In Los Angeles County, domestic violence cases are by far the most commonly prosecuted crime the LA criminal court system. Many years ago, before the O.J. Simpson murder trial, it was common knowledge that law enforcement didn’t consider domestic violence cases with minor injuries very serious.
In those days, unless there were visible signs of a serious injury, most abusers were just given a warning.
Now, it’s not a secret that there has been a 180 degree shift in how domestic violence cases are handled by police and prosecutors.
It should be noted that most people who are arrested for domestic violence don’t have a criminal record, which means they are not familiar with the criminal court process and what they need to avoid once police arrive.
How Do Police Handle 911 Domestic Violence Calls?
Law enforcement officers who respond to a 911 call regarding a domestic violence incident don’t have much discretion of whether to make an arrest.
In fact, when there are accusations of domestic abuse, an arrest will normally occur even when there is little to no evidence.
After police arrive at the scene of an alleged domestic violence incident, they will:
- Take oral statements from both parties;
- Determine if there are any visible injuries;
- Determine who was the primary aggressor.
Once the primary aggressor has been determined, they will normally arrest them immediately, but it’s not uncommon for both parties to be arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.
After a defendant has been transported to the local county jail, they will:
- Post a bond to get released;
- Remain in custody until first court date;
- Be provided a court date for arraignment.
It’s worth noting that we have represented clients who actually made the initial 911 domestic violence call, only to find themselves arrested because law enforcements officers feel bound to make an arrest.
Any first-time offender who has been accused of domestic violence frequently feels overwhelmed as they are unfamiliar with the criminal case process.
This article is designed to give readers some useful information about the common charges associated with first time domestic violence cases and likely consequences. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are providing a review below.
How Do Prosecutors Determine What Type of Domestic Violence Charges to File?
The primary distinguishing feature in prosecution of domestic violence cases is whether the victim sustained a bodily injury.
It should be noted that even a minor injury with visible marks on their body could result felony corporal injury to a spouse charges under California Penal Code Section 273.5.
- If prosecuted as a felony, the defendant faces state prison time.
- If prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a conviction carries only county jail time.
In domestic violence cases where there no visible injuries on alleged victim, the most common statute used by prosecutors is Penal Code 243(e)(1), domestic battery.
PC 243 (e)(1) doesn’t require the victim to suffer any type of injury. In fact, any type of “offensive” touching, even if the touching was brief or minor, could be sufficient for the prosecutor to pursue misdemeanor charges.
Domestic battery charges under Penal Code 243(e)(1) is:
- always a misdemeanor offense;
- carries time in a county jail and a fine, but
- not California state prison time.
What are the Penalties for First-Offense Domestic Violence?
In most first-offense domestic violence prosecutions in Los Angeles, the prosecutor will not seek any substantial jail time.
However, an exception of course would include cases where the victim sustained significant injuries.
In a routine domestic violence case, the penalties will typically include:
- Probation with terms and conditions,
- 52-week domestic violence counseling course,
- A special $500 fine applicable only to domestic violence cases,
- Other conditions designed to address underlying domestic violence issues,
- Substance abuse counseling,
- Anger management classes,
- Community service hours.
While on probation for a domestic violence, the court expects you to attend all classes and successfully complete them on time.
Other restrictions for DV probation include that you will be prohibited from possessing or owning any type of firearm.
What are Criminal Protective Orders in Domestic Violence Cases?
When you are under prosecution for domestic violence in Los Angeles, a criminal protective order will normally be issued by the judge.
For many first-time offenders who believe the entire domestic violence incident was nothing more than a simple private family matter, a protective order seems excessive and unnecessary.
There are two type of protective orders:
- Full no contact stay-away order;
- Peaceful contact order.
Even in a situation where the alleged victim objects, a Los Angeles criminal court judge will normally issue a full no-contact stay-away order to defendants at their first court appearance, which is known as the “arraignment.”
The consequences of the issuance of a protective order is often shocking for a first-time defendant. For example:
- if the defendant and victim live together,
- the defendant will be required to move out and find another place to live, and
- if they have children, the protective order could serve as a temporary loss of defendant’s parental rights.
It should be noted, however, the judge will typically give some consideration to the defendant to maintain their relationship with their children.
A much less restrictive form of a protective order is called a “peaceful contact” order that allows defendant to make contact with the victim.
If there is family or dependency court litigation ongoing between the couples, the court might choose to have the protective order follow other orders issued by the civil court.
This is based on the assumption that family or dependency proceedings will end up wit the proper arrangement for child custody and the peaceful exchange of the child.
Call a Domestic Violence Lawyers in Los Angeles for Help
Domestic violence cases are considered a serious issue by law enforcement and prosecutors in Los Angeles County criminal courts.
If you have been accused of violating any type of California domestic violence, you need to contact our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to review the details of your case. It might be possible to obtain reduced charges or even a case dismissal.
Depending on the circumstances, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor through a prefiling intervention to avoid criminal charges from being filed.
Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.