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Domestic Violence Penalties in California

Posted by Sam Israels | May 16, 2020

Most people who have been accused of a domestic related crime have many questions about potential penalties they will face if convicted. Under California law, there are many types of charges related to domestic violence and subsequent penalties. Most cases are filed as a misdemeanor crimes and there are several that are “wobblers” that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony. The more serious cases involving injuries can be a felony.

If convicted and placed on probation, there are several terms and conditions that must be followed. Additionally, a domestic violence conviction will carry some collateral consequences that are often life-changing.

As stated, most domestic violence crimes give the prosecutor the authority to file the case as either a misdemeanor or a felony offense. Their decision is typically made after considering different factors, such as injuries to the the victim, past criminal record of defendant, and any other aggravating factors.

Under California law, domestic violence is described as some type of force or threats made against someone that has some type of relationship with the accused. This could include a spouse or former spouse, intimate partner, cohabitant boyfriend, girlfriend, family members, a person with whom they have a child, and others.

In Los Angeles County, one of the most charged cases is domestic battery defined under California Penal Code Section 243(e)(1). Other common charges include corporal injury to a spouse under PC 273.5 and elder abuse under Penal Code 368.

To give readers more information about penalties for domestic violence, our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing a detailed review below.

Mandatory Conditions of Probation – Penal Code 1203.097

There are certain requirements for sentencing once a defendant is placed on domestic violence probation which is described under California Penal Code 1203.097.

For example, when a judge sentences a defendant for domestic violence and imposes probation, the period of probation will last at least three years. The judge will also issue a protective order against the defendant that is designed to protect the victim from violence, harassment, threats, and stalking.

The judge might impose a “level one” protective order that allows the defendant peaceful contact with the victim, but they could also impose a full stay-away contact order that would prohibit any type of contact.

Under PC 1203.097, there is also a mandatory $500 fine that could be reduced if financially necessary. Further, a domestic violence defendant will be required to complete 52-week batterer's intervention program. The judge will also normally order some community service hours or they might even require some jail time as a condition of probation.

If a defendant is not placed on probation, then they could be sentenced to up to one year in a county jail for a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. If convicted of a felony offense, they could be sentenced receive a sentence of up to three years in a California state prison.

Domestic Violence Crimes and Penalties

In Los Angeles County, the most commonly charged California domestic violence crimes include domestic battery, criminal threats, and corporal injury to a spouse.

Most are filed as a misdemeanor, but the more serious cases are filed as a felony. There are many California “wobblers” in domestic violence that can be filed as a either a misdemeanor or felony.

The decision on how to file the case is based on the circumstances, victim injuries, and prior criminal history of the defendant. Let's review below California domestic violence offenses and associated penalties.

Domestic battery 

Domestic battery is defined under California Penal Code 243(e)(1). It's described as inflicting force on an intimate partner, but there is not a legal requirement that the victim sustained visible injuries. PC 243(e)(1) is always a misdemeanor crime and the penalties include up to one year in county jail, and fine up to $1,000.

Corporal injury to a spouse 

Corporal injury to a spouse is defined under California Penal Code 273.5. It's described as inflicting harm on an intimate resulting in a physical injury. PC 273.5 is a “wobbler” and the penalties include up to one year in a county jail for a misdemeanor, or up to four years in a California state prison for a felony.

Elder abuse

Elder abuse is defined under California Penal Code 368. It's described as the infliction of physical or emotional abuse, or neglect, on someone who is 65 years or older. Penal Code 368 is also a wobbler where a misdemeanor conviction can be penalized up to one year in county jail.  A felony PC 368 conviction carries up to 4 years in state prison.

Criminal threats

Criminal threats is defined under California Penal Code 422. It's described as making credible threats to harm another person and often related to domestic violence. PC 422 is another wobbler and a misdemeanor conviction carries up to a year in the county jail. If convicted of a felony, the penalties include state prison time of up to four years and a potential strike under California's three strikes law.

Child endangerment

Child endangerment is defined under California Penal Code 273a.  It's described as a willful act of allowing a child in your custody to suffer harm or endanger their safety. If you placed the child in a situation where there was a risk of a great bodily injury (GBI), then it's a wobbler crime and a potential felony, but PC 273a is typically a misdemeanor that can be penalized by up to one year in a county jail.

Child abuse

Child abuse is defined under California Penal Code 273d. It's described as the infliction of corporal injury on a child, but does not include reasonable spanking. PC 273d is a wobbler carrying up to one year in county jail for a misdemeanor conviction (CALCVRIM 823) and up to 3 years in prison for a felony conviction.


Stalking is defined under California Penal Code 646.9. It's described as making repeated harassment or threats against someone to such a level where the victim becomes in fear of their safety or the safety of their family. PC 646.9 is also a wobbler and misdemeanor conviction (CALCRIM 1301) carries up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor and three years in a California state prison if convicted as a felony offense.

Domestic Violence Collateral Consequences

If you are convicted of a domestic violence related California, you are also facing several collateral consequences. These type of offense are considered a crime involving moral turpitude. This means if you are an undocumented immigrant, you could be facing deportation from the United States or denied citizenship.

You will also lose the right to own or possess a firearm and even misdemeanor conviction will result in a 10-year firearm ban. If convicted of a felony, it will result in a lifetime firearm suspension under federal law.

If you were accused of any type of domestic violence crime described above, call our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to review your case.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a criminal defense law firm located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025 and 401 Wilshire Blvd #1200, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Contact our firm for a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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