Domestic Violence

We Are Here to Serve You from Bail Hearing to Jury Trial

Escondido Domestic Violence Lawyer

Defending clients from domestic violence charges in Carlsbad, Oceanside, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, San Marcos, and Vista

Someone can be charged with domestic violence when they harm or threaten to harm an intimate partner or another qualifying person. Though many people associate domestic violence with a person striking their spouse or partner, criminal law in this area covers a much wider range of scenarios. 

A single domestic violence conviction will radically transform a person’s life. In addition to mandatory jail time, a convicted person will often be subject to a restraining order and lose child custody and firearm rights. A convicted person will also have a permanent criminal record, which may make it difficult for them to secure housing or professional opportunities. 

No one should face domestic violence charges alone. If you are arrested for and charged with a domestic violence offense, immediately get in touch with our team at Sterger Law Group. Our experienced Escondido domestic violence lawyer will take the time to listen to your story and provide the personalized defense representation needed to protect your rights, freedom, and future. Our firm recognizes what is at stake and will do everything we can to secure a just, favorable outcome.

Have you been accused or arrested for domestic violence? Call Sterger Law Group today at  (760) 280-7900 or contact us online to discuss your defense options with our domestic violence attorneys in Escondido. We offer flexible payment options and offer our legal services in English and Spanish.

Domestic Violence in California

California law considers a violent act (or a threat of violence) “domestic violence” when the perpetrator harms (or threatens to harm) an “intimate partner.” Domestic violence, sometimes called “intimate partner violence,” can occur between members of the same sex: The sexual orientations and gender identities of the perpetrator and victim do not matter under the law. Other types of criminal acts, including child abuse and elder abuse, are also considered acts of “domestic violence” even though they do not involve domestic battery or corporal injury to an intimate partner. 

Who Is Considered as an Intimate Partner?

The following parties are considered “intimate partners” for purposes of California criminal proceedings:

  • A spouse or ex-spouse
  • A romantic partner or ex-romantic partner
  • A sexual partner or ex-sexual partner
  • A person the defendant has (or had) a child with
  • A romantic cohabitant or ex-romantic cohabitant
  • A fiancé or ex-fiancé

It should be noted that, beyond matters of criminal law, the California Family Code has an expanded definition of who can be considered a victim of domestic violence. Though criminal charges may not be pursued, a perpetrator can lose custody rights and face other consequences if they harm or threaten to harm someone included on the Family Code’s list.

A California family law judge may limit or revoke custody rights if a perpetrator harms an intimate partner described above or any of the following parties:

  • The defendant’s child
  • A sibling (including half-siblings and stepsiblings)
  • A grandparent
  • A grandchild
  • An aunt or uncle
  • A nephew or niece

Penalties for Domestic Violence Crimes in California

In California, the term “domestic violence” covers a variety of offenses, and not all of them necessarily involve physical harm. Someone can be charged with a domestic violence crime even if they never make physical contact with the alleged victim. 

Some offenses will be charged as misdemeanors, while more serious acts of harm will be considered felonies. Many domestic violence crimes are considered “wobbler” offenses, meaning the prosecution has discretion in deciding whether to pursue misdemeanor or felony charges. In making their decision, the prosecution will consider the specifics of what happened, the extent of the alleged victim’s injuries, and the alleged perpetrator’s criminal history. If you have been accused of committing a wobbler offense, our domestic violence attorneys in Escondido at Sterger Law Group will work to secure a lesser charge. 

Domestic Violence Cases We Handle

Our Escondido domestic violence attorney can assist you with many types of charges, including:

  • Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Inhabitant. This crime occurs when someone’s conduct results in the victim sustaining any level of physical injury, even if that injury is minor. This offense is considered a felony and can result in up to four years of prison time.
  • Domestic Battery. Domestic battery, a wobbler offense, takes place when someone perpetrates any level of force or violence on an intimate partner. A person can face these charges even if there are no visible injuries as a result of their alleged conduct. Punishments may include up to $2,000 in fines and up to a year of jail time if charged as a misdemeanor.
  • Criminal Threats. Threatening to seriously harm another person can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges, even if no act of violence actually occurs. Punishments for a misdemeanor include up to one year in jail, while penalties for a felony conviction include up to four years of prison time. 
  • Stalking. Someone violates California’s stalking law if they harass or threaten a person to the point where they reasonably fear for their and/or their family’s safety. Whether this charge is pursued as a misdemeanor or felony will depend on the alleged perpetrator’s criminal history. A felony conviction can result in up to three years of prison time. 
  • Revenge Porn. It is illegal to publish sexual images of another person (such as an ex-romantic partner) without their content with the aim of causing emotional distress. This misdemeanor offense can lead to up to a year of jail time.   
  • Posting Harmful Information on the Internet. It is also a criminal act to deliberately attempt to cause someone emotional distress by publishing or disseminating harmful information about them. This offense is a misdemeanor. Punishments include up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year of jail time. 
  • Child Abuse. With the exception of “reasonable” spanking, inflicting corporal punishment on a child is illegal in California. A person can face these charges if they perpetrate any level of punishment that causes physical injury or could be considered cruel. Penalties may include up to three years of prison time.
  • Child Endangerment. A person commits child endangerment if they deliberately put a child in their care in a situation where the child is in danger or actively suffers harm. This offense is a wobbler if the child is at risk of sustaining severe injuries. A misdemeanor conviction can result in up to six months of jail time.
  • Child Neglect. A parent can face these charges if they do not adequately provide their minor child with essential necessities, including food, water, and shelter. Child neglect is typically charged as a misdemeanor. Punishments include up to $2,000 in fines and up to a year of jail time.
  • Elder Abuse. Someone can be charged with elder abuse if they deliberately harm a victim that is 65 years of age or older. The harm may take the form of physical or emotional abuse, financial fraud, neglect, or willful endangerment. Elder abuse is a wobbler offense. A misdemeanor conviction can lead to up to a year of jail time, while a felony conviction can result in up to four years in prison.  

Common Mistakes in Handling Domestic Violence Charges

When facing domestic violence charges, individuals often make critical errors that can adversely affect their case. Understanding these common mistakes is key to avoiding further complications.

  • Ignoring the Charges: Some might believe that if they did nothing wrong, the charges will simply go away. However, ignoring legal proceedings or failing to take action can result in severe consequences, including default judgments or arrest warrants.
  • Violating Restraining Orders: A common misstep is violating the terms of a restraining order, even accidentally. Contacting the alleged victim, even through a third party, can lead to additional charges and harm one's defense.
  • Speaking to Law Enforcement Without an Attorney: Attempting to "clear things up" with law enforcement without legal representation can lead to inadvertently providing incriminating information. It's crucial to have an attorney present during any discussions with the police.
  • Posting on Social Media: Social media posts can be used as evidence in court. Sharing information related to the case or expressing anger toward the legal system or the alleged victim can damage one's defense.
  • Underestimating the Impact of a Conviction: A domestic violence conviction can have lifelong repercussions including loss of employment opportunities, inability to possess firearms, and damage to reputation. It's important to take the charges seriously and seek proper legal counsel.
  • Not Gathering Evidence: Failing to compile relevant evidence such as texts, emails, or witness statements that support one's defense is a critical oversight. Such evidence can be pivotal in proving innocence or mitigating the circumstances.
  • Choosing the Wrong Attorney: Not all attorneys are experienced in handling domestic violence cases. Selecting a legal representative who lacks specialized knowledge in this area can hinder the chances of achieving a favorable outcome.

Avoiding these mistakes is vital for anyone facing domestic violence charges. With the stakes so high, it's essential to act prudently and seek experienced legal representation immediately.

Can The Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges in California? 

In California, the victim of domestic violence does not have the power to "drop" charges that have already been filed by the state. Once charges have been filed, it is up to the prosecutor to decide whether or not to pursue the case. The prosecutor will consider many factors when making this decision, including the severity of the alleged offense and the evidence available.

However, the victim can certainly express their wishes to the prosecutor and the court regarding the case. The prosecutor may take the victim's wishes into account when deciding whether or not to pursue the case, but ultimately, it is the prosecutor's decision.

It is also important to note that domestic violence cases can be very complex, and there may be other legal consequences, even if the victim does not want to press charges. For example, in California, law enforcement is required to make an arrest if there is probable cause to believe that domestic violence has occurred. Additionally, a restraining order may be issued to protect the victim, regardless of whether or not charges are filed.

Contact Sterger Law Group today to get started on your defense with our Escondido domestic violence lawyer.