Often, clients come to me having recently been charged with domestic violence, surprised that what they considered a small spat has resulted in such serious charges. What they fail to realize is that any "minor or serious injury" can give rise to criminal charges under Penal Code (PC) Section 237.5. This “injury” could be a little as a reddening of the skin or a scratch. Basically, if you’ve made physical contact with a person with which you have a certain type of relationship, you open yourself up to Domestic Violence charges, which can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. The type of relationships that are covered under PC 273.5 are those in which the victim is any of the following:
Law enforcement agencies take domestic violence calls seriously and so does the District Attorney’s Office. In some cases, where there is probable cause to do so, the police can arrest both participants in the altercation, especially where there are young children living in the house. And even when the victim doesn’t want to press charges or later has a change of heart, the District Attorney’s Office can still move forward with the case.
If the crime is charged as a misdemeanor, the potential sentence can be as severe as up to a year in jail. And if it’s charged as a felony, the maximum exposure goes up to a potential four years in prison.
In addition to filing criminal charges, you might be subject to an immediate restraining order (called an Emergency Protective Order, or EPO), preventing you from contacting the victim or, potentially, even going back into your own home. In some cases, this short-term, EPO can evolve into a longer-term restraining order. Further, in those cases in which children are present, it is not uncommon for Child Protective Services to become involved. Further still, if the injury is serious enough, a conviction under PC 273.5 can have immigration consequences as the crime can be considered a crime of moral turpitude.
Here in Sonoma County, after conviction offenders are often required to participate in what is known as the Domestic Violence Court Program, aimed at helping offenders understand their triggers, and develop stress and anger management skills. As part of this program they are required to complete 20 hours of Community Service, a 52-week batterer’s program, abstain from alcohol and/or other drug use, and complete thirty-six months of formal probation.
Given these potential consequences, if you’ve been charged with domestic violence having a lawyer who understands the law is crucial. Not only can a lawyer evaluate the case against you, he or she can work to have the charges reduced, or in some cases even dismissed. As always, feel free to contact Devina if you are facing a DV-type charge.
Devina strives to make information relevant to the lives of her clients easily accessible.