In too many cases, men and women who are charged with domestic violence are the real victims. In some cases, they acted in self-defense. In others, they may have been falsely accused. Sometimes, a person may have reacted violently after suffering from ongoing abuse.

The system is, unfortunately, flawed. Sometimes, police make arrests based on who called 911 first, who seems more upset or whose injury appears worse. Gender bias may also factor in, with police being likelier to believe a woman over a man. Commonly, abusive people understand how the system works and how to manipulate it. Having a good lawyer can make the difference in whether you can get your charges dismissed or secure a plea agreement to a lesser offense.

How does the prosecutor prove the charge?

Orange County Prosecutors are required to prove every element of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the statute, the elements that must be proved include:

  • The willful or intentional infliction of a physical injury on partner who is or has been intimate
  • Causing trauma
  • To the intimate partner

Did the trauma result from the act?

The important factor is if a physical act caused trauma that was suffered. This is true even if your intent in striking him or her was not to cause an injury.

Orange County Domestic Violence: Available Defenses

Your attorney will review your case to identify any available defenses you might have. They may include any of the following defenses:

1. You lacked the intent to harm

You will not have committed the crime under 273.5 unless you intended your partner to be harmed. If an argument led to unintended consequences because of an accident, you didn’t commit the offense.

2. False accusations

Unfortunately, it is fairly common for angry partners or spouses to falsely accuse people of domestic violence. Sometimes, they may have injuries that were caused by another person. In others, they may simply not be injured at all. If this is what happened, your attorney will work to expose the lie.

3. Self-defense

Many cases involve claims of self-defense. This is an affirmative defense, which means you will have the burden of proving all of the elements of it to the jury in order to be found not guilty. You will need to prove the following:

  • You reasonably believed that you or another person was in imminent danger of serious injury or offensive touching
  • You reasonably believed that physical force was necessary to defend yourself against the danger
  • And, the amount of force was no more than what was necessary under the circumstances.

When the victim is reluctant or fails to appear

It is not uncommon for an alleged victim to have second thoughts and then to be unwilling to testify. Sometimes, they may fail to appear in court. Prosecutors do have subpoena power, which they can use to force reluctant alleged victims into court to testify. If they use this tool, they are likely to question the alleged victim about whether or not he or she was threatened or forced into not following through with the case. The same is true if he or she changes his or her story.

In many cases, however, a prosecutor may be convinced to forgo using a subpoena to compel attendance and testimony by skilled defense negotiation. Strong legal counsel may be able to get the charges dismissed if the alleged victim no longer wants to move forward with the case. It is important, however, that you do not try to do anything to coerce your alleged victim into skipping court, changing their story or refusing to cooperate.

Orange County Spousal Abuse: Potential Penalties

Under the law, domestic violence is considered to be a wobbler offense. This means the district attorney may choose to charge you with either a misdemeanor or a felony. The Orange County Superior Courts may reduce felony charges to misdemeanors or your lawyer can negotiate a felony down to a misdemeanor. The seriousness of the offense and your criminal history will both play a part in determining whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.

Misdemeanor penalties may include the following:

  • A jail sentence of up to one year
  • A fine of up to $6,000, which may be in lieu of or in addition to any jail
  • Informal probation
  • A restraining order ordering you to have no contact with the victim for up to 10 years

Felony penalties may include the following:

  • 2-4 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $6,000
  • Formal probation
  • A restraining order lasting for up to 10 years forbidding contact with the victim

Sentencing enhancements may also be used to increase the penalties. If you have a previous domestic violence conviction within the last seven years, you may have a fine of up to $10,000.Prior convictions within the past seven years will also bring minimum mandatory jail sentences, with one prior bringing 15 days and two bringing 60 days. Certain felony offenses will carry prison terms of five years.

There are other enhancements and sentencing options available as well. To learn more about your rights, we encourage you to call our Orange County criminal defense team today.

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