Is domestic violence a felony in California? It really depends on the situation. Domestic violence arrests can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges. Ultimately, the decision will fall with the district attorney, who will decide whether to file felony or misdemeanor charges. In some cases, the D.A. may decide not to file any charges at all. Your domestic violence defense lawyer can play a critical role in helping you minimize the charges against you.
Domestic Violence and Felony Bail
While domestic violence filed under Penal Code Section 273.5 (the willful infliction of corporal injury) can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, those charged with the crime will always have to post felony bail. This is because it is up to the prosecutors to choose the severity of the crime, so the decision is not made until after you have been given the opportunity to post bail. If you cannot afford to post bail, your lawyer may be able to arrange for reduced bail.
Sentencing for Domestic Violence
When domestic violence is a felony, you will be facing up to four years in prison. Misdemeanor charges carry penalties of up to one year in jail. No matter what charges are brought up against you, you will also face mandatory counseling and may also be subject to a stay away order, commonly referred to as a restraining order.
Aside from prison or jail time and mandatory counseling, all domestic violence offenders automatically lose their gun rights under federal law. This could make you ineligible to join the military and could end your military career if you are already in the service.
Defining Domestic Violence Victims
It is important to note that domestic violence does not have to occur between spouses. The victim can be a spouse, ex-spouse, someone you are dating, someone you previously dated, parent of your child, or any other person with a similar romantic or sexual relationship. Cohabitants and previous cohabitants are protected by domestic violence laws only if you had a romantic or sexual relationship together. In some cases, this can complicate the charges if the victim claims you were together but you argue that you maintained a strictly platonic relationship. In these cases, your attorney may ensure you face only assault or battery charges rather than misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charges.
It’s also worth noting that domestic violence victims are not always female and the defendants in these cases are not always men. Domestic violence laws protect men from women and single-sex couples from one another as well.
When is Domestic Violence a Felony?
In order for domestic violence to be a felony, the injury need not be permanent or serious. If the victim is injured to any extent, whether an internal or external injury, you can be arrested and charged with felony domestic violence. That being said, the worse the injuries, the more likely you will face felony charges and if the injuries are severe enough, you could face aggravated charges that will result in additional penalties.
If you have been arrested for misdemeanor or felony domestic violence, it is imperative that you call an experienced domestic violence defense attorney as soon as possible. You can fight these charges and win and in some cases, your lawyer may be able to have felony domestic violence charges reduced to a misdemeanor. Peter M. Liss can argue your case to prosecutors even before the matter is brought to court, often reducing the charges against you, so please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.