Domestic violence cases need to be handled with the utmost care and dignity. There is much at stake, from the security of the family unit to the emotional pain of all parties involved. If you’ve been charged with or accused of domestic violence, you may be curious about how domestic violence cases are handled in California. Contact a Fontana domestic violence attorney to learn more.

What Is Domestic Violence in California?

Domestic violence occurs when someone is attacked, threatened, or otherwise injured by someone they are in a close relationship with. That person can be your spouse, your parent, someone you are dating, someone you are seeing casually, someone you used to be with, or someone you have a child with, among others. Domestic violence can involve physical violence, and it can also involve threats, control, and harassment.

Every situation is different and carries different implications and difficulties. Here are some of the different behaviors that can be considered abusive:

  • Sexual assault or harassment
  • Purposefully attacking someone or attempting to cause them harm
  • Threatening to cause someone harm by inducing a reasonable degree of fear
  • Engaging in threatening behavior to cause mental distress to someone (bullying, stalking, harassment, cyberbullying, or other violent or questionable behavior)
  • Deliberately destroying someone’s property in an attempt to cause them mental or emotional distress
  • Deliberately disturbing someone’s peace in an attempt to cause them mental or emotional distress

How Is Domestic Violence Handled in California?

How domestic violence is handled in California can vary depending on the severity of the charges. Unless the violent action in question caused a serious injury, involved assault or attempted assault with a deadly weapon, or resulted in the harm of a child, most domestic violence perpetrators are charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

However, it does not take much to escalate the charges from a misdemeanor to a felony. Sometimes, it just takes a recognizable pattern of abusive behavior. Here are some scenarios that can turn a misdemeanor charge into a felony charge:

  • A restraining order put in place by a judge has been violated.
  • The victim of domestic violence was a child or an elderly person.
  • The victim in question suffered a serious injury that may result in permanent trauma.
  • The domestic violence was witnessed by a child.
  • There is a documented pattern of abusive behavior in place.
  • The alleged perpetrator already has a history of domestic violence charges.
  • The domestic violence was perpetrated with the use of a deadly weapon.

Penalties in Place for Domestic Violence Perpetrators

California has many different laws in place to penalize domestic violence offenders. The penalties for those found guilty of domestic violence can be severe and detrimental to their social status and everyday life:

  • If you are facing your first charge of domestic violence and you have no prior criminal record of abuse, it is likely you will be charged with a misdemeanor. In this case, your penalties could include:
    • Up to a year in jail
    • A fine of up to $2,000
    • The mandatory completion of a prevention program for abusers
    • Some form of community service
    • Probation in lieu of jail time if the judge decides to be lenient
    • Paying for the victim’s mental health treatment in lieu of a fine
  • If the domestic violence charge is increased to a felony, the penalties change drastically:
    • A fine of up to $6,000
    • Up to four years in prison
    • An additional few years in prison if the domestic violence in question resulted in a serious injury for the victim
    • If the perpetrator has a prior conviction for domestic violence, the fine could go up to $10,000, and prison time could increase to five years.


Q: How Long Do Most Domestic Violence Cases Last?

A: Some domestic violence cases tend to last at least a year. Other cases could be resolved much sooner or much later. It depends on the circumstances of each individual case. Every domestic violence situation is different, and many things must be considered before any life-changing decisions can be made.

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

A: Physical evidence should always be collected in a domestic violence case. Physical evidence can include DNA gathered at the crime scene, medical documentation, photographs of any injuries, a 9-1-1 recording, torn clothing, broken furniture or appliances, and anything else that can be physically presented during a case. Gathering any witness statements is also beneficial in the long run. The more you can use to invoke reasonable doubt of your guilt, the better.

Q: Are Domestic Violence Cases Public Record in California?

A: Yes, domestic violence cases are public records in California. In fact, all arrest records are public records in California. Once you have been arrested for a crime, anyone can view the details by going to their local law enforcement center and requesting it. The public nature of your arrest record in California could be detrimental to your daily life, such as finding employment or renting an apartment.

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

A: In California, the district attorney typically has one year from the date of the initial domestic violence incident to file charges when it comes to misdemeanor offenses. In the case of felonies, the district attorney has three years from the date of the initial domestic violence incident to file charges. There can be exceptions to both of these rules, but generally, those time frames must be met.

Find a Domestic Violence Attorney Today

The legal team at My SoCal Lawyers can help you navigate the complexities of a domestic violence charge. Being charged with a crime as serious as domestic violence could be terrifying and overwhelmingly stressful, and attempting to go about it alone could result in a catastrophic outcome you may not be prepared to deal with.

An experienced domestic violence attorney can assist you in building your case and provide you with a sound legal defense. Contact us to schedule a consultation as soon as you can.