In California, most people convicted of domestic violence are required to go through a batterers intervention program. These year-long programs are designed to help offenders recognize their triggers and underlying issues that may result in their abusive behaviors as well as ways to rechannel their anger rather than act out in a violent manner. These domestic violence classes are different than anger management courses, which may also be included in the terms of someone’s court ordered probation.
Who is Required to take a Batters Intervention Course?
Anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime against a protected intimate partner in California will be required to take part in a batterers intervention program. The program is officially called the Domestic Violence Recovery Program (DVRP) and is once every week for 52 weeks.
This isn’t just limited to those convicted of misdemeanor or felony corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant or domestic battery, but also those charged with domestic violence vandalism or even a reduced charge such as criminal threats as long as it involved a spouse or romantic partner protected by these laws.
The only way to avoid the DVRP is to either have all charges dismissed or plead down to a charge the prosecutor accepts that does not involve a domestic violence victim. On the other hand, you may end up being sentenced to a similar program, so, for example, if someone is convicted of child endangerment after abusing a romantic partner in front of a juvenile, a year-long parenting class may be required rather than a domestic violence class.
How Domestic Violence Classes Work
Those sentenced to attend a domestic violence class must first find a course that has been approved by the county where they were convicted. In San Diego, there are programs located throughout the county, including Vista, El Cajon, Downtown, National City and more. Generally, the San Diego County court does not allow offenders to sign up for online courses, but with the current coronavirus pandemic, the classes are only being held online.
While Domestic Violence Recovery Program courses are group meetings, the court will substitute individual counseling from a qualified therapist. Whether performed in therapy or in the standard DVRP courses, the program cannot be shortened or and sessions cannot doubled up but must last for a full 52 weeks.
While the classes last for two hours every week for a full year, attendees are only permitted a maximum of three absences during the entire course period and even then, these absences are only approved if the attendee can provide a good reason for them. The court holds regular review hearings during the program requiring the defendant to appear and show satisfactory progress. At the end of the course, offenders must go through a final evaluation before they officially complete the program. Participants must be sober during every session.
Offenders must pay for the class out of their own program, though the course fees are often charged based on a sliding scale so those on a low income are required to pay less than those who are more wealthy.
During the weekly sessions, participants learn more about the causes of domestic abuse, how victims are affected by abuse and how to make changes to reduce their likelihood of offending again. The programs are a combination of traditional classes and therapy, and participants are expected to talk in group and one-on-one sessions about their emotions and experiences.
Failure to Complete the Program
Batterers intervention programs are part of a court ordered probation sentence. That means that failure to complete the course is a probation violation. If you fail to complete your domestic violence probation, you can be sentenced to jail or prison time as well as additional fines. Your defense lawyer can represent you in a hearing to explain why you were unable to fully complete your probation and if you have a good reason for violating the terms set by the court, the judge may excuse you from these requirements.
If you have any questions about domestic violence classes or probation, please contact Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case
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