Are You Facing a Domestic Violence Charge?

If you have been arrested for domestic violence, you probably have questions about what it all means.  The underlying offense may, for example, be assault, and you might wonder how labeling it as a domestic violence charge makes it different.

For anyone who has been accused of domestic violence in the San Diego area, we invite you to contact RJT Criminal Defense.  Our law firm can explain the specifics of the case against you, and guide you through the process of responding to the charges.

How does California law define “domestic violence”?

PC 13700 states that domestic violence is “abuse” which is committed against a person who is the present or former spouse or cohabitant of the alleged victim, a person with whom the suspect has or had a dating relationship, or with whom the suspect has a child.  Whether the parties are cohabitants within the meaning of the statute is a function of a number of things, including the length of the relationship, shared expenses, and other factors.

The definition of “abuse” under the domestic violence statute is very broad.  It is not limited to certain enumerated offenses.  Rather, the term includes any intentional or reckless causing of injury, or putting a person in reasonable fear of injury to themselves, or to another person.  Some of the more typical domestic violence charges are:

Injury to a Spouse, etc.

Domestic violence is commonly charged under PC 273.5, which consists of inflicting a corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition on a present or former spouse or cohabitant, fiancé (or fiancée) or a person with whom the defendant has or had a dating relationship.  This is a wobbler, and may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.  Note that a “traumatic condition” can include minor injuries.

Domestic Battery

This offense is broader than the battery involving married couples, and also includes the use of force or violence against former spouses, a person with whom the defendant has a child, as well as cohabitants (and former cohabitants) and those in (or formerly in) a dating relationship.  It is a misdemeanor under PC 234(e)(1).

Sexual Battery

Any unlawful touching of an intimate part of another person against that person’s will for purposes of sexual gratification, arousal or abuse, is a crime under PC 243.4.  Without more, it is a misdemeanor.


This is an attempt to commit violence on another person.  Simple assault is a generally a misdemeanor.

Elder Abuse

Battery on a person 65 years of age or older, or of a dependent adult, is misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Although perhaps not fitting precisely within the statutory definition of domestic violence, various other crimes are commonly included in this category.  They include child abuse and child endangerment.

How can I defend against a domestic violence charge?

The domestic violence laws are geared, in the first instance, to diffusing a potentially violent situation. The police are encouraged to make an arrest in response to a domestic violence call, and if there is probable cause to believe that you have violated a domestic violence restraining order, then absent exigent circumstances, you will be arrested. This leads in some cases to the arrest of the wrong person in the dispute, and your attorney needs to be able to demonstrate the lack of credibility on the part of your accuser.

The fact that you have been accused of domestic violence does not mean that you will be convicted. At RJT Criminal Defense, we can help. Call us for a free consultation regarding your domestic violence case.

What are the penalties for domestic violence?

Initially, the underlying offense will carry its own potential penalty. It may be a fine, jail time, or even prison time. But when the offense is also considered domestic violence, there are some practical matters to consider. First, you are more likely to be required to spend at least some time in jail, although this is not always the case, and may depend upon your prior criminal record, among other factors. Second, you can expect to be mandated to attend 52 weeks of domestic battery classes. Third, your record will reflect the fact that you have been found guilty of domestic violence.