The issue of domestic violence–violent acts that occur between members of a household or family–is taken very seriously throughout the United States. The State of California has a robust legal framework in place to protect victims and potential victims of these troubling crimes. But is California strict on domestic violence when compared to other states?

Domestic Violence in California

To some extent, the answer to that question depends on how exactly you define and evaluate “strictness.” Generally speaking, however, the answer is yes. California is considered to have some of the toughest legal protections against domestic violence in the nation. California’s definition of domestic violence is broader than some other states, covering emotional abuse and stalking in addition to acts of physical violence. It also imposes mandatory arrests for those who violate protective orders.

This is certainly not to say that there is no hope for those accused of domestic violence in California. Every case represents a unique story with unique circumstances, and not every domestic violence case ends in conviction. Everyone has the right to a fair trial, regardless of the severity or public perception of their charges. With solid evidence, a smart defense strategy, and competent, detail-oriented legal counsel on your side, it may be possible to have charges reduced or dropped.

Understanding Different Types of Domestic Violence Cases in California

One of the reasons the State of California is considered “strict” on domestic violence is the range of different situations that meet the state’s broad definition of domestic violence, many of which require no physical violence to have occurred.

Some situations that may be considered domestic violence in California include:

  • Domestic Battery – The most standard of domestic violence cases, if such a thing can be said to exist, domestic battery charges involve one member of a household or family unit using physical force against another. Evidence of a visible injury is not required to prosecute a domestic battery case.
  • Corporal Injury – Inflicting even a minor physical (“corporal”) injury on an intimate partner is usually an automatic felony charge in California.
  • Stalking – California is one of the states where stalking qualifies as a form of domestic violence. Stalking refers to following, harassing, or threatening another person, such as a former romantic partner, to the point that they reasonably fear for their safety. Stalking, like many other items on this list, is considered a “wobbler” offense in California, which means it can be prosecuted at either a misdemeanor or felony level, depending on the specific circumstances of each individual case.
  • Aggravated Trespass – This charge often goes hand-in-hand with stalking and involves making some form of criminal threat, then entering a person’s home or workplace within the next month with intentions to carry out that threat. Both elements of this two-part crime must be sufficiently proven for aggravated trespass charges to stick in a court of law.
  • Posting Harmful Information to the Internet – Domestic violence laws, like other areas of the legal code, have had to adapt to sweeping advances in technology. Using the internet for cyberstalking, harassment, or posting so-called “revenge porn” can now result in serious domestic violence charges in California.
  • Child Endangerment – While many people think about the phrase “domestic violence” in terms of spouses or romantic partners, violent parent-child dynamics and other household relationships involving minor children also fall under the broader category of domestic violence. Child endangerment is a specific domestic violence charge levied at adults who willfully allow a child in their care to suffer some type of harm.
  • Neglect – In California, the term “domestic violence” does not always imply that a physical attack or altercation took place. Domestic violence can also be a matter of passive inaction, such as parents and caretakers who fail to adequately provide food, shelter, and other necessities for their dependents.
  • Child Abuse – Child abuse is a particularly sinister and stigmatic form of domestic violence, so accusations in this vein should be met with swift and powerful defense strategies from a reputable attorney. Any form of corporal punishment, with the possible exception of “reasonable” spankings, is legally considered to be child abuse in California.
  • Elder Abuse – Elder abuse, like child abuse, is another type of domestic violence that can be prosecuted at either a misdemeanor or felony level in California. This includes all forms of physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglecting, endangering, or financially defrauding someone who is 65 or older.

Note that the above is by no means an exhaustive list of laws or examples. If you are having issues understanding your charges or how they are classified, a San Bernardino domestic violence attorney from My SoCal Lawyers can offer world-class legal guidance to help you through this trying time.

The Consequences of Domestic Violence Charges in California

Because there is such wide variance in types of cases, the potential outcomes for those convicted can also vary a great deal. Some of the potential consequences for those who are facing domestic violence charges include:

  • Incarceration – Ranges from time served in the county jail to lengthy prison sentences for serious domestic violence felonies.
  • Fines – Restitution for victims is often ordered, in addition to the costs of any court-ordered anti-violence programming.
  • Restraining Orders – Protective orders are often granted or upheld to keep victims safe in the aftermath of a domestic violence conviction.
  • Loss of Custody – A domestic violence conviction can have serious implications for a parent’s custody rights.
  • Loss of Firearm Rights – Those convicted of domestic violence can also expect a temporary or permanent ban on owning (or being in possession of) firearms.
  • Permanent Criminal Record—Criminal proceedings are public record, and those accused of certain crimes may also be registered on a public list of “batterers.” This can affect someone’s access to employment, housing, and a fulfilling social life.
  • Immigration – For accused parties who come from outside the United States, a California domestic violence case could result in inadmissibility for immigration programs or even removal from the country.


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

A: Yes, a domestic violence case can be dismissed in California if the prosecution lacks evidence, if the accuser is found to be unreliable, or if the defendant’s rights were violated at some point during the process. Consult a qualified domestic violence attorney to discuss potential strategies for having such charges reduced or dropped.

Q: How Long Will My Domestic Violence Case Take to Resolve?

A: Domestic violence cases will not be resolved until the criminal justice system has run its course. The prosecution and defense must both be given sufficient time to present their cases, along with their evidence and witnesses. Additional time will then be needed for a verdict to be reached and, if the case ends in conviction, for a sentence to be decided upon. The total timeline can range from weeks to years, depending on the unique circumstances of the case.

Q: Which Behaviors Toward a Spouse Are Illegal in the State of California?

A: Many behaviors toward a spouse are illegal in the State of California, such as physically assaulting, threatening, harassing, and emotionally abusing them. The California criminal code is expansive, and it is important to understand that being married to someone does not give an individual a special license to violate their rights or commit criminal acts against them.

Q: Do Many Domestic Violence Cases Get Dismissed in the US?

A: The percentage of domestic violence cases that get dismissed in the USA may be hard to estimate accurately due to incomplete data and the decentralized nature of our legal system. The number of cases dropped varies based on jurisdiction, type of charge, regional trends, the quality of defendants’ legal counsel, and many other factors.

My SoCal Lawyers: Highly Effective Legal Help for CA Domestic Violence Charges

If you have been accused of a domestic violence crime in California, don’t panic. We can help guide you through this difficult time with compassionate guidance and highly effective legal strategies that aim to get charges dropped or reduced. Help is just a call or click away.