Domestic violence allegations are always quite serious. While incidents involving domestic violence allegations can be charged as a misdemeanor, usually as a violation of Penal Code section 243(e) (generally known as “spousal battery” or “domestic violence battery”), domestic violence allegations are often charged as a felony pursuant to Penal Code section 273.5.
Generally speaking, whether an incident results in misdemeanor or felony charges will depend on the nature and severity of any injuries suffered by the alleged victim.
Rather than an analysis of the different statutes and their potential consequences, our office has found there are several frequently asked questions regarding domestic violence allegations.
The alleged victim and I weren’t in a romantic relationship, so why am I getting charged with domestic violence?
Whenever an incident occurs between the accused and “a spouse, a person with whom the defendant is cohabiting, a person who is the parent of the defendant’s child, former spouse, fiancé, or fiancée, or a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship”, the incident will likely be charged as a “domestic violence” case.
In short: two people don’t have to be romantically involved to fall within the scope of the domestic violence statutes. If a woman physically assaults the father of her child, even if they haven’t ‘been together’ since before the child was born, the woman could be charged with one of the special domestic violence statutes.
If there’s an incident of physical violence between two people who are just roommates, and have never been romantically involved in any way, it can theoretically result in “domestic violence” charges.
Do only men get charged with domestic violence crimes?
Certainly not. This may have been the case years ago, but times have changed, and prosecutors are generally quite sensitive about allegations that they may be biased against male victims of domestic violence, or that they fail to protect victims in same-sex relationships.
Prosecutors are very careful to avoid situations where they might be accused of overlooking potential abuse because the situation didn’t fall within ‘traditional’ frameworks of man-on-woman abuse in a heterosexual relationship. It is not uncommon in the least for a woman to be charged with domestic violence related offenses against a male partner. It is also no longer uncommon for domestic violence charges to be brought against one party in a same-sex romantic relationship.
I was being physically assaulted and I fought back, but the police arrested me, and now I’m the one charged with domestic violence. Won’t the prosecution just drop the case?
This is a fairly common assumption made by people accused of domestic violence. The accused knows he or she was only reacting in “self-defense” to his or her partner, and can’t understand why the prosecution won’t “just see what happened and drop the case.” This is a very, very serious mistake.
There are a lot of factors that go into a prosecutor’s thinking when presented with a so-called “mutual combat” domestic violence situation. They are too complex to detail in the course of a single web page, and in any event, it wouldn’t help drive home the most important point: no, a prosecutor is not going to simply ‘realize’ what happened and voluntarily drop the case. When presented with a “mutual combat” situation, the police have to make a judgement call about how to respond. Once that judgement call is made, it tends to set in motion a chain of events that has a momentum of its own.
Self-defense is a very specific legal defense that doesn’t mean what the average person might expect it to mean, and it is rarely something which can be successfully argued in court without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The person who accused me of domestic violence wants the police/prosecution to drop the charges—so won’t the case just go away on its own?
Absolutely NOT. Once the police have been called and an arrest has been made, or a criminal case has been filed by the prosecution, the alleged victim really isn’t in control of the process anymore. The alleged victim is no longer in control of anything at this point—he or she can go camp outside the prosecutor’s office all night to demand the case be dropped. The prosecutor doesn’t have to listen to this demand, and frankly, the prosecutor almost certainly won’t ‘just drop it’.
The reasons are complicated. Understand that it is very, very common for an alleged victim of domestic violence to change his or her mind, or simply regret involving the police in the first place, and consequently stop cooperating with the prosecution. Prosecutors are quite used to this, and generally will do everything in their power to forge ahead with the criminal case anyway.
Ultimately, it may make a difference in the outcome of a case if the alleged victim no longer wishes to cooperate, but only long after the defendant has enlisted the help of an experienced defense lawyer who can press the issue. Without the help of an experienced defense lawyer, it makes little or no difference if the alleged victim decides to stop cooperating with the prosecution.
I still have more questions, can you help me?
These are only a few of the many questions that can arise during the course of a domestic violence case. Every case is unique, and we know that you must have more questions.
If you have specific questions that pertain to your case, please call our office at 310-633-4612 to schedule your free consultation. The Law Office of Andrew Bouvier-Brown has the knowledge and experience required to help you achieve the best possible outcome.