Domestic Violence in California – Misdemeanor or Felony?
If you are charged with a domestic violence crime in California, it can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Each case of suspected domestic violence is different and is treated as such. What determines whether the domestic violence crime you face is a felony or if it is a misdemeanor?
Differences Between Misdemeanor and Felony Domestic Violence Charges
Some domestic violence charges are automatically classified as felonies, while others are misdemeanors, and some are ambiguous, depending upon the circumstances of the crime. If you have a good California criminal defense lawyer on your side, you might be able to get domestic violence charges against you dismissed. If, however, you must face a trial, you would likely rather be charged with a misdemeanor than with a felony.
A misdemeanor charge of domestic violence is, of course, considered to be a lesser offense than a felony. Misdemeanors come with lesser fines (usually less than $1000) and shorter sentences (typically less than six months). A gross misdemeanor may result in a sentence of a year in jail and a higher fine. Many times, sentences for misdemeanor domestic violence offenses include no jail time, but rather, community service, probation, and mandated treatment.
Felony domestic violence charges, on the other hand, carry stiffer penalties. These include higher fines and more time in prison. Once you have been convicted of a felony, you are no longer allowed to vote, may not own a firearm, and cannot work certain jobs.
Wobbler Offenses in Domestic Violence
Some domestic violence offenses are called “wobblers,” which simply indicates that the charge can be classified as a felony or as a misdemeanor, depending on circumstances. These include whether this is your first offense, how serious the defendant’s injuries are, and whether prosecutors think they have enough evidence to convict you of a felony. A good California criminal defense attorney might be able to negotiate better terms for you with a wobbler offense, or even make a plea deal.
Domestic Violence Offenses We Commonly Defend
Here are some of the most common domestic violence offenses we see in our practice, and how they are usually classified in the criminal justice system.
Child or Elder Abuse
An alleged domestic violence offense against a child or elder, rather than against a partner or spouse, will often be classified based upon the defendant’s injuries. If the child or elder shows signs of injury or severe emotional or mental trauma, the offense is typically classified as a felony; if there are no such signs, it is likely called a misdemeanor. A charge of child neglect, for example, will be considered a misdemeanor, while child abuse is usually called a felony.
Domestic Battery or Corporal Injury
If you are charged with a domestic violence offense against your spouse or partner, his or her injuries will be key to classification of the offense. A partner who is injured will result in you being charged with corporal injury, which is a felony. If your partner shows no signs of injury, you will usually be charged with a misdemeanor, domestic battery.
Domestic Violence and the Internet
Domestic violence charges involving Internet use to cause harm, distress, or harassment to someone else are usually classified as misdemeanors in California’s criminal justice system. These include cases of revenge porn and cyberbullying.
Domestic Violence Charges Not Involving Physical Contact
In California, most domestic violence crimes not involving physical contact are wobblers, and are classified by prosecutors based upon circumstances of the offense. Some domestic violence charges that could be considered wobblers include:
- Damaging a telephone line
- Aggravated trespass
- Making criminal threats
If you find yourself facing domestic violence charges in California, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you. Contact our law offices today and we will offer you a free evaluation of your case.