San Diego Domestic Violence Attorney
Domestic violence refers to abuse that occurs between people who are living together, such as spouses or family members. Though often portrayed as women and children, victims can be of any age or gender. When a person is abused by a family member or loved one, whether male or female, they may be considered a victim of domestic violence.
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Under California law, you could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor for committing crimes that are considered domestic violence, which include:
Any attempt to cause bodily injury to another person, even if there was no physical contact.
The use of force against another person where actual physical contact occurs.
- Criminal threats
Threatening to kill or seriously harm a person, such that they genuinely fear for their safety.
Willful, malicious, and repeated following or harassment of someone while making credible threats against their safety, or the safety of their family.
- Sexual assault
Non-consensual touching of a person’s intimate parts, defined as: sexual organs, anus, groin, buttocks, and breasts.
Sub-category of sexual assault, involving unwanted sexual intercourse that includes physical force, intimidation, duress, or threats. When the victim is unconscious or unaware of the sexual intercourse taking place, this too is considered rape.
While battery is generically defined as any willful and unlawful use of force or violence against another person, section 243(e)(1) of California’s penal code specifically addresses what could be called "domestic battery." This code section specifies the appropriate punishment for battery committed against one of the following persons:
- A spouse or former spouse;
- A person with whom the accused was cohabiting;
- A present or former fiancé or fiancée;
- A person the accused is or was dating or engaged to; or
- The parent of the accused’s child.
Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Cohabitant
Battery only requires the use of force. But when that force results in "corporal injury" leading to a traumatic condition, the accused may be charged with a felony. Under section 273.5 of the California Penal Code, intentional infliction of corporal injury is punishable by imprisonment when committed against the following persons:
- A parent of the accused’s child;
- A person that is, or was, in a dating relationship with the accused; or
- A current or former:
- Fiancé or fiancée;
- Registered domestic partner; or
- Live-in partner.
James N. Dicks is a San Diego criminal lawyer who knows how to handle your domestic violence case. As a former police officer, he has experience with both sides of the issue, giving him greater insight into how to defend someone against such charges. With his solid understanding of California's laws and regulations, attorney James N. Dicks is ready to defend you against any kind of domestic violence charge.
In San Diego, regardless of the type or severity, domestic violence charges are all handled according to the same process.
While the law in California does not require it, police are strongly encouraged to make an arrest when responding to a domestic violence call. Arrest is mandatory, however, when a protective or restraining order has been violated. While officers making these arrests may be doing so according to their best judgment, and in the interests of public safety, it can have serious consequences for innocent people who are taken into custody after being wrongfully accused.
Before Charges are Filed
After the initial arrest, the district attorney will gather information to allow him or her to make a decision regarding whether or not to file formal charges. It is important for you, the accused, to use this time to gather as much information as possible. Not only should you immediately begin collecting evidence to support your defense, but your attorney may speak to the prosecutor before charges are filed, and be able to get them reduced or even prevent them being filed at all.
Arraignment and Pretrial
Once charges are filed, there will be an initial court date called an arraignment. This is where the judge will formally read to you the charges and ask how you plead. If you plead guilty, the judge will sentence you right away. If you plead not-guilty, depending on whether you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, one of two things will happen. In the case of a misdemeanor, a pretrial conference will be set, where the judge, the district attorney, and your lawyer will meet to discuss the case. If you’ve been charged with a felony, there will be a preliminary hearing so the judge can determine whether the district attorney has enough evidence to prosecute.
The final part of the process is the trial. Few domestic violence cases get that far, as most defendants enter into a plea agreement before it gets to that point. If the case does go to trial, the prosecution must prove the charges against the defendant "beyond a reasonable doubt." Without a subpoena, the alleged victim does not have to testify. But, in cases where the alleged victim did not wish to press charges and the district attorney filed the case anyway, the alleged victim’s testimony might benefit the defense. If you are the defendant, the trial is your last opportunity to prove your innocence, so you want to make sure you have the best representation possible to make sure you are not wrongfully convicted.
Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, it is important to understand that your future and freedom may be at stake when facing allegations of domestic violence or abuse.
Criminal penalties can include:
- Three years of probation;
- 52 weeks of domestic violence counseling;
- A fine;
- Restitution to the victim;
- Public service work; and/or
- Jail time.
In addition to the penalties enforced by a criminal court, a domestic violence conviction could lead to a family court stripping you of custody rights and barring you from spending time with your children. The risks to your future freedom and happiness are too great to take any chances. No matter your situation, make sure you have a qualified legal team on your side.
California law enforcement agencies and courts have become increasingly harsh in their handling of domestic violence cases. Heightened pressure from political groups, as well as extensive media coverage and public outrage, have contributed to California's strict enforcement of laws on domestic violence.
If a member of your household calls the police to report an incident, no matter how minor, you could face arrest and formal domestic violence charges. Even if your accuser doesn’t end up wanting to press charges, the state prosecutor is empowered to decide whether or not to follow through with filing a case against you. When you can’t rely on your family or the legal system, you need a San Diego defense lawyer you can trust.
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