California Spousal Abuse Charges

Understanding California Spousal Abuse Charges

California takes spousal abuse very seriously. This type of abuse is more than just physical harm. It includes a wide range of harmful actions and behaviors that hurt someone’s safety and well-being. In California, spousal abuse isn’t only about what a spouse or ex-spouse does. It also covers harmful acts by people who:

  • Live or lived with the victim.
  • Are engaged or were engaged to the victim.
  • Are dating or have dated the victim.
  • Share a child with the victim.

This approach shows that spousal abuse can happen in many different relationships, not just between married couples.

Spousal abuse includes many kinds of harmful actions, such as:

  • Harassment and Stalking: Making someone feel scared or unsafe without physically hurting them.
  • Destroying Property: Breaking or ruining someone’s things to intimidate or control them.
  • Verbal, Emotional, or Psychological Abuse: Using words or actions to threaten, manipulate, or hurt someone mentally and emotionally.

California laws protect the elderly from spousal abuse, showing the state’s commitment to keeping everyone safe. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or neglectful, impacting individuals of any age.

Criminal Charges for Domestic Violence

In California, spousal abuse can lead to various criminal charges, with two being the most common:

  1. Corporal Injury On A Spouse: Defined in Penal Code Section 273.5, is a “wobbler offense.” It can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of this charge significantly affects the punishment, ranging from a few years to up to 25 years in prison under California’s “Three Strikes” Law. For a conviction, it must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant intended to cause harm and that their actions resulted in a “traumatic condition” for the victim, indicating any significant or minor bodily injury.
  2. Domestic Battery: Under Penal Code Section 243(e)(1), differs from corporal injury as it does not require the victim to show physical injury to press charges. Instead, any forceful or unwanted physical contact can lead to a spousal battery charge. The major difference between the two charges is that corporal injury requires proof of actual physical harm, whereas spousal battery focuses on the act of physical contact itself, without regard to injury.

Charges Related to Violations of Restraining Orders

In addition to charging individuals with spousal abuse directly, authorities frequently bring charges for violating restraining orders. These legal tools aim to shield abuse victims by imposing clear restrictions on abusers’ actions. All states recognize and enforce restraining orders, offering victims nationwide protection, irrespective of where they reside.

Upon issuing a restraining order, the court may impose a variety of restrictions on the individual it restrains. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Avoiding any form of contact with the victim, which encompasses direct communication, phone calls, messages, and any form of electronic communication.
  • Maintaining a certain distance from the victim, their home, workplace, and other places frequently visited, to prevent any chance of encounters.
  • Relinquishing possession of firearms or other weapons, as a measure to reduce the risk of physical harm to the victim.

Violating these conditions is a serious offense and can lead to additional charges against the abuser.

Possible Penalties for Spousal Abuse Charges

The state of California has established specific penalties for spousal abuse charges, with the severity varying based on the nature of the offense:

  • Spousal Battery: Under Penal Code Section 243, spousal battery is classified as a misdemeanor. Those found guilty can face up to 1 year in county jail and may also be fined up to $2,000. This penalty reflects the seriousness with which California treats even non-injurious forms of physical contact in domestic settings.
  • Corporal Injury on a Spouse: For violations of Penal Code Section 273.5, the charges can escalate to felonies, depending on the circumstances and severity of the injuries inflicted. The potential penalties include 2, 3, or 4 years in jail, in addition to fines that can reach up to $6,000. This range allows for judicial discretion based on the specific details of each case.
  • Violation of Protective Order: Violating a restraining or protective order is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and fines of up to $1,000. This penalty underscores the importance of respecting court-issued orders aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence.

Defenses to Spousal Abuse Charges

Individuals charged with spousal abuse have several potential defenses available, depending on the circumstances of their case. These defenses can be critical in either reducing the severity of the penalties or leading to an acquittal. Key defenses include:

  • Self-Defense or Defense of Others: This defense is applicable when the defendant can demonstrate that their actions were a necessary response to an immediate threat of physical harm to themselves or another person. For this defense to be valid, the defendant must prove that the response was proportional to the threat and that there was a genuine belief of imminent danger.
  • Mistake of Fact/Lack of Intent: This defense is based on the argument that the defendant did not have the intent to commit harm or that there was a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts that led to the alleged abusive behavior. Lack of intent can significantly impact the viability of spousal abuse charges, as intent is a crucial element in criminal liability.
  • Involuntary Intoxication: When defendants were drugged without their knowledge, leading to alleged abusive behavior, they can argue involuntary intoxication as a defense. This claim asserts they lacked control over their actions, challenging the requirement of voluntary action for criminal responsibility.

Contact a Los Angeles Domestic Violence Attorney

Facing spousal abuse charges means you need a skilled attorney to guide you and protect your rights. With over 20 years at The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi, Attorney Hashemi provides full legal support, from jury selection to sentencing. His criminal defense expertise could greatly influence your case outcome, seeking reduced penalties or alternatives to jail. For committed legal help in Los Angeles, call The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi at (310) 448-1529 to explore your options.

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