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Domestic Violence Lawyer in California


What you think is just an argument can turn into something much more. Who knows what happened? A neighbor may hear raised voices and call the police. The police arrive and decide an argument happened, so they must arrest someone for domestic violence.

Domestic violence in California carries serious consequences, especially when not addressed immediately. These consequences can be both civil and criminal. If you have been charged in Orange or Los Angeles County with domestic violence or a related offense, it's imperative to contact a domestic violence defense attorney.

You have rights, and Attorney Richard Wagner is here to uphold your rights and defend any allegations made against you. Read Richard Wagner's profile. Call (714) 721-4423 to schedule a FREE, PRIVATE CONSULTATION today.

“A family member was facing 5 serious counts against them, one carrying a strike if convicted. Richard worked with the court, judge & prosecution & 2 of the charges were dropped, including the charge that carried the strike. He negotiated a sentence that was much less than expected & took care of everything as the family was not able to attend. He called before the court date to explain the process & hopeful outcome. He called directly after the deal had been made, giving a detailed account of what occurred & how our family member was. His work is impressive and his experience & expertise was top notch.” Anonymous client - Read what others have to say

Domestic Violence in California

Domestic violence describes a range of harm committed in the context of a domestic relationship, usually between spouses, intimate partners, or relatives, but in some jurisdictions, it can also include roommates or other members of the household.

Examples of physical acts that can arise from domestic violence include punching, hitting, slapping, or shoving. However, it could extend to other patterns of abusive behavior, like threats of violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and financial abuse. 

Domestic Violence, spousal abuse, and domestic battery are charged under California Penal Code Section 273.5. You cannot inflict bodily injury. If it results in a “traumatic condition.” Upon your wife or husband. Or, on someone you live with – a cohabitant, or a mother or father of one's child.

The law applies to your ex-wife, ex-husband, and former cohabitant.

This crime could be a felony. Also, you risk serious consequences, such as going to county jail or state prison. Plus, paying steep fines costing thousands of dollars. Also, just being accused of abusing your spouse or significant other damages your reputation and family life.

State-based legislation varies in terms of both the nature of the relationship and the type of conduct required to prove a domestic violence offense. While domestic violence offenses are usually prosecuted at the state level, federal domestic violence legislation exists.

In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This Act and subsequent additions to the Act acknowledge domestic violence as a national crime and provide assistance to overburdened state and local criminal justice systems.

A defendant in a domestic violence case may face a range of offenses, including any of the following, for example:

  • Assault with a deadly weapon (Penal Code Section 245);
  • Battery (Penal Code Section 242);
  • Battery of a spouse or cohabitant (Penal Code Section 243(e));
  • Criminal Threats (Penal Code Section 422);
  • Disturbing the Peace (Penal Code Section 415);
  • False imprisonment (Penal Code Section 236); 
  • Forcible rape (Penal Code Section 261);
  • Infliction of injury on a current or former spouse, a current or former cohabitant, or a parent of the offender's child (Penal Code Section 273.5);
  • Making annoying telephone calls (Penal Code Section 653m);
  • "Revenge porn" or nonconsensual pornography (Penal Code Section 647(j)(4)):
  • Sexual battery (Penal Code Section 243.4);
  • Stalking (Penal Code Section 646.9);
  • Vandalism (Penal Code Section 594);
  • Vehicle tampering or joy riding (Penal Code Section 10851); or
  • Violation of a protective order (Penal Code Section 273.6).

The following are federal crimes under VAWA if they are committed within the maritime or territorial lands of the United States or if the offender crosses state or foreign lines to:

  • commit or attempt to commit a crime of violence against an intimate partner (18 U.S.C. Section 2261)
  • stalk or harass or to stalk or harass by mail or computer (18 U.S.C. Section 2261A)
  • violate a qualifying Protection Order (18 U.S.C. Section 2262)

Consequences of Alleged Domestic Violence in California

When a defendant is charged with a domestic violence offense, the court has the power to order a criminal protective order (CPO), also referred to as a restraining or peaceful contact or no-contact order, depending on the court.

Protective orders are usually issued at your arraignment - well before your criminal law matter has been finalized and, in many cases, before the criminal process has really even begun. In essence, when it comes to domestic violence, you can suffer certain consequences before a judge or jury finds you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

When a protective order is issued, it can result in two significant consequences, though there may be other penalties or restrictions imposed:

  1. It can restrict a defendant's contact with the victim and their children, and
  2. It can require the defendant to leave the family home.

A person subject to a protective order or convicted of a domestic violence offense is also prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under federal law. 

Criminal convictions of any nature, but especially domestic violence offenses, can also impact a defendant's ability to find work or housing. Potential employers or landlords who run a background check may refuse an applicant with a domestic violence conviction. 

Penalties of Domestic Violence or a Related Criminal Conviction in California

There are sentencing options for domestic violence offenses. Much of it depends on the severity of the allegations and any prior protective orders. Generally, penalties can include, but are not limited to:

  • Hefty Fines
  • Probation 
  • Domestic violence treatment or counseling programs 
  • Imprisonment
  • Restitution
  • Community Service
  • Cal Trans Work

When sentencing an offender for a domestic violence offense, the court will take into account aggravating circumstances, like:

  • the level of injury sustained by the victim
  • whether a weapon was used or a child witnessed the crime
  • whether the crime violates an existing protective order
  • the personal characteristics of the victim, such as older age or pregnancy

The penalties for domestic violence offenses can quickly become harsher with subsequent convictions in California. 

Can Domestic Violence Charges Be Dropped in Orange County?

Domestic violence charges can be dropped, but it is critical to know that they will not be dropped only because the alleged victim of the violence no longer wants charges brought against the alleged suspect. Charges are brought by the state, not by the affected person.

The same is true about the protective order. Even if the victim no longer wants the protective order, the order remains in effect. Any person who has a restraining order against them must obey the order or risk further criminal charges and subsequent consequences. Violating a protective order is a serious offense.

Defenses to Domestic Violence Allegations in California

A person can defend against a domestic violence charge in California. However, the specific defenses available to a defendant will depend on the circumstances of their case. 

Some common defenses include:

  • Self-defense or defense of others: where reasonable force was used to prevent an attack
  • Lack of evidence: if the prosecution fails to present enough evidence to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt
  • False allegations: where the complaining witness has lied about what happened
  • Accident: where the defendant unintentionally caused the injury

Some face unfair criminal charges due to false reports. Or exaggerated reports made by others. Studies have shown conflict from economic stress triggers abuse. With the help of former prosecutor Richard Wagner on your side, you increase your chances of getting your DV charges reduced or dismissed. Allowing you to better protect your reputation, profession, and future.

A conviction for a domestic violence offense can have a long-lasting impact on many aspects of a defendant's personal life, including their personal relationships, parenting, and employment. It is always in your best interests to, at a minimum, consult with a domestic violence defense lawyer about any allegations.

What is Penal Code 273.5?

California Penal Code 273.5 makes it illegal to inflict bodily injury that causes a “traumatic condition” against people with whom you were in a dating relationship. Here are some examples other than wife or husband: co-parent, fiancé, fiancée, or a person with whom you have had or previously had, a dating or engagement relationship.

It is not necessary for the person you live with to be your husband or wife. The dad or mom under Penal Code 273.5 is considered the natural parent of a child. California's law regarding Domestic Violence covers ex-girlfriends and boyfriends. The Law Office of Richard Wagner is a Professional Law Corporation with over 25 years of experience in criminal defense.

Dating relationship” means frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement, independent of financial considerations.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Penal Code 273.5?

In criminal cases, a statute of limitations is a law that sets the maximum amount of time the prosecution has to file charges.

The prosecution has 5 years from the date of the incident to commence or file charges for a violation of Penal Code Section 273.5. The legislature added Penal Code Section 803.7 in 2020, extending the statute of limitations for PC 273.5 to five years.

What is a traumatic condition?

An example of a traumatic condition is a wound or internal or external injury. Even if the traumatic condition is minor, criminal charges under the prosecutor can still file criminal charges under Penal Code Section 273.5.

Domestic violence, spousal abuse, and domestic battery can also be charged under Penal Code Section 243(e). This law makes it illegal to use force or violence against a:

  • spouse,
  • former spouse,
  • cohabitant,
  • co-parent,
  • fiancé,
  • fiancée, or
  • a person with whom you have had or previously had a dating or engagement relationship.

You will usually be charged under Penal Code Section 243(e) if the touching or contact does not result in physical injury described above.

Is 273.5 A Felony or Misdemeanor?

Any person found guilty of Penal Code Section 273.5 is punishable by imprisonment in the California state prison for 2, 3, or 4 years or in county jail for not more than 1 year; or by a fine of up to $6000; or by both a fine and imprisonment.

A person convicted of breaking PC 273.5 within 7 years of a previous conviction under Penal Code Section 273.5 or other specified offenses must be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than 1 year; or by imprisonment in state prison for 2, 4, or 5 years; or by both imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

The Law Office of Richard Wagner has negotiated probation for clients convicted under Penal Code Section 273.5 instead of the harsh sentences described above.

If the court grants probation, you must complete what is called a batterers' treatment program, pay fines and fees; do community service, and make a donation to a domestic violence shelter up to a maximum of five thousand dollars ($5,000).

If you get convicted of Penal Code Section 273.5(a), the court must consider a restraining order banning any contact with the victim for up to 10 years.

Additionally, AB 3129 amended California Penal Code 29850, making it illegal for a person convicted on or after January 1, 2019, of a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code Section 273.5 to own, purchase, receive, or possess a firearm. (For convictions before January 1, 2019, it was a 10-year firearm ban.)

Bail for Domestic Violence Cases

You might be eligible to be released on bail or for an own-recognizance (OR) release. In other cases, the judge may detain the defendant without setting bail. If the defendant gets an OR release, it usually comes with conditions such as GPS monitoring, substance abuse and/or mental health treatment, and protective orders. Read more about Bail in California 

Contact a Domestic Violence Defense Attorney in Orange County Today

If you've been charged with a domestic violence offense, you should speak to an experienced domestic violence defense attorney at The Law Office of Richard Wagner immediately. We will listen to your version of events, assess the strength of the evidence against you, and advise you of any defenses that may be available to you. Fill out an online submission form or call (714) 721-4423 to schedule a FREE and PRIVATE CONSULTATION today.