Officials in California take domestic violence extremely seriously. Convictions for violent and abusive acts between members of the same family or household can result in severe penalties, ranging from lengthy prison sentences to the lifelong social stigma of a domestic violence conviction. In their ambition to punish offenders, however, some domestic violence prosecutions may be unsubstantiated, leaving accused parties to wonder, can a domestic violence case be dismissed in California?

Dismissed Domestic Violence Cases

Fortunately for accused parties, there are a variety of legal strategies on the table when it comes to trying to get domestic violence charges changed, reduced, or dropped entirely. Some of the most compelling angles for fighting a domestic violence case include:

  • Insufficient Evidence – Just like in any other case, the prosecution must establish, using valid evidence, that the accused committed all the elements of a specific crime as it is defined under law. If the prosecution lacks the evidence required to move forward with the case, it could be dropped at any point. Even if not dismissed outright, a case with flimsy evidence is unlikely to land a conviction when countered by a competent defense attorney.Remember: the courts will be swift-acting and err on the side of caution when signing temporary protective orders as an immediate resolution for domestic violence allegations, but when it comes to actually proving charges in court, your accuser and state prosecutors must be held to the same standard as anyone else bringing allegations of a crime before the court.
  • Self-Defense – While society understandably finds it distasteful to question self-identified victims of domestic violence, it’s important to understand that life does not occur in black and white. Domestic violence cases, like any other legal situation, can be very nuanced affairs with multiple perspectives.If the evidence shows that the accused actually harmed their accuser in a necessary act of self-defense or out of legitimate fear for their own safety, then the case may be dropped by the court. In some such cases, new charges against the actual perpetrator of the violence may even be forthcoming.
  • Accident – While this tactic would be unthinkable to most of us, an opportunistic party who is dissatisfied in their marriage might try to use an accidental injury as evidence of domestic violence to support false accusations.
  • Inconsistent Statements – Contradictory testimonies from an accuser, their legal representation, state officials, or their witnesses can weaken the prosecution’s case and impact its validity, potentially even to the point that the charges are dismissed.
  • Absence of Visible Injury – While by no means a required element of prosecuting a domestic violence charge, documentation of visible injuries greatly strengthens a prosecution’s case in certain circumstances. For example, if an accuser claims to have sustained serious physical injuries as the result of a domestic violence incident, but no such injuries have been seen by any party other than the accuser, this could undermine the accusations.
  • Lack of Credible Witnesses – Independent witnesses (e.g., unrelated bystanders with no pre-existing motive to act on either party’s behalf) can also be extremely important for corroborating or refuting testimonies given in court. If the prosecution’s case lacks physical evidence and requires witness testimony, but no such witnesses can be identified, they may find themselves unable or unwilling to move forward with prosecution.
  • Rights Violations – If the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated at any point during arrest, investigation, or arraignment, this can also be a valid basis to have charges dropped.
  • Request to Drop Charges – When the lack of evidence and testimony is clear and egregious, wrongfully accused defendants can be proactive about trying to get their charges dismissed. One way of doing so is having their San Bernardino domestic violence attorney submit a letter to court officials outlining the insufficiency of the case and formally requesting a dismissal of charges.


Q: How Are Domestic Violence Cases Handled in California?

A: Domestic violence cases in California are handled through vigorous prosecution, like many other types of serious criminal cases. One unique aspect of many domestic violence cases is that a temporary protective order (or “restraining order”) will often be granted as a short-term solution while the case awaits final resolution through a proper criminal proceeding.

Q: How Long Do Most Domestic Violence Cases Last?

A: Domestic violence cases last as long as is necessary for a fair resolution under the law. This means both sides get sufficient time to present all of their evidence and call all of their witnesses, plus whatever additional time is needed for a verdict to be reached. Then, if applicable, time will be added for a sentence to be decided. Some straightforward cases are closed fairly quickly, while many other cases take months (or even years) before they are entirely resolved.

Q: How Long Does the DA Have to File Charges in California?

A: The DA has up to five years to file charges in California domestic violence cases. This is significantly longer than the standard statute of limitations for criminal cases (1 year for misdemeanors and three years for felonies). This extended window is intended to give the victims of these emotionally charged crimes ample time to come forward.

Note that this five-year window specifically refers to the length of time an accuser has to file a police report, so it is possible the DA’s actual criminal charges would be filed slightly more than five years after the incident.

Q: What Percentage of Domestic Violence Cases Get Dismissed in the US?

A: The percentage of domestic violence cases that get dismissed in the US varies based on jurisdiction, variance in state laws, regional trends, and other factors. Accurate nationwide statistics on dismissal rates for specific types of cases may not be readily available due to the decentralized, state-by-state nature of the legal system.

Dedicated Legal Defense for Domestic Violence Charges

When you’ve been accused of domestic violence or had a restraining order served against you, it’s easy to feel as if the whole world has turned against you in an instant. Here at My SoCal Lawyers, we know that you deserve the presumption of innocence and that you are entitled to your day in court, just like any other citizen. We are ready to help you fight to uphold your rights and reputation as you go through one of the most challenging periods of your life.

Not having a skilled criminal defense attorney in your corner can leave your fate open to many uncertainties. Contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more about how we can help guide your California domestic violence case to a better outcome.