Defining the Nature of the Relationship
Under California law, certain crimes can be charged as domestic violence crimes if the victim had an intimate or familial relationship with the defendant. Because domestic violence convictions have serious consequences, it's important to understand just what constitutes a domestic violence victim. Let's first take a look at California domestic violence law.
Under Penal Code 273.5, domestic violence charges apply when the victim is one or more of the following:
- Spouse or former spouse (of the defendant)
- Fiancée or former fiancée
- Cohabitant or former cohabitant
- Someone with whom the defendant has or had a dating or engaged relationship with
- Parent of the defendant's child, or
- Someone who is otherwise closely related to the defendant through blood or marriage
If one or more of these conditions apply to the victim, the offense can be charged as domestic violence. If the alleged victim does not fall into one of these categories, you are not guilty of domestic violence.
Many people are surprised to learn about the very general definition of “domestic” California domestic violence laws follow. Indeed, given the harsh consequences of a domestic violence charge (as opposed to a non-DV battery or assault charge), this broad definition may seem unfair. Now, let's take a look at why this definition of an intimate relationship is significant and how it could influence your defense.
Why the Relationship Matters
As I stated above, a California domestic violence conviction is nothing to joke about. You will face at least three years of probation, steep fines, possible incarceration, 52 weeks of batterers' intervention classes, and a protection order, among other penalties. Non-domestic violence convictions such as battery or assault do not necessarily result in these exact consequences. The relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim as defined by law is the key factor here. Let's examine the difference a DV designation makes.
If you inflict an injury on someone you live and share a life with, you could:
- Be ordered to go to a batterers' intervention class once a week for an entire year
- Be ordered to make payments to a battered women's shelter
- Pay a fine of up to $6000
- Spend two, three, or four years in a state prison or up to one year in a county jail
- Be subject to a protection order, which might require you to vacate your residence
- Be barred from owning or otherwise possessing firearms
If you inflict an injury on a stranger, however, you would not be required to vacate your home, make payments to a battered women's shelter, attend batterers' intervention classes, and might not even be barred from possessing a firearm, depending on how the offense was charged.
If you have been accused of domestic violence, it is worth your time to talk to an attorney. Because the nature of your relationship with the alleged victim plays such a significant role in your case, the prosecutor must prove you had an intimate or familial relationship with the victim. If you did not, you should argue that point in court. If done successfully, that could potentially save you from many of the above penalties for DV convictions. For example, if you never lived with, dated, or were otherwise intimate with the alleged victim, you should be charged with battery or assault, not a domestic violence offense.
Given the loose definition of domestic violence victim under California law, it is worth it for some domestic violence defendants to build their defense around denying the relationship with the alleged victim. Many domestic violence reports are false, made by people out to get revenge on the alleged abuser. If you are facing domestic violence charges because of what someone said, you should speak with an attorney about your defense. Unless the alleged victim falls into one of the categories above, you cannot be convicted of domestic violence. You may still be convicted of battery or assault, but not domestic violence.
If you are facing domestic violence charges, contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for help in Tulare, Fresno, or Kings County. Experienced in domestic violence defense, our Visalia area legal team can explain your charges and help you get the outcome you want. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.