Assessing the Injuries
As with many crimes, the facts and circumstances of a domestic violence case will influence how the defendant is charged and sentenced. One of the most important influencing factors in domestic violence (DV) cases is the severity of injuries the victim sustained. More severe injuries typically mean you will face a more serious charge or an enhanced sentence.
DV Without Injuries
You can be convicted of a domestic violence crime even if the victim did not suffer any injuries. Spousal battery is a charge that does not require the victim have any visible signs of injury. This is a misdemeanor charge and one of the less serious of California's domestic violence offenses.
DV With Injuries
If the victim has visible injuries, however, you can be charged with corporal injury on a spouse (or cohabitant). Any domestic assault that causes the victim to suffer from a traumatic condition (i.e. an injury such as a broken bone or concussion) can be charged as a felony. Even if the medical field does not consider the traumatic condition serious, it can land you in big trouble. The punishments for a felony charge of corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant include:
- Up to a year in a county jail, or
- Up to two, three, or four years in a state prison, and/or
- A fine of up to $6,000, and
- At least one year of batterer's treatment classes
As you can see, the potential penalties vary quite a bit. Because many domestic violence incidents in California end in serious injury or even death, the penalties for corporal injury to a spouse are harsh, and there is a lot of room for tailoring sentences to fit the specifics of the crime.
What Else Influences Sentencing?
So, how do you know if you will get a prison sentence or a jail sentence? How much will you be fined? Only a skilled domestic violence defense attorney can give you an idea of what you can face, but remember that the facts and circumstances of your case will influence your sentencing. For a charge of corporal injury on a spouse, the more severe the injuries the harsher penalties you will face. Your history of past offenses will also significantly affect your sentencing.
In DV cases involving injury, the medical records, if any, of the victim will play a big role. If you plan to challenge any evidence of DV found in the victim's medical records, you should speak with an attorney about your options. The victim's testimony can be used to corroborate the medical records, but it is not uncommon for stories to be embellished in front of lawyers, medical caregivers, or the court. This is why it is so important to have all the relevant pieces of information before you make any moves in your case. Knowing what the victim said to whom and when can give you leverage in your case if the victim was not being truthful.
You might be able to fight your charges at trial, but an attorney can also help negotiate a plea bargain for you. This is only a likely possibility if the victim's injuries were not very serious or it was not clear that you caused them. You may be able to plead guilty to spousal battery if you did not cause the injuries. This is a less serious offense. Likewise, if there was self-defense or mutual domestic violence involved in your case, you may be able to use that to your advantage. Although you may not avoid a criminal conviction altogether if you were acting partially in self-defense, sometimes this can mean you are charged with a lesser offense or receive a lesser sentence.
Speak with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney if you are facing domestic violence charges. An attorney can evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and advise you of how you might be charged and what sentence you might face. An attorney can also work hard to negotiate a plea bargain for you if you are concerned about the charges and potential sentence you face. A skilled domestic violence defense attorney can help you face your charges and get you of the outcome you want.
If you have questions about domestic violence charges, call experienced Visalia area domestic violence defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you fight your charges with confidence. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.