Domestic violence may be charged in a criminal complaint, when brought to the attention of law enforcement, in various formats. When an injury occurs, the most common charge filed is a violation of Penal Code section 273.5, willful infliction of corporal injury. This charge requires that there be some sort of dating relationship, or past dating relationship between the parties. It also requires that there is an injury, whether minor or serious, caused by physical force. A defendant in a criminal matter may be facing the less serious of charges, a misdemeanor or, the most serious, felony charges. The determination of whether a misdemeanor or felony is charged may depend on the nature of the injury and/or the person’s previous record – has the person been arrested and/or charged with a similar charge in the past.
If the accused is charged with a felony, the sentence may include a prison sentence of two, three or four years. However, if there are sentencing enhancements also alleged, the person may be facing a longer prison sentence. Sentencing enhancements would be if the injury was considered “great bodily injury”, or if a gun was used, or if the person has a previous felony record which may increase the prison term.
If the injury is minor, more often then not, the accused shall be charged with a misdemeanor offense. This particular defendant may face a fifty-two week batter’s treatment program, community service, fines to the court and to the county’s domestic violence shelter, along with a county jail sentence.
There are a number of additional charges that may also be filed in a domestic violence case such as battery, stalking, tampering with a phone line, terrorist threats, child abuse, to name a few.
Regardless of the charges, a person accused in a domestic violence case should be aware of their rights, the possible consequences they are facing, and the various defenses. The accused should not have the attitude that they “just want to get it over with”. This is a situation that may haunt the suspect for life by way of the penalty, the restraining order that the Judge will order which will not allow contact between the parties, and the criminal record that will remain with the person for life. If you find yourself in this situation and need help, please contact an attorney immediately.