OC Domestic Violence Lawyer in Orange County
Domestic violence is a serious crime in Orange County that comes with heavy penalties. Allegations of domestic violence are taken seriously by police and for good reason. The National Coalition of Domestic Violence estimates that about one million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. What doesn't get as much attention in the media is how many people who get wrongly accused of committing acts of domestic violence.
These people are paying a high price for acts they didn't commit. At the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, our domestic violence defense attorneys are committed to providing the strong defense that is critical to protecting your reputation, future, and freedom. If you or a loved one is facing domestic violence charges in Orange County, please call us at (714) 530-9690 for a free consultation.
First, it is important to understand what is considered domestic violence under California law. Under California Penal Code 13700, domestic violence means “abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.”
The law also outlines the specific definition of abuse in California, which means "intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury, or placing another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to himself or herself, or another."
This means you can face domestic violence charges if the alleged victim reasonably believed they were going to suffer harm. You don't actually need to have any intention of causing bodily injury in order to face such a charge. The alleged victim only has to believe that you intended to cause serious bodily injury at the time.
Domestic violence-related charges are unique because they involve someone to whom you are close. Domestic violence laws in Orange County specifically refer to abuse committed against a spouse, cohabitant, child, boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, former cohabitant or family member.
"Michael L. Guisti worked really hard for me to get my charges reduced and other domestic violence charges dismissed. When I very first met Guisti we talked for about a couple hours about my problem in court and other things we had in common. Guisti knows you're facing a big problem, but he does everything to put you at ease..."
Because of the broad nature of California’s domestic violence definition, there are several different charges that you can face under the law. Each of these laws has its own definitions and penalties and can often be categorized based on the relationship with the alleged victim. The charges of abuse against a spouse can be different from charges involving a child, which can also include a lack of care or neglect. Other factors that can influence your case are any other alleged crimes you are charged with, such as stalking, threats, or trespassing.
Domestic violence charges can include:
- Domestic Battery – Penal Code 243(e)(1)
- Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Inhabitant – Penal Code 273.5
- Sexual Assault and Battery – Penal Code 243.4
- Rape – Penal Code Section 261
- Child Abuse – Penal Code 273d
- Child Endangerment – Penal Code 273a
- Child Neglect – Penal Code 270
- Elder Abuse – Penal Code 368
- Stalking – Penal Code 646.9
- Revenge Porn – Penal Code 647(j)(4)
- Posting Harmful Information on the Internet – Penal Code 653.2
- Criminal Threats – Penal Code 422
- Aggravated Trespass – Penal Code 601
If you are facing one of these charges, then you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to begin building a defense.
Because domestic violence laws consider all intimate, familial, and household relationships, child abuse is considered a subset of domestic violence. A minor may file a charge of domestic violence against a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, a temporary guardian, a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend, or any other member of his or her household. However, while instances of child abuse are taken seriously by the state of California, standard disciplinary methods are not considered domestic violence. A child cannot claim abuse in cases of spanking or being yelled at by his or her parents.
On the other hand, situations of abuse can be used as a defense against domestic violence charges: if someone believes a spouse or partner presents a real threat to their child, then it may justify the use of violent force to stop the aggressor and protect the child.
One thing to consider about domestic violence is how it can be used in determining custody in a divorce. In California, when determining custody in a divorce, the judge must consider any convictions for domestic violence of either party. If one of the parents has been convicted of domestic violence, or the judge decides such violence has occurred, then the judge cannot grant sole or joint custody of the child to that person. Supervised visitation may be allowed, but custody cannot be granted to someone convicted of domestic violence.
A domestic violence conviction in Orange County could result in a minimum sentence of three years of probation and a 52-week mandatory batterer's program or anger management program. California courts are also required to issue a protective order to safeguard the accuser from violence or intimidation. Depending on the nature of the charges and the extent of the accuser's injuries, someone convicted of domestic violence charges may face jail or prison time and hefty fines as well.
Domestic violence crimes are treated as wobblers, meaning they can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony based on the circumstances of the case. Common crimes and penalties that are charged under domestic violence laws include:
Penal Code 243(e)(1) Misdemeanor Charge of Domestic Battery: $2,000 fine and/or up to one year in a county jail.
Penal Code 273.5 Felony Charge of Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Inhabitant: One year in county jail or up to four years in a California state prison.
Penal Code 273d Misdemeanor or Felony Charge of Child Abuse: $6,000 fine and/or up to one year in a county jail if convicted of a misdemeanor and a $6,000 fine and/or up to two, four, or six years in a California state prison if convicted of a felony.
If you have had a restraining order filed against you, there are ways to fight it, but you must do so in a legally responsible way that does not damage your case or lead to serious consequences. First, obey the instructions of the restraining order carefully and thoroughly. Even if this means moving out of your house and being away from your children for a time, you must obey the order. Failing to do this can have serious consequences, including fines and jail time.
The next thing you should do is contact an experienced California defense lawyer immediately. At the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, we have experience dealing with restraining orders and can help you understand your rights and how to move forward. You can file an answer to the order that explains your side of the story and better illustrates a situation. Finally, you absolutely must go to the court hearing indicated on the restraining order to discuss the situation in court. Failure to appear at court leaves yourself unrepresented and the judge can still rule on the case even if you are not there and provide no answer to the order.
In California, even if the victim of domestic violence drops the charges, they still do not go away. Once someone charges another person with domestic violence, and law enforcement becomes involved, then the state steps in. At that point, the charge is not only brought by the victim but also by the state of California itself. Should the accuser later decide to drop the charges, he or she may do so, but that has no impact on the state's case and California will typically continue with the charge.
In some cases, the alleged victim never even reported the incident to the police. A child, a family friend, or a neighbor could have witnessed one spouse striking the other and reported it to the police. Orange County police are required to investigate cases of suspected domestic violence and may arrest you even if the alleged victim claims you are innocent or refuses to testify.
Even in cases where the accuser tells prosecutors that he or she lied about the violence, the case will probably still go forward. In many instances of domestic violence, the victim will try to protect his or her abuser, so California law has taken control of prosecution largely out of the victim's hands. If you or someone you know has been accused of domestic violence, contact an experienced defense attorney immediately to represent and protect you.
According to the state of California, yes it can. Domestic violence in California, under Penal Code 13700, includes situations in which attempts at violence are made as well those in which the victim believed he or she was going to be physically injured. These types of assault cases are prosecuted just as seriously as those in which bruises or physical violence are plainly evident.
Unfortunately for some individuals accused of domestic violence, there is a great deal of interpretation regarding what is necessary for a person to believe he or she is going to be injured. During an argument, tempers can rise, and people may yell at each other and even break household items, but no physical injuries are caused by either person involved. Even so, one individual can accuse the other of making him or her feel threatened with violence and harm. In this type of situation, it is vital to have an experienced California defense lawyer to represent you and present your side of the story. Call the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to discuss your case today.
Defendants who believe they have been wrongly accused of domestic violence have the right under the law to fight the charges. Depending on the circumstances of your case, there may be several defenses your OC criminal defense lawyer can employ on your behalf, including:
- False allegations: During contentious divorces and child custody cases, one side may allege that he or she was abused in order to gain the upper hand on negotiations. However, to counter these claims, your attorney may look for inconsistencies in the accuser's version of the incident by comparing it to police reports and eyewitness accounts. In addition, bruises, cuts, and other signs of abuse may have been self-inflicted, and a skilled medical expert can demonstrate this.
- Accidental injuries: In addition to false allegations, sometimes a plaintiff may accidentally injure themselves during an argument, either by slipping and falling or even cutting themselves while chopping food. In the heat of the moment, he or she may accuse you of abuse. To counteract these claims, your attorney may demonstrate that the injuries were caused by an accident. If you attempted to help the plaintiff by getting them to a hospital, an argument could be made that there was no intention of injuring them and that you are innocent.
- Acts of consent: It is not oncoming for neighbors, housemates, or family members to contact the police when they overhear or witness an aggressive sexual act. These actions may be purely consensual and agreed upon by both parties, but the police may falsely arrest you. Your attorney may utilize the alleged victim’s testimony and other evidence of your consensual relationship to have the charges dropped.
- Self-defense: In some cases, the plaintiff may accuse you of domestic violence when he or she started a physical fight that led to your defending yourself. Your attorney can use your testimony and defense wounds on your body to demonstrate that you were only trying to protect yourself and subdue your attacker. Additionally, you may have been trying to protect your child, a family friend, and even a pet from your partner’s violent behavior. Self-defense can be employed so long as you believed there was an imminent threat and you only used sufficient force to prevent further injuries.
- Isolated incident: Many instances of domestic abuse involve repeat behavior and an attempt to hide the injuries. However, if this is an isolated incident brought on by stress, infidelity, or communication issues, the courts may consider a reduced sentence or dismissal.
Ultimately, proving that you are guilty of domestic violence comes down to the evidence and capabilities of the prosecution, which requires more than a “he-said she-said” case. Once you have secured an attorney, they can begin reviewing the details of the case and working towards a strong defense that results in a dismissal or reduced sentence.
If you have been accused of domestic violence, it is important that you get an experienced Orange County domestic violence defense attorney on your side. At the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, we work diligently to get the best possible outcome for our clients. We fight hard to protect your rights every step of the way. Call us at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999 to discuss your case.
Whether you're facing a felony or a misdemeanor, don't risk a conviction. Act quickly to redeem your reputation and protect your record by consulting with our Orange County criminal defense lawyer. Call today to schedule your free consultation.