Being accused of domestic violence can be overwhelming. However, it is essential to remember that the charges are not a conviction. You can fight California domestic violence charges with the help of a San Diego domestic violence attorney.
Who Has the Authority To Drop Domestic Violence Charges in California?
It is important to understand that California domestic violence laws make it a crime to threaten or harm an intimate partner, spouse, or domestic partner. Therefore, the alleged victim cannot drop domestic violence charges, even if they change their mind. Once someone calls the police, the decision to arrest a person for domestic violence rests with the police officer responding to the call.
The district attorney or prosecutor in the case could dismiss domestic violence charges or decide not to charge the person after an arrest. However, the courts and district attorneys want to send the message that domestic violence allegations are taken very seriously. Police officers and prosecutors often err on the side of caution because they do not want to be accused of allowing an abuser back on the streets to injure or kill the victim.
Of course, the judge can dismiss or drop criminal charges for several reasons. However, a person without legal counsel might not know the legal arguments to make to have criminal charges dismissed.
It can be difficult to have domestic violence allegations dismissed in California. Many prosecutors have a “no drop” policy for domestic violence offenses.
However, it is possible that the prosecutor might dismiss the domestic violence case, or a judge may order the case dismissed. The best way to find out if you can get domestic violence charges dropped in California is to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, even if you are innocent.
Factors That Could Affect Whether Your Domestic Violence Case Is Dismissed
Once prosecutors decide to charge you with a domestic violence offense, they are the only ones who can drop domestic violence charges. An experienced domestic violence defense lawyer might argue that the state does not have sufficient evidence to obtain a guilty verdict because:
- The contact with the other person was not intentional or willful
- The contact did not result in injury or harm
- The accused acted in self-defense
- The violence was the result of an accident
- The alleged victim has no visible signs of injuries; however, that is not required to prosecute the case
- The statements made by the alleged victim and/or witnesses are inconsistent
- The alleged victim desires to drop the charges and intends not to cooperate with the prosecution
- There are no independent witnesses, so the case rests on conflicting accounts of the incident
- There is no other evidence to support that the defendant committed acts that meet the definition of domestic violence or another criminal offense
- You have evidence proving that the alleged victim made false allegations
- The police did not have probable cause for an arrest, or they violated your constitutional rights, which could result in evidence being inadmissible in court
Prosecutors might have a “no drop” policy for domestic violence charges. However, if the district attorney can see that the case is weak, they might drop the charges instead of going to court. Having an aggressive criminal defense lawyer present the arguments to the prosecutor is generally more convincing than if a defendant tries to do so by themselves.
The prosecutor knows they might lose the case if they go up against an experienced defense lawyer with a defense strategy that can work. So instead of risking losing in court, the prosecutor might dismiss domestic violence charges or agree to plead down the charges to a lesser charge.
Whether your attorney advises accepting a plea deal or taking the case to court depends on the evidence and the strength of your defense. A lawyer explains the risks and benefits of each choice so you can make an informed decision.
The Charges You Face Are Also Factors Affecting Whether the Case Will Be Dismissed
Domestic violence is defined by statute. California Penal Code §13700 covers abuse committed against an intimate partner. The statute defines abuse as recklessly or intentionally attempting to cause or to actually cause bodily injury to another person. It also includes making another person fear they are about to sustain serious bodily injury.
Because the statute provides a broad definition of domestic violence, the offense includes a wide range of criminal charges. Common domestic violence charges include criminal acts of:
- Domestic battery
- Corporal injury to a spouse
- Violating a protective or restraining order
- Criminal threats
- Child abuse
- Elder abuse
- Child endangerment
Domestic violence charges include misdemeanors, felonies, and wobblers. Therefore, you could face severe penalties if your domestic violence conviction is a felony offense. If you have two strikes against you, you could face a third strike, resulting in decades in prison.
What Are the Penalties and Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction?
The penalties for a domestic violence conviction depend on the criminal charges, the facts of the case, and your criminal history. Many domestic violence charges have enhanced penalties for convictions. The penalties might include the following:
- Jail or prison sentence
- Fines and assessments
- Paying the victim restitution
- Restraining or protective order
- Payments to a battered women’s shelter
- Attending counseling programs
Unfortunately, a conviction on domestic violence charges can have long-term collateral consequences. Examples of collateral consequences include:
- A felony or misdemeanor conviction on your record
- Problems obtaining child custody and/or visitation
- Damage to your professional and personal reputation
- Revocation or suspension of professional licenses
- Difficulty finding housing and/or employment
- Ineligibility for government programs and student loans
- Loss of the right to own a firearm
- Problems with immigration status that could result in deportation
The facts of the case contribute to the severity of the criminal penalties and the collateral consequences. Therefore, it is best to work with an experienced San Diego criminal lawyer to try to avoid criminal and collateral consequences.
You can help your defense lawyer by gathering as much evidence as possible regarding the incident, including names and contact information for witnesses. In addition, provide a detailed timeline of the incident to your lawyer.
However, never try to contact the alleged victim or their family members. If you talk with the alleged victim, you might believe you can “work it out” and have the domestic violence charges dismissed.
However, contacting the alleged victim violates restraining or protective orders and your bail agreement. Contacting the alleged victim could result in additional criminal charges and penalties.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers
You do not have to face domestic violence charges in California alone. Our legal team at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers can help. Contact our law office at (619) 357-4977 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced domestic violence lawyer in San Diego to discuss your case.