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Penalties for Domestic Violence Criminal Charges

California domestic abuse law is governed by Penal code 273.5. Different terms, such as spousal battery, corporal injury on a spouse or spousal abuse can all be used to refer to domestic abuse, though all of them carry different penalties.

The law defines domestic abuse as bodily injury inflicted on a current spouse, cohabitant, former spouse and parent of your child.

Most of the time, domestic violence is charged as a misdemeanor offense. However it’s escalated to a felony charge if:

  • Bodily harm or sexual assault was caused to a minor
  • There was serious bodily injury on the victim
  • There was sexual assault on the victim
  • You have prior convictions of domestic violence
  • You have prior convictions for other crimes
Domestic violence criminal charges

When charged with domestic violence, you could answer for either one of the following two:

  • Corporal injury to a spouse, which is tried as a felony
  • Spousal battery, which is tried as a misdemeanor

Corporal injury to a spouse or a cohabitant

The charge of corporal injury to a spouse is brought against you if the injuries you inflicted resulted in a traumatic condition. A traumatic condition is classified as a wound or injury. Even slight bruising qualifies as a traumatic condition. Emotional distress does not qualify in this case. The prosecutor has to prove intent to commit the crime.

Battery of a spouse

California penal code defines spousal battery as willful and unlawful use of violence on a spouse or cohabitant. The victim does not need to have any visible injuries for you to be charged with spousal battery.

Penalties for Felony domestic violence

If you are charged with a felony, you will serve up to 4 years in state prison. The sentence could be longer depending on the seriousness of injuries you inflicted. Additionally, you will have to undergo a mandatory domestic violence class.

If you have committed other acts of domestic violence, sexual assault, assault with a weapon or attempted assault within the last 7 years, you may receive a longer sentence of up to 5 years and pay fines up to $10,000. Other factors in your criminal history may affect sentencing as well.

Severe bodily injury on the victim could also result in the addition of consecutive prison sentences.

Penalties for misdemeanor domestic violence

If charged with domestic battery, you will be required to pay a fine of $2000 and/ or serve a prison sentence in county jail for up to 1 year.

An attorney could get charges for Spousal battery reduced to lower or no prison time and fines. If the court agrees to no jail time, it might grant a probationary sentence, which might also include counselling.

The severity of domestic violence charges

In the state of California, charges of domestic violence can be brought against you even if the victim did not report the incident. Once charged, it’s unlikely that charges will be dropped, even if the victim wishes it. However, your attorney can negotiate your felony charge to a lesser misdemeanor charge.

The legal consequences for domestic violence in California could involve fines, counseling, probation, community service or imprisonment. Further, you could be legally prohibited from ever contacting the victim or going into their home. Additionally, the charge goes on your record and will make it harder for you to get a job.

Because of the implications of domestic violence charges on employment and the view of the community towards you, it’s important to speak to an attorney to help you fight the charges.

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