Domestic Violence

In California, the definition of domestic violence includes abuse committed against an adult or a fully-emancipated minor who is classified as a:

  • husband, wife, spouse, or former spouse
  • a cohabitant or former cohabitant
  • a person who was or is engaged to the defendant (fiancée, fiancé, wife-to-be, husband-to-be)
  • people currently or formerly in a dating relationship
  • parent of a child that the parties have in common
  • relatives related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree

The penalties for domestic violence might be enhanced if the alleged victim is also classified as a minor child or an elderly or dependent adult.

The term “abuse” means intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or placing another person in reasonable fear of imminent serious bodily injury to himself or herself or to someone else.

When it comes to the domestic violence statutes in California, the term “abuse” is defined to include:

  • recklessly or intentionally causing or attempting to cause bodily injury;
  • assaults of a sexual nature;
  • putting a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another;
  • engaging in behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Family Code section 6320.

Attorney for Crimes of Domestic Violence in Ventura, CA

If you were arrested for domestic or intimate partner violence in Ventura County, CA, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Jay Leiderman Law. With offices located in Ventura, CA, Jay Leiderman is experienced in fighting complicated cases involving intimate partner and domestic violence. Besides Ventura, we also work with clients in the nine other Ventura County cities – Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, and Thousand Oaks.

Although the prosecutor might want the judge to place you on probation to complete a batterer’s intervention program, the best result is getting the charges dropped outright on the merits.

In many cases, a criminal protective order will be issued preventing the person accused from contacting the victim. Related charges include disobeying a domestic relations court order with a prior conviction for violating a domestic court order.

In these types of cases, your attorney will file motions to exclude prejudicial evidence, including testimony from so-called experts in intimate partner violence to explain why the alleged victim recanted or minimized the nature of the abuse at points in the relationship.

Jay Leiderman is also experienced in fighting any attempt by the prosecutor to introduce evidence of uncharged violence or the prior difficulties between the parties.

Call (805) 654-0200 today to schedule a free initial consultation.

Overview of Domestic Violence Law in California

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Consequences of Domestic Violence Conviction

The consequences of a domestic violence conviction might include being required to:

  • serve time in jail or prison;
  • complete a 52-week domestic violence intervention counseling program;
  • comply with a protective order to stay away from and have no contact with the victim for a designated time period;
  • make restitution to the victim in an amount and manner to be prescribed by the probation officer; and
  • return to court for a progress report.

Additional consequences of an arrest for domestic violence might include:

  • losing temporary custody of any firearm at the scene of domestic violence
  • being served with a restraining order at the scene of a domestic violence incident or at anytime while you are being held in custody; or
  • being subjected to a legal presumption that giving custody to a perpetrator of domestic violence is detrimental to a child.

Under Federal Law, 18 U.S.C. 922, subd. (g)(9), it is unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to possess any firearm or ammunition, or to receive any firearm or ammunition which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

Federal law also requires all jurisdictions in the United States to give full faith and credit to protection orders issued by other jurisdictions under the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as provided in 18 U.S.C. 2265.

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Enhancement for Great Bodily Injury

The penalties for domestic violence are subject to enhancement when the victim suffers great bodily injury.

If the jury or fact-finder finds the defendant guilty of a crime of domestic violence, then it must be decided whether it has been proven that the defendant personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim during the commission or attempted commission of that crime under Penal Code, § 12022.7(e).

The term “great bodily injury” is defined to mean significant or substantial physical injury. It is an injury that is greater than minor or moderate harm.

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California’s Definition of Domestic Violence

The term dating relationship means frequent, intimate associations primarily characterized by the expectation of affection or sexual involvement independent of financial considerations.

The term cohabitants means two unrelated persons living together for a substantial period of time, resulting in some permanency of the relationship. Factors that may determine whether people are cohabiting include, but are not limited to:

  • the length of the relationship
  • the continuity of the relationship
  • the parties’ holding themselves out as (husband and wife/domestic partners)
  • joint use or ownership of property
  • sharing of income or expenses
  • sexual relations between the parties while sharing the same residence

A fully-emancipated minor is a person under the age of 18 who has gained certain adult rights by marrying, being on active duty for the United States armed services, or otherwise being declared emancipated under the law.

The term “coercive control” is defined as the victimization based on other types of criminal conduct, such as; false imprisonment, extortion, identity theft, impersonation through an internet website or by other electronic means, false personation, mail theft, stalking, and revenge pornography.

Officers in Ventura County, CA, often undergo special training on the signs of domestic violence including an assessment of “coercive control” by the defendant.

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Evidence of a Prior Uncharged Act of Domestic Violence

In a domestic violence case, the criminal defense attorney will aggressively fight any attempt by the prosecutor to introduce evidence of uncharged violence.

This issue arises after the prosecutor files a pretrial motion seeking to admit evidence of uncharged acts of domestic violence committed by the defendant. The defense will argue that the evidence is not probative, highly prejudicial, consumes too much time, or was too remote.

Evidence of a person’s character or predisposition to act in a certain way is generally inadmissible to prove conduct in conformance with that character trait on a given occasion. (§ 1101, subd. (a); People v. Villatoro (2012) 54 Cal.4th 1152, 1159, 144 Cal.Rptr.3d 401, 281 P.3d 390.)

Section 1109 is an exception to this general rule, however, providing that “in a criminal action in which the defendant is accused of an offense involving domestic violence, evidence of the defendant’s commission of other domestic violence is not made inadmissible by Section 1101 if the evidence is not inadmissible pursuant to Section 352.” (§ 1109, subd. (a)(1).)

Section 352 provides that the trial “court in its discretion may exclude evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the probability that its admission will (a) necessitate undue consumption of time or (b) create substantial danger of undue prejudice, of confusing the issues, or of misleading the jury.”

Discretion is abused under the section where the trial court acts “ ‘in an arbitrary, capricious or patently absurd manner that resulted in a manifest miscarriage of justice.’ ” (People v. Rodrigues (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1060, 1124-1125, 36 Cal.Rptr.2d 235, 885 P.2d 1.)

In California, the legislative history of section 1109 acknowledges the special nature of domestic violence crime, as follows:

“The propensity inference is particularly appropriate in the area of domestic violence because on-going violence and abuse is the norm in domestic violence cases.

Not only is there a great likelihood that any one battering episode is part of a larger scheme of dominance and control, that scheme usually escalates in frequency and severity.

Without the propensity inference, the escalating nature of domestic violence is likewise masked. If we fail to address the very essence of domestic violence, we will continue to see cases where perpetrators of this violence will beat their intimate partners, even kill them, and go on to beat or kill the next intimate partner.

Since criminal prosecution is one of the few factors which may interrupt the escalating pattern of domestic violence, we must be willing to look at that pattern during the criminal prosecution, or we will miss the opportunity to address this problem at all.”

(Assem. Com.[ ] on Public Safety[, Analysis of Sen. Bill No. 1876 (1995–1996 Reg. Sess.) June 25, 1996,] pp. 3–4.

Because domestic violence often escalates in frequency and severity over time, the courts will sometimes allow the prosecutor to admit into evidence testimony about prior acts of domestic violence.

Under Evidence Code section 1109, evidence of a prior act of domestic violence is admissible to prove the defendant had a propensity to commit domestic violence when the defendant is charged with an offense involving domestic violence.

The trial court has the discretion to exclude the evidence if its probative value is outweighed by a danger of undue prejudice or confusing the jury, or would result in an undue consumption of time. See Evid. Code, §§ 1109, subd. (a)(1), 352.

The admissibility of evidence of domestic violence is entrusted to the sound discretion of the trial court, which the appellate court will not disturb on appeal absent a showing of abuse of discretion. See People v. Poplar, 70 Cal.App.4th 1129, 1138 (1999).

The principal factor affecting the probative value of an uncharged act is its similarity to the charged offense. In fact, Evidence Code section 1109 was intended to make admissible a prior incident ‘similar in character to the charged domestic violence crime, and which was committed against the victim of the charged crime or another similarly situated person.’

For this reason, the statute reflects the legislative judgment that in domestic violence cases, as in sex crimes, similar prior offenses are ‘uniquely probative’ of guilt in a later accusation. Part of the reason is because of the typically repetitive nature of domestic violence.

This pattern in domestic violence cases suggests a “psychological dynamic not necessarily involved in other types of crimes.” People v. Johnson, 185 Cal.App.4th 520, 531-532 (2010).

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Imposition of the Domestic Violence Fund Fee

The domestic violence fund fee authorized by section 1203.097, subdivision (a)(5)(A) may be imposed only when the defendant is granted probation for the crime. (§ 1203.097, subd. (a)).

If the person convicted of domestic violence is sentenced to prison, the imposition of the domestic violence fund fee is unauthorized. An unauthorized sentence is one that cannot be lawfully imposed under any circumstances in the particular case.

If an unauthorized sentence is imposed, the issue may be taken up during a criminal appeal to correct the error even if the criminal defense attorney did not object to the error during the sentencing hearing. (People v. Scott, supra, 9 Cal.4th at p. 354 [in considering an unauthorized sentence, appellate courts will “intervene in the first instance because such error is ‘clear and correctable’ independent of any factual issues presented by the record at sentencing”).

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Imposition of a Post-Judgment Protective No-Contact Order

Section 136.2, subdivision (i)(1) provides that in all cases in which a defendant has been convicted of a crime that qualifies as a domestic violence crime in California, the trial court shall consider issuing a post-judgment protective order prohibiting contact with the victim for up to 10 years. (People v. Therman (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 1276, 1279.)

While the trial court is required to consider issuing a protective order, section 136.2 does not mandate the issuance of a protective order.

If a person is convicted of an offense that qualifies as a domestic violence crime, and the person listed in the order qualifies as a victim for purposes of a section 136.2, subdivision (i)(1) protective order, then the court is permitted to, but not required to, impose the no-contact order. (See § 13700, subd. (b).)

In these cases, the criminal defense attorney will often object to the protective order in order to preserve the issue for a criminal appeal. If the criminal defense attorney does not object to the protective order, then the failure to object to a discretionary decision of the trial court results in forfeiture of the issue during the criminal appeal. (See People v. Scott (1994) 9 Cal.4th 331, 353, 356.)

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Domestic Violence Training for Law Enforcement Officers in California

As a part of basic training, many law enforcement officers in California undergo training on how to investigate domestic violence complaints. Officers assigned to patrol below supervisory rank often undergo additional training every two years.

The domestic violence training for law enforcement officers covers the following types of techniques and procedures:

  • The signs of domestic violence.
  • The nature and extent of domestic violence.
  • Verification and enforcement of stay-away orders.
  • Verification and enforcement of temporary restraining orders when the suspect is present and when the suspect has fled.
  • The application of the Penal Code in domestic violence situations.
  • The services are available to victims and batterers including shelters.
  • The way law enforcement intervention in domestic violence cases impacts minor children.
  • Documentation, report writing, and evidence collection.
  • The legal rights and remedies available to victims of domestic violence.
  • Techniques for handling incidents of domestic violence that minimize the likelihood of injury to the officer and that promote the safety of the victim.
  • The legal duties imposed on peace officers to make arrests and offer protection and assistance, including guidelines for making felony and misdemeanor arrests.

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Additional Resources

Rights of Domestic Violence Victims – Visit the website of the Ventura County District Attorney to learn more about the rights of domestic violence victims that apply regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. Those rights include having the police take temporary custody of any firearms at the scene, being entitled to address confidentiality, having the help of a victim advocate support person in court, having a domestic violence counselor present for interviews with law enforcement, prosecutors or the criminal defense attorney, and the right to notification of an abuser’s release from prison or jail after conviction.

Domestic Violence Lethality Risk Assessment for First Responders – Visit the website of the Department of Justice and the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to find a domestic violence lethality risk assessment for first responders. The questionnaire is administered to victims of domestic violence to assess the level of danger and/or the severity of the situation.

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Domestic Violence Lawyer in Ventura County, CA

Domestic or intimate partner violence charges can have severe aftermath including jail time, fines, and orders barring personal contact that carry long-term consequences for your freedom and personal relationships.

An effective defense will always depend on the unique facts of your case, so it is critical to consult with a skilled, experienced attorney to help minimize the damage to your life from a domestic violence conviction.

Jay Leiderman Law has experience handling criminal cases ranging from petty theft to domestic violence to murder in all ten cities in Ventura County, including Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, and Ventura itself.

One of the nation’s leading defense attorneys for the complex, emerging field of computer fraud and abuse, he routinely handles everything from small, local misdemeanors in state court to complicated interstate felonies prosecuted federally. He also holds the rare distinction of being a certified specialist in Criminal Law by the State Bar of California, an accomplishment claimed by less than 1% of California lawyers.

While selective, the clients Jay Leiderman chooses to accept can count on a defense that is innovative, aggressive, and vigorous. Do not let yourself face domestic violence charges without doing everything possible to increase your chances of a favorable outcome.

It is often that the sooner you retain an attorney in a criminal case, the better the ultimate result you can expect. Don’t hesitate, call Jay Leiderman Law at (805) 654-0200 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

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