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Like many other states, California has established domestic violence as a distinct crime that applies to certain types of alleged perpetrators and certain types of victims. Also, California has established both mandatory and discretionary penalties for anyone who is convicted of domestic violence – which is why you should consult with an Alameda domestic violence lawyer if you or someone you care about is facing this type of charge. Reach out to a criminal defense attorney for legal representation from arrest through trial. En Español.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence?

As outlined in California Penal Code §13700, domestic violence is defined as 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 had a dating or engagement relationship. In California, the term abuse is broadly defined to include such things as intentionally or recklessly causing (or attempting to cause) bodily injury to someone else (referred to as domestic battery); sexual assault; and causing someone to reasonably be in fear of an imminent bodily injury.

State law defines the term cohabitant as two unrelated adult persons living together for a substantial period, resulting in some permanency of relationship. In determining whether two adults qualify as cohabitants, California courts generally look at a variety of factors, such as whether the parties had sexual relations while sharing the same living quarters, shared their incomes or living expenses, jointly owned or shared the use of any property, and/or held themselves out to others as spouses – and whether the relationship was continuous and/or it extended over a significant period of time.

Taken all together, these broad definitions mean that someone in California can be charged with domestic violence offenses related to a variety of people. It also means that such a charge can be made even if the alleged perpetrator never touched the complainant. An Alameda lawyer could help argue that an alleged offense should not constitute domestic violence and work to mitigate a defendant’s charge.

What are the Penalties for Domestic Violence in Alameda?

In California, a domestic violence case is usually handled by a special prosecutor.  Depending on the circumstances and specifics of a given case, the special prosecutor has the discretion to categorize the charge as a misdemeanor or a felony.

The potential penalties for being convicted of – or pleading guilty to – a charge of domestic violence vary widely depending on whether the case is brought as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor Charges

Misdemeanor domestic violence charges have lower penalties than felony charges, but still lead to significant consequences, including:

  • 52 weeks of mandatory domestic violence counseling
  • 40 hours of community service
  • A “No Contact Order”
  • Fines and/or victim restitution
  • Up to a year in jail

Felony Charges

Felony domestic violence charges carry harsher penalties, including:

  • 52 weeks of mandatory domestic violence counseling
  • 40 hours of community service
  • A “No Contact Order”
  • Fines and/or Victim Restitution
  • A minimum of 3 months – and up to 4 years – in prison or even longer if there are prior DV convictions.

In addition to the above, the penalties for a domestic violence conviction can include the loss of child custody rights, the loss of gun ownership rights, protective orders, and probation. A conviction will also result in a permanent criminal record that may, in turn, lead to other consequences such as the loss of a job, being barred from certain professions, or facing limited housing options.

How an Alameda Domestic Violence Attorney Could Help You

If you are facing domestic violence charges, it is important that you contact an Alameda domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible to discuss all the available options. Hoping that the complainant will drop the charges – or waiting to see how the special prosecutor chooses to proceed –is not a good plan. The sooner you contact an Alameda domestic violence lawyer, the sooner they will be able to help you.

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