Domestic violence is frowned upon, and rightly so. Over the years, California prosecutors have aggressively pursued domestic violence cases seeking maximum penalties for suspected offenders. The penalties are severe with adverse implications that are sure to affect your future if you face domestic violence charges.
You, therefore, need legal representation from a competent lawyer. Your defense attorney will review your or your loved one’s case, conduct an independent investigation to determine the facts, and build a defense strategy tailored to offer the best legal outcome. This is what we, as the Koenig Law Office, strive to achieve for defendants facing domestic violence charges in Bakersfield, CA.
Understanding Domestic Violence
Domestic violence includes various criminal acts that cause or threaten harm against a child, an intimate partner, or an elderly individual. California’s Penal Code defines each domestic violence act and outlines the penalties convicted parties are likely to face, as detailed below:
Domestic Battery - Penal Code 243(e)(1)
Penal Code 243(e)(1) defines domestic battery as the use of force on an intimate partner. Under this code, a current or former spouse, co-parent, fiancé, or dating partner fits the intimate partner’s description. In a domestic violence case, you can be convicted of the crime even if you did not inflict injury on the victim. All the prosecutor has to prove is your willful use of force or violence on your intimate partner.
As per Penal Code 243(e)(1), acting willfully means that your actions were intentional. However, you must not have intended to cause harm or injure the victim or break the law. The prosecution also needs to produce evidence of you touching your intimate partner in a harmful or offensive manner. Touch in this context is both:
- Direct — By use of your body or
- Indirect — By use of an object or
- By use of another person
Domestic battery is prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense, with defendants facing a jail term of up to one year and a fine of no more than $2,000. The judge may opt for summary probation instead of a jail sentence. The probation will require you to complete a batterer's intervention program or any appropriate counseling program.
Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant - Penal Code 273.5
When you willfully inflict physical injury on an intimate partner, you will have violated Penal Code 273.5. The prosecution must prove three elements for a conviction. These include:
- Your actions against the victim were willful — The prosecution has to prove your actions were deliberate. As is the case in a domestic battery charge, your intentions were not necessarily to break the law or inflict injury. The injury was a consequence of your action.
- The use of force resulted in physical injury — Physical injury or traumatic condition is a direct result of the force applied against the victim. Therefore, a slight injury or wound is enough to be presented as evidence in your corporal injury case.
- The victim was an intimate partner — You must have been in an intimate relationship with the victim. They must be your current or former spouse, dating partner, fiancé, co-parent, or cohabitant.
Corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant is a wobbler offense, meaning prosecutors pursue misdemeanor or felony violations. Prosecutors rely on the circumstances of the case to determine whether to proceed with misdemeanor or felony charges. If the victim’s injuries are significant, you have a criminal history or a history of domestic violence, prosecutors will pursue felony charges.
If found guilty of a misdemeanor, you could face up to one year in jail and/or fined no more than $6,000. Felony offenders, on the other hand, will pay a fine of no more than $6,000 with a prison sentence of two, three, or four years. In some situations, the judge may issue felony probation as an alternative to the prison sentence.
Individuals with previous convictions within seven years prior to the corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant conviction face harsher penalties. If convicted for battery on a spouse, you will part with up to $10,000 in fines and two, three, or four years in prison. If convicted for other assault and battery or corporal injury-related offenses, the judge will issue a two, four, or five-year prison term and/or a fine of no more than $10,000.
As detailed in Penal Code 12022.7, a sentence enhancement is issued when the victim suffers significant physical injury. If the evidence supports the victim’s claim of great bodily injury, the judge will add three, four, or five years to your prison sentence.
Child Neglect - Penal Code 270
As defined under Penal Code 270, child neglect is any willful action by a guardian or a parent to deny a minor food, shelter, medicine, clothing, or any other necessities without a lawful excuse. The law presumes that there is no lawful excuse. Meaning, the burden of proof is on you to prove your inability to provide the necessities required by the child.
No one action is enough to prove your culpability in a child neglect case. Prosecutors will have to rely on several of your actions to show a pattern of neglect. Neglect can be physical, emotional, or educational. Based on their findings and the evidence gathered, they will then decide whether to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges.
Misdemeanor violations attract a jail term of up to one year and/or a fine of no more than $2,000. Felony violations attract a jail term of one year and a subsequent prison sentence of one year and a day. You could also part with up to $2,000 in fines.
Note that the Child Protection Services (CPS), are involved in child abuse cases. The CPS staff will be involved in your child neglect case because child neglect is a form of child abuse. The CPS staff then offer assistance to the child while in the family’s home as they conduct their assessment and investigations into the case. If, in their opinion, the child cannot be cared for as expected in the family home even after they offer help, they will recommend for immediate enrolment of the child in foster care.
Child Endangerment - Penal Code 273(a) PC
Willfully exposing a minor to significant harm or danger or causing them unjustifiable pain and suffering is Penal Code 273(a)’s definition of child endangerment. The basis of the case is whether you exposed the minor to any harm or danger. Therefore, you can be charged with child endangerment even if the minor did not suffer any injuries.
Prosecutors must prove their case by presenting evidence that you:
- Willfully permitted or caused the injury suffered by the minor.
- Willfully permitted or caused a minor to suffer unjustifiable physical and mental suffering.
- Deliberately allowed or caused a minor to be placed in a dangerous situation.
Prosecutors may also introduce criminal negligence in your child endangerment case. They will have to produce evidence that your actions went beyond ordinary carelessness, inattentiveness to a child’s needs, or a mistake in judgment. In introducing criminal negligence, prosecutors aim to demonstrate that your actions were gross and that they deviated from what an ordinary person would have done in the same situation.
It is important to note prosecutors introduce child endangerment charges regardless of whether the child suffered any injury, great or otherwise. This is so because of importance to the jury is if the child was put in a situation that could cause injury. If so, they will convict. The injury suffered by the minor only adds to the gravity of the charges. Therefore, if a minor was injured, then prosecutors will pursue felony charges.
A child endangerment misdemeanor offense is punishable with a six-month jail term and/or a fine of up to $1,000. A judge may issue summary probation of four years as opposed to a jail term with certain conditions.
- You must complete a one-year, court-mandated child abuser treatment counseling.
- A judge may issue a protective order against you. The order prohibits any contact with the child, including staying away from the child’s residence.
- If you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you should remain sober until the end of your probation.
You risk facing felony charges if the minor suffered significant bodily injuries or death. The offense carries a prison sentence of two, four, or six years and/or a fine of up to $10,000. A judge would issue a sentence enhancement if the child suffered a significant bodily injury you inflicted. The enhancement includes three, four, or six additional years. If the child died due to your criminal negligence, your prison sentence would increase by a further four years to be served consecutively.
Child Abuse - Penal Code 273(d)
Any individual who willfully inflicts inhuman physical injury to a minor (individual below 18 years of age) could face child abuse charges. The injuries are a result of the force used on a child as punishment.
The jury determines what constitutes inhuman or cruel injury as the law does not define what the injury should include. While the list of atrocious actions may consist of choking, shaking, pushing, burning, punching, or throwing an object at a child, it is not exhaustive. The jury has the discretion to decide what constitutes actions that caused inhuman injury based on the evidence presented in court.
With a non-defined list, most wonder, “Does spanking amount to child abuse?”
Spanking is not a form of child abuse only if done to discipline the child, and it is not excessive. This applies to both spanking with bare hands or spanking with a belt. In their determination of whether the spanking was unreasonable, the jury will assess whether:
- The spanking was justifiable against the wrong committed by the child.
- The punishment resulted in the child’s physical trauma.
- You acted willfully with the intent to hurt the child, or
- The punishment compromised the child’s health.
If the jury is satisfied that there is enough evidence supporting their assessment, you will be charged with child abuse.
Prosecutors are required to prove the following elements in a child abuse matter.
- You willfully inflicted inhuman punishment.
- Your actions resulted in the traumatic injury of the child.
- Your actions were unreasonable.
Child abuse proceedings are, in some cases, exempt from California’s evidence rule. The rule requires that prior convictions may not be introduced as evidence in an ongoing case. It is considered prejudicial.
In child abuse cases, prosecutors may introduce previous charges not older than ten years as evidence in a child abuse case irrespective of whether the charge ended in a conviction or not.
Prosecutors may also introduce prior domestic violence charges as evidence in your ongoing child abuse case. However, they can only do so in two scenarios.
- The victim is:
- A minor who used to live with the defendant regularly,
- The defendant’s child, or
- A minor regularly residing with the defendant
- The domestic violence was against the defendant’s intimate partner within five years prior to the child abuse case.
However, while the above scenario may be a possibility, a judge will determine if he/she will allow the evidence of your previous charges to be presented in the child abuse case in a pre-trial hearing.
Child abuse is a wobbler offense. Prosecutors consider the victim’s injury, the level of cruelty, the circumstances surrounding the case, and the defendant’s criminal history to determine whether to institute misdemeanor or felony charges. If charged with a misdemeanor, you could face up to one year in jail and/or a fine of no more than $6,000. Summary probation is also available as an alternative to jail time. Felony offenders, on the other hand, face two, four, or six-year prison sentences and/or a fine not exceeding $6,000.
Any prior child abuse convictions within the last ten years could lead to an increase of four years to your prison sentence. However, additional prison terms will be issued if you did not complete serving time for your prior convictions.
Elder Abuse - Penal Code 368 PC
Penal Code 368 defines elderly abuse as willful neglect, causing physical and emotional suffering, or the financial manipulation of an individual beyond 65 years of age. The defendant in an elder abuse case must be responsible for the care of the elderly. Therefore, care-givers, doctors, sons, or daughters of the victim are potential defendants.
Prosecutors have to demonstrate that your actions caused emotional or physical suffering to the victim. They will assess your actions against the following categories of abuse:
- Physical abuse — When your actions cause harm or injury to the victim
- Emotional abuse — When your verbal or non-verbal exchanges cause the victim anguish, distress, or pain
- Sexual abuse — Instances where there was non-consensual contact with an elderly individual
- Neglect — Failure to fulfill your obligations or duties to an elderly person
- Abandonment — Desertion of your duties to care for the elderly individual. The tasks are those expected to be carried out by a person with custody of the elderly individual and individuals who are assumed to have a responsibility to care for the victim.
- Financial exploitation — Improper use of an elderly individual’s financial resources for personal gain
Once satisfied that you abused the elderly individual, prosecutors evaluate the circumstances surrounding the case to determine if they will pursue misdemeanor or felony charges. If they are satisfied that you willfully subjected the victim to unjustifiable pain or suffering, or you endangered the victim’s life, you will face misdemeanor charges. However, if you intentionally caused significant bodily injury or the individual’s death, prosecutors will pursue felony charges.
Elder abuse is a serious offense, as is evident in the penalties provided for in Penal Code 368. Misdemeanor violators face up to one year in jail, a fine of no more than $10,000, and restitution to the victim. A felony violation is punishable with a jail sentence of no more than four years, a fine of up to $10,000, as well as restitution fees. If the victim suffered significant bodily injury, an additional seven-year prison sentence would be issued.
With the growing number of immigrants serving as caregivers for the elderly, elderly abuse offense affects their immigration status. The crime is a crime of moral turpitude. It will, therefore, result in an inadmissible tag and the issuance of a deportation order.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
While the law is in place to dispense justice, overzealous prosecutors and false accusers risk compromising justice. Facing domestic violence charges is not easy. Time behind bars, the sums you have to part with as fines, and the criminal history in your records are grave consequences with an adverse effect on your employability, insurance coverage rates, credit access, among other aspects of your life.
You, therefore, need a defense team capable of helping you navigate the legal process and deliver the best legal outcome. If you face a domestic violence charge in Bakersfield, CA, at Koenig Law Office team, we are ready to assist you. Call us at 661-793-7222 today.