Now that the holidays are coming to a close, many people find that the aftermath includes having had a domestic violence incident reported to the police. Domestic violence has many underlying causes, but it is often exacerbated by the various stressors associated with the holidays. Money problems, too much togetherness, excessive use of alcohol or other controlled substances, can all lead to an emotional outburst resulting in domestice violence.
What is domestic violence? In California, domestic violence is generally defined as the use of physical force or the the threat of physical force against a spouse or other domestic partner. It is important to understand that if the police are called, someone is going to get arrested. Usually, if it is a man and a woman involved, the man will be arrested. Same sex domestic violence is no less serious. It is also important to realize that the decision to prosecute is not up to the alleged victim. On crime dramas, you often hear the phrase "I don't want to press charges". In California, the decision to prosecute rests solely with the district attorney or other prosecutorial agency. The alleged victim's protests to the contrary will go unheeded.
After an arrest the court will impose a protective order against the defendant pending resolution of the case. This will often entail having to move out of the home with limited ability to contact the victim or other family members, including children. If there are existing orders in place from a family court, the criminal protective order will supercede them. After the arrest, the defendant will have to appear in court for arraignment. In San Diego County, the defendant must personally appear for all court dates, even if the charge is a misdemeanor. Failure to appear may result in the issuance of an arrest warrant.
The next court date after arraignment will be a readiness conference. This is an opportunity for the defendant's lawyer to discuss the case with the prosecutor and the judge to work out a plea bargain. Sometimes the charges can be reduced or even dismissed if the case is weak. For instance, if there is no physical evidence or there are other problems of proof, the prosecutor will be more inclined to make a favorable offer. If the case cannot be resolved in this way, the defendant has a right to a jury trial.
The penalties for a conviction of domestic violence can be severe. At a minimum there will be fines and a 52 week domestic violence recovery program. Other penalties may include public work service and actual jail time.
It is important that if you are arrested or charged with a domestic violence offense that you seek legal help from a qualified attorney as soon as possible.
At San Diego Defenders, we have sucessfully represented hundreds of clients who have been charged with domestic violence. Contact us for a no cost consultation at 619.258.8888.