s actions.

Speak to Orange County, CA Family Law Attorney Michael Marley

Legal cases involving divorce, separation, child custody, and child support issues require a careful approach that protects the rights and safety of all the parties involved.

Orange County, CA family law attorney Michael Marley is dedicated to protecting the rights and safety of those threatened by domestic violence and defending those who have been unjustly accused of domestic violence. As a former Orange County Public Defender, family law attorney Michael Marley has played a part in many domestic violence cases. He knows the factors the prosecution will consider when determining domestic violence charges as well as the tactics the prosecution will use to get their conviction.

If you are in a divorce or child custody case that involves allegations or charges of domestic violence, you need experienced legal representation. Contact Michael Marley at the Marley Law Firm through our website or call us at (949) 726-6000 to schedule a private, confidential consultation with a leading Orange County, CA family law attorney.