Domestic violence is defined under two separate laws in California. Under Penal Code 137000, it is illegal to exert physical force, or threaten to exert force, on an intimate partner. California’s Family Code section further expands the state’s umbrella of coverage, making it against the law to exert or threaten force on relatives through blood (to two degrees) or relatives by marriage. In other words, it is illegal to harm siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, step-children, nieces and nephews or anyone related by marriage.
However, what needs to be explained is the definition of “force,” or when a simple heated argument turns into an abusive, domestic violence situation. The answer is specific to each situation. California has defined a number of specific crimes that are considered “domestic violence.” Some of these specific crimes are discussed below.
Domestic Battery – PC 243(e)(1)
Under California’s broad domestic battery law it is illegal to harmfully touch anyone in the groups listed under the Family Code Section and the Penal Code section discussed above. Under this law, the accuser only needs to prove that the other person acted with intent to injure him or her by willfully touching them in a rude or angry way. The accuser need not sustain a visible injury.
Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant – PC 273.5
Corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant is defined as any harmful touching of an intimate partner. The accuser is required to prove that the touching resulted in an injury. This is a “wobbler” because it can result in a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the specific facts of the situation.
Child Abuse – PC 273d
Child abuse is also considered a “wobbler”, but prosecutors are known to aggressively pursue this charge. The three elements of child abuse are:
- A child was willfully punished with an ill intent to harm or injure the child
- The child as a result of the action suffered a visible injury
- The punishment was not a normal disciplinary action
Child Endangerment – PC 273a
Child endangerment is different than child abuse because endangerment does not require that the child suffer an actual injury. Child endangerment is also a wobbler. The difference between a misdemeanor and felony is determined by whether the child was at risk of great bodily harm or death.
Criminal Threats – PC 422
It is against the law to threaten someone or their immediate family with serious harm. California law considers criminal threats as a wobbler. In order to be charged with a criminal threat, the statement must:
- Explicitly state an intention to kill or substantially harm another person
- Place the individual in a reasonable state of sustained fear
- The threat must be communicated verbally, in writing, or via electronic device (such as a cell phone or email)
Call an Experienced Central Valley Domestic Violence Attorney
If you or a loved one has been the victim of domestic violence or are being accused of domestic violence, you must contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with Central Valley domestic violence defense attorney Gurjit Srai, please call (209) 323-5558, or complete our online form.