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How Are Domestic Violence Cases Handled in California?

Apr 13, 2024 | Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a serious situation that has a drastic impact on the lives of everyone involved. No matter what side of the situation you are on, knowing the law and how the process works in handling these types of cases is crucial for those seeking justice. While each state has a similar definition of domestic violence, each one has its own process for handling these cases. This begs the question, how are domestic violence cases handled in California?

The process for handling domestic violence cases in California follows a general method, but the specifics will vary for each case based on the details of the situation.

How are domestic violence cases handled in California?

Domestic Violence in California

In California, domestic violence is defined as any abuse that is either actualized or threatened against a partner. This intimate partner can be current or one from a person’s past. Some examples of intimate partners include:

  • Current or former spouse
  • Current or former fiancé
  • Current or former boyfriends or girlfriend
  • Current or former housemate
  • The other parent of the suspect’s child

Domestic violence is often used to express violence occurring in an intimate relationship. Examples of this include:

  • Kicking
  • Punching
  • Shoving
  • Spitting
  • Hitting with an object
  • Slapping
  • Choking
  • Property damage
  • Forced confinement
  • Sexual assault

Domestic violence does not always have to be physical assault. In California, abuse covers other forms of mistreatment, particularly if it imposes on the person’s freedoms and liberties. These include:

  • Stalking
  • Harassment
  • Controlling, restricting, or sabotaging their finances or financial freedoms
  • Intimidation
  • Threats
  • Isolation
  • Digital abuse, such as monitoring their online activities or hacking into their accounts
  • Sexual coercion

While domestic violence can seem to be a big umbrella term for a lot of different actions, the main thing to consider is whether or not a person is being abused and if their freedoms are being either diminished or taken away completely. You can also speak with a Santa Barbara domestic violence lawyer to inquire if domestic violence is present.

Handling Domestic Violence Cases in California

The process of handling domestic violence in California will depend on the circumstances surrounding the case. Generally speaking, the process begins once the suspected domestic violence is reported. One or both parties are arrested, and the case will be assigned to a detective.

The case will then move to arraignment, where the defendant will be formally made aware of the charges against them, and they will enter a plea. Legally speaking, one of the first things a victim’s attorney will seek is the implementation of a protective order against the defendant.

Protective orders are in place to protect victims from further contact and retaliation for the report. The order will prohibit the accused from contacting or coming near the victim. There are different types of protective orders. A lawyer can help the victim request one that is most appropriate for their situation.

The court will also determine if a child custody order is necessary if there are children involved or shared between the two parties. The court may grant the victim sole custody to keep them safe or prevent them from witnessing additional abuse. The defendant may receive supervised visits if appropriate. In the most serious cases, a defendant may be ordered to have no contact with the children.

Next is pretrial. At a pretrial hearing, the defense attorney and prosecution will negotiate and exchange discovery. Both sides will try to settle the case in pretrial. However, if they are unable to resolve it, the case will go to trial.

At trial, the prosecution seeks to prove the defendant’s guilt. Once both sides have presented their arguments, the jury will decide if the defendant is guilty (beyond a reasonable doubt) or not guilty.

If the defendant is found guilty, the penalties and next steps will be determined based on the details and severity of the case. Penalties could include fines, jail time, probation, and mandatory counseling or rehab programs.

Civil remedies may also be sought, such as legal separation, child custody, or civil claims for damages.


Q: How Does Domestic Violence Punishment Work in California?

A: Domestic violence punishment is addressed through both civil and criminal processes. In civil processes, victims can seek compensation through civil claims and protection through restraining orders or child custody orders. In criminal processes, perpetrators can face prosecution and other penalties under the law if they are deemed guilty of the charges against them. Some penalties include fines, probation, and counseling and rehabilitation programs.

Q: Can a Domestic Violence Case Be Dismissed in California?

A: A domestic violence case can be dismissed in California under certain circumstances. The decision is usually made by a judge or prosecutor based on a number of factors, such as insufficient evidence, witness credibility, or if the victim requests the charges to be dismissed. The dismissal does not necessarily mean that the domestic violence did not occur. In some cases, other alternatives may be sought, such as a plea bargain or participation in a program.

Q: How Long Do Most Domestic Violence Cases Last?

A: The length of time a domestic violence case takes varies based on several factors. Some of these factors include the complexity and severity of the case, how many (if any) children are involved, and the court backlog. Other factors, such as pretrial motions, plea negotiations, and the scheduling of the trial, can also affect the length of the case.

Q: What Evidence Should Be Collected in a Domestic Violence Case?

A: There are many options for the types of evidence that should be collected in a domestic violence case. These options include photographs of injuries, medical records, evidence from the scene, witness statements from those who have knowledge of the situation or observed the abuse, documentation of previous instances of abuse, testimony from professionals, and electronic evidence (such as text messages) that support your claim.

Contact Drury Pullen, A Professional Law Corporation Today

If you are involved in a domestic violence situation, the lawyers at Drury Pullen, A Professional Law Corporation, can help. We can provide you with the support you need to settle your domestic violence dispute. Contact us today to speak with an attorney about your case.

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