Domestic Violence

In California, the alleged victim of a DV crime can be:

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • The other parent of the accused’s child
  • A current or former “cohabitant” (someone who lived with the accused for a substantial period of time)
  • The accused’s fiancé or fiancée
  • A current or former partner in a dating relationship.

Domestic Battery

A battery is the use of force or violence against another person. The potential sentence for a misdemeanor battery doubles when it involves one of the alleged victims listed above.

Domestic battery under section 243(e) of the California Penal Code does not require proof of a physical injury. Shoving a domestic partner is enough to result in a domestic battery arrest.

Corporal Injury to Spouse

Although people in the legal system frequently shorten the name of the crime to “corporal injury to spouse,” section 273.5 of the California Penal Code applies when the alleged victim falls into any of the categories listed above. The offense can be charged when the use of physical force results in any bodily injury, whether minor or serious.

A cut or bruise is enough to transform a battery into the more serious crime of causing corporal injury.

Prosecutors have discretion to charge corporal injury to spouse as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Most prosecutors prefer to charge it as a felony, particularly when the injury is more than trifling.

Violation of Protective Order

A protective order (sometimes called a “restraining order”) is issued to alleged victims of domestic abuse (including verbal abuse) to protect them from future harm. Protective orders generally prohibit a named individual from committing certain acts, such as contacting the protected person or going to that person’s residence or place of employment.

An intentional violation of a protective order is a misdemeanor. Section 273.6 of the California Penal Code doubles the fine and adds a mandatory jail sentence if the violation results in a physical injury.

Other Offenses

Other California crimes, such as making criminal threats, are generally punished more harshly when the alleged victim is or was in a domestic relationship with the accused. Additional crimes that might be committed against family members, including sex offenses, elder abuse, and child abuse, are addressed in separate laws that also create the possibility of severe punishment.