Who Is the Victim?
People typically think of domestic violence as a crime between two intimate partners such as spouses, girlfriends, or boyfriends. In reality, California domestic violence laws are more comprehensive. Under California law, an act of violence or abuse can be considered domestic violence if it is perpetrated against any of the following:
- A current or former spouse
- A current or former fiancé
- A current or former girlfriend or boyfriend
- A current or former cohabitant
- Someone you are closely related to through blood or marriage, or
- Someone you have a child in common with
If you harm or attempt to harm any of the above individuals, your offense is considered domestic violence by default, regardless of the nature of the relationship as it stands or the frequency of contact between you and the victim. Even if you never lived with or had a relationship with your child's parent, you could be found guilty of domestic violence if you abused or used violence against him or her.
The Difference Domestic Violence Makes
This may seem like an arbitrary definition with no real bearing on your criminal charges. But the difference between domestic violence offenses and non-domestic violence offenses is significant. A domestic violence conviction can carry more weight than a conviction such as assault or harassment. California aggressively prosecutes domestic violence defendants and hands down harsh punishments to those convicted. The purpose of this is to deter people from committing acts of domestic violence and to reduce repeat offenses. You can face the following consequences for a domestic violence conviction:
- 52-week batterers' intervention program
- Payments to a domestic violence shelter or program
- Jail time, and
- Victim restitution
Unique to cases where you and the accuser share a child, your rights as a parent can also be impacted. The judge could issue a protective order preventing you from contacting, attempting to contact, or coming near your child's parent. This could complicate visitation exchanges. You can also lose your custody rights if you had custody, or even your visitation rights if you were the non-custodial parent. Your visitations may be supervised if you are allowed to keep visiting your child, but they may need to take place at a facility to ensure you do not have any contact with the accuser.
Domestic violence convictions are very serious, no matter whom the victim was. For this reason, you should speak with an attorney experienced in domestic violence defense if you are arrested for domestic violence. It is vital to take action fast to preserve any evidence that may be helpful and to obtain information—such as the police report—that could give you an idea of what you are up against.
Unfortunately, if you have a child in common with the accuser, there is little you can do to contest the nature of the relationship. Custody and parentage records can be easily obtained to prove such a fact. You can, however, challenge the allegations, which are too often exaggerated or falsified in spite. This is especially common in cases involving a child in common as such an allegation can affect custody rights, and many parents will stop at nothing to get custody. Because of the special circumstances of these types of cases, you need to build a strategic defense specifically addressing the reasons why the accuser may have falsified the claim.
Working with an experienced California domestic violence defense attorney is the best way to prepare a strong defense. You should never face domestic violence charges alone simply because the consequences are so severe. And, with so much at stake, it is well worth your time and effort to fight your charges.
If you are in the Tulare, Fresno or Kings County area and have questions about domestic violence, call experienced domestic violence defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can help you fight your charges and defend your rights. Attorney Martens has over ten years of criminal defense experience and will fight hard for your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.