Los Angeles Domestic Violence Lawyer
Specializing in Courtrooms in Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, Van Nuys, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita and Ventura County
California Penal Code Section 273.5 and 13700-13702 are the state laws that give definition to domestic violence in Los Angeles Superior Courts. It states: “Any person who willfully inflicts upon a person who is his or her spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or the mother or father of his or her child, corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition, is guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for not more than one year, or by a fine of up to $6,000 or by both that fine and imprisonment. Even if there are no visible injuries, you can still be charged under California Penal Code Section 243(e)(a), which says that if you willfully and unlawfully use force or violence against, Spouse, cohabitant, parties with a child in common, non-cohabiting former spouse or fiancé/fiancée or a person with whom the defendant currently has or has previously had a dating relationship regardless of sexual orientation – visible injury not necessary. Domestic violence is also commonly referred to as domestic abuse, spousal abuse or spousal battery. “Abuse” means intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury. “Domestic violence” means abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has a dating or engagement relationship.
A common myth believed by many who are charged with domestic violence is that if the alleged victim asks that the charges be dropped, then the case will be dismissed. In fact, the opposite is true. Once the police are called and arrive at a domestic violence location, the parties involved no longer have any authority to decide whether there will be an arrest. It’s very clear – If the police see visible injuries – they will make an arrest. The alleged victim becomes a witness and it is now up to the prosecutor to determine if charges will be filed. Once the prosecutor has decided to file charges for domestic violence or spousal abuse, there are many conditions of probation that can ruin your life. There are also many cases that are filed as the result of a bitter divorce or custody battle. Domestic abuse crimes can also include criminal trespass, assault & battery, corporal injury to spouse, harassment, reckless endangerment, criminal threats, violation of restraining orders, sexual assault, spousal rape, trespassing, stalking, kidnapping and false imprisonment.
Aggravated Trespass Penal Code 601
Another form of California state domestic violence law involves a crime called “aggravated trespass,” which is defined in California Penal Code Section 601 PC. While trespassing is often treated as a misdemeanor, the California state penal code allows it to be treated as a felony if certain aggravating factors are present.
Generally speaking, the state must prove the following three elements:
- A credible threat of serious bodily harm was made by the defendant. Threats may be verbal, transmitted via writing or video or implied by a pattern of prior statements and behavior.
- That threat was issued with the intent of making that person feel reasonable fear for the safety of her own person or family
- Within 30 days of issuing said threat, the defendant unlawfully entered the living space or workspace of the threatened person, without a lawful purpose, and intended to carry out the threat.
This statute has two exceptions: It does not apply to persons who entering their own work or home spaces and does not apply to people who are engaged in labor union actions.
Stalking Penal Code 646.9
The California Penal Code also defines and prohibits the act of stalking. This is outlined in Penal Code Section 646.9, which defines stalking as:
“Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, of his or her immediate family.”
In order to secure a stalking conviction, prosecutors must prove three legal elements. These are:
- There was willful, malicious and repeated following or harassment or another person. Harassment is willful conduct that “alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.”
- There was a credible threat made by the person engaged in following or harassment. These threats can be verbal, written or implied.
- The person who issued the threat did so with the intent of placing the affected person in fear of his or her safety or the safety of his or her family.
First time stalkers can be convicted and sentenced to up to three years in prison even in the absence of a restraining order. If a restraining order is in place, the sentence may be extended to a fourth year. If a previous stalking conviction exists, the sentence can be raised to five years.
California Elder Abuse Laws Penal Code 368
California Penal Code 368, which covers crimes related to elder abuse, is designed to provide protection to older, more vulnerable Californians. The code defines the crime of elder abuse in the following manner:
“Any person who knows or reasonably should know that a person is an elder or dependent adult and who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any elder or dependent adult to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any elder or dependent adult, willfully causes or permits the person or health of the elder or dependent adult to be injured, or willfully causes or permits the elder or dependent adult to be placed in a situation in which his or her person or health is endangered.”
This definition applies to anyone 65 or older and covers physical and emotional abuse, neglect, financial exploitation and endangerment. Those guilty of violating this statute can be penalized with up to a year in jail and a fine of $6,000 if the case is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Should the case be prosecuted as a felony, offenders can be penalized with up to four years in state prison and a $10,000 fine for each incident. Prosecutors have the discretion to determine whether felony charges are pursued and will consider a number of factors (the severity of the case, prior criminal history) when making this decision.
Should be you falsely accused of violating this code, it’s possible to contest the charges by arguing that your actions did not cause the harm, that no harm occurred that the Code does not apply to your case.
Violating a Restraining or Protective Order California Penal Code 273.6
When people believe they are in physical jeopardy from another person, the state can step in to protect them by issuing a restraining order. Sometimes, however, restraining orders are violated, whether accidentally or deliberately. This can result in criminal charges, a process that is codified under California Penal Code 273.6 The code states:
“Any intentional and knowing violation of a protective order, as defined in Section 6218 of the Family Code, or of an order issued pursuant to Section 527.6, 527.8, or 527.85 of the Code of Civil Procedure, or Section 15657.03 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.”
If you’ve violated the terms of a restraining order, it’s possible to mount a defense by arguing that the violation was not intentional, that the violation did not occur or that the restraining order was not legally issued.
Understanding California Penal Code 422
Under California law it is illegal to make “criminal threats.” Yet, most people are unfamiliar with what constitutes a legally actionable threat against another person. California Penal Code 422, defines the nature of criminal threats as follows:
“Any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement, made verbally, in writing, or by means of an electronic communication device, is to be taken as a threat.”
Criminal threats can be prosecuted even if there is no actual intent to carry out such a threat. Penal Code 422 specifies that these communications merely need to “convey to the person threatened, a gravity of purpose and an immediate prospect of execution of the threat, and thereby causes that person reasonably to be in sustained fear for his or her own safety or for his or her immediate family’s safety.”
In other words, if you verbally or in writing make a statement that another person perceives to be an urgent, unequivocal and realistic threat to commit serious injury or murder, you can be arrested and charged under Penal Code 422 — even if you had no intent of carrying out the alleged threat.
Additionally, violations of Penal Code 422 may be treated as misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the severity of the incident and how the prosecutor decides to proceed. A misdemeanor violation can result in a year in prison and a $1,000 fine, while a felony violation may result in up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
If charged as a felony, a conviction of Penal Code Section 422 is considered a strike and may be used to enhance a future sentence.
Understanding California Penal Code 653m
Under California law, the act of “annoying someone on the phone” is prohibited and can be treated as a criminal act. As you might be thinking, annoyance is a very broad term. Fortunately, California Penal Code 653m explains precisely what qualifies as criminal annoyance. Penal code 653m defines criminal annoyance as follows:
“Every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
State law does, however, exempt phone calls made in “good faith” from Penal Code 653m. It should also be noted that, despite being known as the “annoying phone calls” code, more modern forms of communication are also covered. Should you allegedly annoy, harass or threaten someone via text, email, video chat or some other communication channel, you may still be found guilty of a misdemeanor.
The code is not to be confused with California Penal Code 653, which make it a crime to knowingly tattoo a minor.
Experienced Domestic Violence Defense
If you have been accused of domestic violence, even if you feel you are not guilty, you will need an experienced criminal lawyer on your side who can effectively protect your rights. Why?. If you are convicted, you may be sentenced to the following penalties:
- Maximum 4 years in state prison
- Maximum $6,000 fine
- Mandatory counseling
- Restitution to the victim
- Mandatory community service
At Goldstein Law Group, we have been defending clients for over four decades. Attorney Michael A. Goldstein specializes in cases involving domestic violence. He knows & utilizes defenses to domestic violence charges, such as:
- False Accusations – Unfortunately, this is all too common. False accusations and wrongful arrests occur on a regular basis. During an argument, an angry spouse or partner may make a split second decision to call 911 to seek revenge or send a message. Soon thereafter, law enforcement arrives and someone ends up getting arrested. Once things get to this point, it is far more difficult to turn the clock back and you must retain legal counsel. A skilled defense lawyer will employ an investigator to secure witness statements and forward any potentially exculpatory evidence to law enforcement and/or the appropriate prosecutorial agency in an effort to prevent the filing of criminal charges. We believe a proactive approach can often spare our client the devastation of a criminal conviction. Often, the most important work is accomplished in the days following an arrest and it is important to retain counsel during this critical time.
- Accident – Another common occurrence in domestic violence cases. During the heated moment of an argument and struggle, it is not uncommon to strike or push someone down on accident. You didn’t intend for it to happen – but it did. This happens all the time. For example, both parties lose their temper and in all the chaos and confusion, there is some mutual pushing and grabbing. The spouse may strike the other, but without intending to hit them and certainly without any intention to injure them.
- Self Defense – Often, the district attorney has a difficult tasks in proving allegations of spousal abuse. In many cases, the domestic violence charge arose out of a mutual struggle in which the defendant actually acted in legal self-defense. A good example is when an angry spouse begins punching on their partner, and they are forced to shove them away to avoid getting punched in the face.
In a recent case in Los Angeles Superior Court, Van Nuys Courthouse – attorney Michael A. Goldstein obtained a dismissal of all charges against his client at the time of trial. In this case, the alleged victim claimed she was attacked by his client in his home. A witness, who was actually a friend of the victim, was also present and took a video of the alleged assault. After a thorough investigation by his investigator, He convinced the Los Angeles City Attorney that the video was manipulated and that the victim had lodged prior allegations against other men, including, an ex-boyfriend who we located and interviewed. He also suggested that the victim was simply using the federal violence against women action (VAWA) to obtain her citizenship which often permits victims of domestic violence to remain in the United States as a result of such violence. The victim had previously worked for an immigration law office.
Contact a Los Angeles Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you have been charged with domestic violence, it’s crucial that you obtain experienced legal counsel right away. When you come to our offices, you will meet with an experienced, knowledgeable, and well-practiced lawyer who can inform you of your rights, explain your best options, and answer any questions you may have. We will immediately begin preparing your case. Our number one priority is making sure you are not found guilty, and that you walk away from this experience with your rights and freedom intact!
Domestic Violence Resources:
WomensLaw.org – Violence Against Womens Act Laws for Abuse Victims
California Partnership To End Domestic Violence – Website Devoted To Domestic Violence
Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office – Domestic Abuse Hotline
Los Angeles County – Domestic Violence Council
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