Domestic Violence Felony vs Misdemeanor

Domestic violence felony vs misdemeanor

When you hear about domestic violence in California, you might wonder what the difference is between a felony and a misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor is generally seen as a less serious crime and comes with lighter penalties than a felony. However, both are serious charges in the eyes of the law, especially when it comes to domestic violence.

At Olen Firm Criminal Defense Lawyers, we understand the severity of domestic violence offenses, whether a felony or a misdemeanor. Felony domestic violence charges and allegations of sexual assault are always serious.

If you have been implicated in a domestic violence offense, learn more below. Then, contact our criminal defense attorney to schedule a free case consultation.

Defining Domestic Violence in Legal Terms

In legal terms, domestic violence involves harm or threats of harm between people in close relationships. This can include married or dating couples, close relatives, or people who live together. It's important to note that domestic battery isn't just about serious bodily injury. It can also include emotional abuse, threats, stalking, or destroying personal property. The law recognizes all these forms as domestic violence.

California law considers many factors when defining domestic violence. Examples include the severity of the injury, whether children were present, and any past incidents of violence. Even a misdemeanor conviction of domestic battery can change your life forever.

Understanding Misdemeanor Domestic Violence

Understanding misdemeanor domestic violence

Misdemeanor domestic violence in California includes less severe forms of abuse without serious bodily harm. But don't let the term "less severe" mislead you; the law does not take any domestic violence lightly. Even a misdemeanor charge could lead to time in the county jail, fines, and mandatory classes on domestic violence.

Charges and Penalties

For a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, the penalties can vary depending on how you are charged. For example, in Penal Code 243(e)(1), domestic battery is a misdemeanor charge that might lead to a fine of up to $2,000 and one year in county jail if convicted. You might also have to attend domestic violence counseling sessions and comply with a restraining order. These penalties are not just to punish but also to prevent future violence and protect the victims.

Another common misdemeanor charge is Penal Code 270, child neglect or failure to provide care. A conviction under this statute can result in similar penalties. This includes a fine of up to $2,000 and one year in county jail.

Legal Procedures and Rights

When you're charged with misdemeanor domestic assault, you will have to go to court. You have the right to a domestic violence lawyer, and if you can't afford one, the court will provide one for you. You also have the right to defend yourself against the charges. This might involve sharing your side of the story and presenting evidence.

You'll also have the chance to negotiate a plea deal. This is where you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge (or the original one) in exchange for certain benefits like a lighter sentence. It's a critical part of the legal process that requires careful consideration and legal advice.

Long-Term Consequences

Even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction can stay on your record for life. It can affect your job prospects, as many employers do background checks. You might also find it hard to rent an apartment, as landlords can be wary of renting to someone with a violent past.

This kind of conviction can also affect your custody rights if you have children. The court may limit your time with your kids to keep them safe. It's important to understand that the consequences of a misdemeanor go far beyond the courtroom and can affect your life for many years.

Understanding Felony Domestic Violence

Felony domestic violence in California involves more serious cases of abuse. These cases often include severe physical injury or situations where the accused has a history of violence. A felony charge is far more severe than a misdemeanor and can lead to time in state prison.

Charges and Penalties

If convicted of felony domestic violence, the penalties are much more serious. One common felony charge is Penal Code 273.5, corporal injury to a spouse or inhabitant. The exact penalties vary, but if convicted, you could face up to four years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The court may also order you to pay restitution to the victim, which means covering any costs related to the crime, like medical bills or property repairs. With a felony, you lose certain rights, like the right to own firearms.

Several other examples of crimes are wobblers, permitting authorities to charge them as misdemeanors or felonies. Common examples include criminal threats and aggravated trespass. The penalties vary depending on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony.

Legal Procedures and Rights

When facing felony charges, the legal process is more complex. You will have to attend several court hearings, and there may be a preliminary hearing before the trial where the judge decides if there is enough evidence to proceed. You have the right to a jury trial as well.

You also have the right to see and challenge the evidence against you. This includes questioning witnesses and disputing the validity of physical evidence.

Long-Term Consequences

The long-term consequences of a felony domestic violence conviction are severe. You could lose your job, find it difficult to get new employment, and face restrictions on where you can live. A felony record can make it hard to get financial aid for school or to qualify for certain professional licenses.

In addition, a felony conviction affects your personal life. It can strain family relationships and social connections. The stigma of a felony conviction may be challenging to overcome, and it can close doors to many opportunities you once had.

Key Differences Between Felony and Misdemeanor

Key difference between felony and misdemeanor

The key differences between a felony and a misdemeanor domestic violence charge lie in the severity of the act and the resulting penalties. A misdemeanor usually involves less serious harm and leads to shorter jail time, while a felony involves more serious harm and can result in years in prison. The legal process is also more complex for felonies, with more at stake for the defendant.

Factors That Escalate Domestic Violence to a Felony

Certain factors can escalate a domestic violence charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. These include:

  • Severity of the Injury: If the alleged victim suffers significant bodily harm, the charge is more likely to be a felony.
  • Use of a Weapon: Using a weapon during the abuse can turn the crime into a felony.
  • History of Violence: A history of domestic violence can lead to a felony charge even if the current incident is less severe.
  • Presence of Children: If children witness the abuse, this can escalate the charge.
  • Violation of a Restraining Order: If the abuse happens while a restraining order is in place, the charge is likely to be a felony.

These factors show the law's focus on protecting victims and preventing future violence. They also highlight the importance of understanding the seriousness of each case.

What Is a Wobbler Under California Law?

A "wobbler" in California law is an offense that can be indicted either as a misdemeanor or a felony. This decision depends on the details of the case and the defendant's criminal history. For domestic violence cases, this means that the severity of the act and any previous offenses will influence the level of the charge.

One common example of a wobbler is Penal Code 273a, child endangerment. How the prosecutor decides to charge the case can dramatically impact the penalties. For example, felony penalties can include up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. In contrast, misdemeanor penalties can include up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Legal Defenses in Domestic Violence Cases

Legal defenses in domestic violence cases

If you're facing domestic violence charges, you have several potential defenses. These include:

  • Self-Defense: Claiming that you acted to protect yourself from harm.
  • False Accusations: Demonstrating that the accuser is lying or has a motive to make false claims.
  • Insufficient Evidence: Showing that the evidence against you is weak or inconclusive.
  • De Minimis Infraction: Arguing that the offense was too trivial to warrant the charges.
  • Rights Violations: Asserting that law enforcement violated your rights during the investigation or arrest.

An experienced lawyer can help you determine the best defense based on the specifics of your case. The goal is to protect your rights and strive for a fair outcome.

The Impact of Conviction on Life and Employment

A domestic violence conviction may impact your life forever. You might lose your job, especially if it requires a clean record. Finding new work can become a daunting task since many employers hesitate to hire someone with a violent criminal history.

Furthermore, a conviction can lead to social isolation as friends and family struggle to understand or cope with the situation. This isolation can make rebuilding your life and finding support much harder. Understanding these impacts is important as they highlight the need for a strong legal defense.

Contact Our Domestic Violence Lawyer at Olen Firm Criminal Defense Lawyers To Schedule a Free Case Consultation

Contact our domestic violence lawyer to schedule a free case consultation

If you have been accused of domestic abuse, we can help you. At Olen Firm Criminal Defense Lawyers, we always put the needs of our clients first. We can do the same for you. You are presumed innocent until guilt is proven in a court of law, and we will fight for you. 

Contact us to schedule a free case consultation.

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