As witnessed by recent national news headlines, domestic violence can occur in families from the highest levels of the economic spectrum, irregardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender. Education and social standing have no bearing on occurrences of domestic violence. Domestic violence occurs in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or just dating. Wherever there are people and family relationships, there exists the possibility of domestic violence.
California identifies domestic violence when an individual commits a criminal act within one of the types of relationships specified by the Penal Code: spouse or former spouse; cohabitant or former cohabitant in a home; a parent with whom the individual has a child; or a partner in a dating relationship.
In cases of domestic violence, state law provides a prosecutor with a number of criminal charges to pursue based on the severity of the conduct and harm to the victim, along with other circumstances specific to the case.
The Penal Code criminalizes domestic violence under Section 273.5 when an individual’s willful conduct leads to a “corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition” suffered by a person with whom the individual has one of the familial or intimate relationships specified by the domestic violence laws of California.
Section 242 defines battery as a “willful and unlawful use of force or violence against the person of another.” Section 243(e)(1) of the Penal Code criminalizes battery within one of the specified familial or intimate relationships. Alternatively, a prosecutor can choose to charge the defendant with battery under Section 243(d) if the defendant “inflicted serious bodily injury” on the victim. Battery under Section 243(d) reflects a greater degree of harm suffered by the victim of domestic violence.
A person charged with domestic violence may face a variety of possible consequences. Conviction of a domestic violence charge may result in mandated marital counseling, anger management or alcohol classes, restraining orders and stay away orders. These consequences may be ongoing, even in cases where the parties involved have resolved their differences. They can affect personal and professional lives with negative consequences, when faced with incarceration. When charges are filed as felonies as opposed to misdemeanors, it creates the possibility of the defendant being sent to either county jail or state prison.