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An Overview of Califoria Domestic Violence Law

“Domestic violence" or “domestic abuse" is a common criminal charge in California. Simple arguments often escalate into domestic violence allegations. Domestic violence is typically charged under Penal Code 273.5 or Penal Code 243(e). This article focuses on domestic violence charges under Penal Code 273.5.

It is critical for anyone accused of domestic violence to have a basic understanding of domestic violence law, including how a prosecutor attempts to prove domestic violence; punishments for domestic violence; and defenses to domestic violence allegations.

What is required to prove domestic violence? The prosecution must generally prove the following facts to find a defendant guilty of domestic violence under Penal Code 273.5: (1) defendant abused a spouse, former spouse, a current or former live-in girlfriend or boyfriend, or the mother or father of the defendant’s child; (2) the defendant used intentional (non-accidental) force to cause the abuse; and (3) the victim suffered some form of visible injury, even if the visible injury is small.

What are common defenses to domestic violence charges? While any domestic violence charge must be evaluated on its specific facts, in many cases there are strong defenses to a domestic violence charge, including: (1) false accusations – domestic arguments often result in false accusations of domestic violence; (2) self defense – it is not domestic abuse when someone uses reasonable self defense to protect himself from a domestic attack; and (3) accident– it is not domestic abuse when someone does not deliberately do an act to cause injury to a spouse or domestic partner.

What is the punishment for a domestic violence charge? Penal Code 273.5 is a “wobbler", meaning that it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and a $6,000 fine, or both. If charged as a felony, it is punishable by 2, 3 or 4 years in a state prison, a $6,000 fine, or both. The prosecutor will decide to charge Penal Code 273.5 as a misdemeanor or as a felony based primarily on the extent of the victim’s injuries.

Please feel free to contact the Weinrieb Law Firm to defend you against any domestic violence or domestic abuse charge. We can be reached twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at 818.933.6555, or by confidential and secure email through the firm’s website at www.VWattorneys.com.

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