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Criminal Defense

What Qualifies As Domestic Violence in California?

By April 6, 2022November 26th, 2023No Comments
Parents Arguing With Daughter on the Side | Domestic Abuse Lawyer in Los Angeles​​ | Wegman & Levin

If someone has accused you of domestic violence, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed and anxious about how this could impact your future. California takes domestic violence very seriously, with most offenses carrying severe consequences including jail time, costly fines, mandatory counseling programs and mandatory Criminal Protective Orders (restraining orders). Before you picture the worst-case scenario, contact an experienced Los Angeles County criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options. Together, you can assess the specifics of your case and determine the most strategic path forward.

Legal Definitions of Domestic Violence in California

In general, any act of violence or abuse against an intimate partner may lead to criminal charges. California Penal Code Section 13700(b) defines domestic violence as “abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.” Abuse refers to any action whereby the defendant intentionally or recklessly strikes the victim. But in reality, that actually defines “domestic abuse.”

Penal Code Section 1203.097, which sets forth the mandatory probation terms for crimes of domestic violence, uses a much broader definition by borrowing the definition from Family Code Section 6211: “Domestic violence” is abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons: (a) A spouse or former spouse; (b) A cohabitant or former cohabitant, as defined in Section 6209; (c) A person with whom the [defendant] is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship; (d) A person with whom the [defendant] has had a child, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child of the female parent under the Uniform Parentage Act (Part 3 (commencing with Section 7600) of Division 12); (e) A child of a party or a child who is the subject of an action under the Uniform Parentage Act, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child to be protected; and (f) Any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree.

Types of Domestic Violence Charges in California

Most domestic violence crimes are considered “wobbler” offenses, meaning prosecutors may bring either misdemeanor or felony charges. Factors including the circumstances of the incident, the gravity of the alleged victim’s injuries, the defendant’s criminal history, and other relevant information can determine the severity of the domestic violence charge. Common domestic violence-related criminal charges include corporal injury to a spouse or inhabitant, domestic battery, child abuse, child endangerment, stalking, and trespass. But domestic violence can include theft, burglary, rape and numerous other charges depending solely on the relationship between the parties. Essentially, any crime committed against a person who is related as set forth above is a crime of domestic violence.

Talk to a Skilled Los Angeles County Attorney Today

If law enforcement has arrested you for a domestic violence-related matter, the most important thing you can do is remain calm. Many scenes of domestic violence can be chaotic and emotional, so try to rein in your reactions and do not resist the arrest. Instead, trust that you will have the chance to discuss the situation with an experienced Los Angeles County criminal defense lawyer; until then, exercise your right to remain silent. Once you connect with your attorney, you can start building a solid defensive strategy to obtain the best possible outcome, given the specifics of your case.


Call Wegman & Levin today at (818) 980-4000 to arrange a free consultation with a dedicated Los Angeles County criminal defense attorney.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin is an experienced attorney who has been in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years. He has conducted numerous jury trials in cases ranging from DUI to capital murder. Read More

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