It takes only a "minor or serious injury"* (in short, almost any injury by any physical force to the victim, however slight) to give rise to a criminal charge of domestic violence (according to California Penal Code Section 237.5). Like beauty, this definition from a practical standpoint rests in the eye of the beholder. Usually there must appear some objective sign of physical abuse, but not always. Internal injuries not perceptible to the eye may still give rise to arrest.
Is arrest mandatory if the police have probable cause to suspect that a domestic violence has occured?
On paper, yes, arrest is mandatory in all domestic violence cases where probable cause exists. Plus the charge, initially at least, will be a felony.
What is the situation that distinguishes a domestic violence case from a simple or aggravated battery?
It is the relationship between the the victim(s) and the batterer - plus the injury mentioned above - that gives rise to a domestic violence charge. Some examples are: where the victim is the spouse, domestic partner or other live-in companion, a present or past dating relationship, and members of the same family.
What is the scheduled bail for a domestic violence case?
The bail is high, usually $50,000, depending on the county. However, this staggeringly high bail can usually be reduced to a fraction of the scheduled amount if your attorney can persuade the judge that the client will make all court appearances, comply with all court orders, and not present an imminent threat to the victim or any other person. Release of the client on "O.R." (e. i.: without posting any bail) is sometimes granted. Before paying a bail bonding company $5,000 (ten percent of the bail amount), obtain a good criminal attorney and get the bail reduced.
What are the other consequences of a domestic violence charge?
Besides the mandatory arrest, the police also will issue the person initially found to the perpetrator an immediate restraining order forbidding him or her from contacting or going near the victim. This very often results in the person arrested being essentially kicked out of his or her own house. A judge may later modify or even withdraw this restraining order in open court, taking into consideration the seriousness of the injuries to the victim, any mitigating factors (such as what would otherwise be a "mutual combat" case except for the predisposing relationship), and, of course the wishes of the alleged victim. In more contentious cases, the victim may get a civil restraining order against the perpetrator and even sue him or her in civil court.
Can both parties to an altercation be charged with domestic violence?
Yes. In some cases, this is exactly what happens. The two factors for multiple domestic violence arrests arising out of the same incident are: the relationship between the parties (as described above), and unjustifiably assaultive behavior (evidenced by an "injury' as defined above) on both of the parties. These types of cases are especially troublesome since any minor children will, initially at least and in the absence of an appropriately responsible adult guardian, be taken to child protective services for the respective county.
Can a felony domestic violence charge be reduced to a misdemeanor?
The charges may ultimately be reduced to a misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case, and, through remedial and rehab classes, the family may later be reunited in a safe environment.
Do I need a criminal attorney if my spouse seems willing to "drop the charges" against me?
Going to court on any felony charge without a good criminal attorney is as dangerous as diagnosing and treating your own serious medical problem. Get a lawyer immediately. As far as the "charges" are concerned, It is relatively common for a spouse to wish that the "charges be dropped." However, it is the District Attorney's Office that actually files the felony criminal charges against the perpetrator, and the alleged victim no authority to drop the charges. Also, it is the policy of every district attorney's office - again, on paper, at least - to not back off once charges are filed. In fact, victims have been arrested in the past (no longer) when he or she refused to testify against their spouse.
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