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san diego Domestic Violence defense attorney

What You Should Know About Domestic Violence Charges  |  Zentz & Zentz

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Domestic Violence Lawyers in San Diego

Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects thousands of families throughout California each year. In San Diego County alone, almost 18,000 domestic violence occurrences are reported to police annually. Everyone should have the right to feel safe in their own home, and everyone experiencing abuse has the right to report it to law enforcement. However, domestic violence is a complex issue for everyone involved, and there are incidents of individuals being arrested or convicted without cause, sufficient evidence or due process. If you have been served with a San Diego restraining order, contact an experienced defense attorney who will help you ensure that your legal rights are protected.

The domestic violence defense attorneys at Zentz & Zentz can provide the legal counsel you need when you have been accused of domestic violence. Whether you know you made a mistake and need assistance mitigating your penalty, or if you have been wrongfully accused and need to clear your name, we can help. Our team has years of experience assisting clients throughout San Diego County as their domestic violence defense attorneys. We can leverage this experience and the full range of our professional resources on your behalf and help you approach your case with greater confidence.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence consists of many different forms of abuse and has varying definitions. Understanding what constitutes domestic violence can help you recognize the signs and take action if necessary. Generally, domestic violence is defined as abusive behavior in any relationship used to maintain control over another individual. Many definitions state that acts of domestic violence are limited to intimate partner relationships.

Contrary to popular belief, anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse. No matter your sex, age, race, marital status or education level, you can experience domestic abuse. In many instances, domestic violence takes the form of physical violence toward an intimate partner. Acts such as coercion, threats, and intimidation are also considered acts of domestic abuse. California Family Code Section 6211 states that an individual can be charged and convicted of domestic violence if they abuse one or more of the following:

• A current or former spouse
• A current or former domestic partner
• A current or former romantic partner
• A current or former roommate

Some courts may also classify abuse against children or the elderly as domestic violence. Typically, an individual charged with committing domestic violence against a child or an elder will face much harsher penalties than one accused of committing domestic violence against an adult of similar age. California upholds strict elder abuse laws that will come into play in any domestic violence case involving an elderly victim, and all crimes against children are prosecuted much more aggressively than cases involving adult victims.

Types of Domestic Violence Abuse

There are many different types of domestic violence and it is vital to recognize the many forms it can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is one of the most common forms of domestic violence and can include any physically violent acts such as hitting, pinching, slapping, biting, battering or shoving. Denying someone medical treatment or forcing them to ingest a harmful substance can also be classified as physical abuse.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is also a common form of domestic violence and occurs when an abuser coerces or tries to force a victim into performing a sexual act. However, sexual abuse does not necessarily involve physical activity and can occur when an abuser demeans or otherwise sexually threatens the victim.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse can take many forms but often includes criticism, name-calling, or otherwise injuring a victim’s self-worth or self-esteem through harmful language or action. It is important to remember that an individual cannot file domestic charges against someone simply because they called them a name. In most cases, emotional abuse must be a sustained pattern of negative treatment to constitute domestic violence.

Financial abuse

Financial abuse occurs when an abuser seeks to maintain control over the victim by withholding access to funds or prohibiting activities that promote economic independence, such as seeking employment or attending school.

Stalking

While not commonly considered an act of domestic violence, stalking is becoming increasingly common in intimate partner relationships. Stalking can take many forms but can occur when an abuser continually follows a victim, makes repeated unwanted contact or makes threats.

This is not a comprehensive list of all types of domestic abuse. Other forms include phycological abuse, cyberstalking, and threatening behavior. Any act that is aggressive or emotionally damaging can be interrupted as domestic violence in a court of law.

What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence in San Diego, California?

Penal Code 273.5 is a California domestic violence law. Depending on the defendant’s criminal record and the crime circumstances, the offense can be tried as a felony or misdemeanor. If the act is tried in court as a misdemeanor offense, the possible punishments include up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or a combination of both. If the act is tried as a felony, the punishments are more severe and may include up to four years in prison, a fine of up to $6,000 or both. Deportation or other immigration consequences may also occur upon conviction if a defendant is not a United States citizen.

California Penal Code 243 is a domestic violence law in which a defendant can only be convicted of a misdemeanor offense. The punishments include a maximum of one year in county jail or a fine of $2,000 if convicted. Occasionally, domestic violence acts tried under Penal Code 243 are reduced to a lesser charge of Disturbing the Peace. The conviction comes with a maximum term of three months in jail if the charge is reduced.

A victim may request a San Diego restraining order depending on the circumstances surrounding the abuse. A restraining order is an order granted by a judge to protect a victim from further abuse. Restraining orders forbid an abuser from contacting, visiting, or otherwise communicating with the victim. Specific regulations are decided by the judge upon issuance but may keep an abuser from coming to a victim’s home or workplace. A restraining order is issued in civil court and does not initiate criminal charges against the abuser.

Any victim, regardless of age, can request a restraining order from any individual who has committed an act of domestic violence against them. The length and terms of the restraining order will vary depending on the circumstance of the abuse and the abuser’s criminal history.

Potential Consequences of Domestic Violence Conviction in San Diego, California

Beyond the typical legal penalties that will follow a domestic violence conviction, an individual who has been tried and convicted of domestic violence could face a wide range of additional consequences that affect their personal and professional life. If they have children, or if they committed any type of domestic violence against their children or someone else’s children, it is very likely that they will lose any custody or visitation rights they may have had, and they will likely be barred from holding any type of employment that involves working with children.

If a defendant is convicted of domestic violence and holds professional licenses, such as a license to practice medicine or law, it is very likely that those licenses will be suspended or permanently revoked, depending on the severity of the offense. Whatever professional oversight agency has jurisdiction over the defendant will likely issue their own disciplinary measures as well.

An individual convicted of domestic violence may also need to abide by the terms of a restraining order for an extended time, preventing them from interacting with their victims or members of the victim’s family or even coming within a certain proximity of individuals listed in the restraining order. Their conviction may also prevent them from entering certain areas, coming within a certain distance of schools, daycare centers, and other childcare facilities, depending on the nature of their offense.

In the event a defendant is convicted of any form of domestic violence of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or sexual battery against a family or household member, they will also likely face mandatory registration as a sex offender. Sex offender status usually lasts for several years or permanently, depending on the severity of the offense. Registration as a sex offender can prevent the individual from living in certain areas, working in some industries, and interacting with children.

Defending Yourself Against Domestic Violence Charges

It is vital to work with an experienced domestic violence defense attorney when you are accused of domestic violence of any kind in California. The right attorney can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your case, potentially helping you avoid the worst possible penalties. If you have been wrongfully accused, your attorney can help you gather exculpatory evidence to prove your innocence and establish the truth of the matter in question.

Depending on the type of domestic violence charges you face and the nature of the incident in question, you could have one or more possible defenses available to you:

Self-defense is one of the most commonly cited defenses in domestic violence cases. It’s common for an individual to initiate domestic violence against their partner or another member of their household and then accuse the victim of initiating the conflict. If you acted in self-defense, your attorney could help you prove this in several ways. You may need to undergo a medical examination to prove that you sustained defensive wounds, or your attorney may gather eyewitness testimony from individuals who saw the incident.
Mistaken identity. This defense is most commonly cited in stalking cases. For example, an individual notices someone peering into the window of their home at night and believes it is their ex-partner. They call the police and make their accusation, and their ex is arrested for stalking. If this is similar to your situation, your attorney should work with you to establish your alibi, proving you were not at your ex’s residence when this incident occurred.
False accusation. Unfortunately, it is common for people to levy false accusations of domestic violence against their partners or other members of their family in an effort to gain legal leverage over them. For example, if you are divorcing and your spouse accuses you of committing domestic violence against them, they may be doing so to secure sole custody of your children and prevent you from interacting with them. This situation can make you feel desperate, frustrated, and uncertain. Your attorney can help you determine the best way to disprove false accusations of domestic violence in this type of situation.

These are just a few examples of the ways you can potentially defend yourself against domestic violence charges. In the event you did make a mistake and committed some form of domestic violence, your attorney should shift focus to mitigating your penalty through plea bargaining. They may also need to prepare you for defense from a personal injury action from the victim.

What to Expect From Your San Diego Defense Attorney

When you are accused of domestic violence of any kind, your attorney will perform several vital functions in handling your defense. First, they should carefully review the prosecution’s evidence and the testimony from your accuser to look for any inconsistencies or discrepancies. Attacking the foundation of the prosecution’s case is typically the first step for any defense attorney.

Your attorney should also help you gather all evidence that may help you clear your name. This may include physical evidence, such as the presence of defensive wounds that prove you were not the aggressor in the situation in question and acted in self-defense. Exculpatory evidence may also rest with eyewitnesses who saw the event in question take place. In some cases, video evidence from home security cameras, phone cameras, dashcams, and CCTV footage from the area in which the incident in question occurred can provide helpful material evidence that helps a defendant prove their innocence or establish the truth of a domestic violence claim.

Contact Zentz & Zentz Attorneys at Law Today

Domestic violence is damaging, sometimes life-threatening, and should be taken seriously by all parties involved. In some cases, the abuse may have been an act of self-defense, unintentional, or in defense of someone else. Contact Zentz & Zentz today for assistance if you face a domestic violence charge or are otherwise involved in a domestic dispute. Our legal team is experienced, knowledgeable, and committed to ensuring all clients are defended adequately before and after trial. Call us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers if you have been accused of domestic violence against an intimate partner, elder, or child in San Diego.

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