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First Offense Domestic Violence

First Domestic Violence Arrest in Los Angeles

A domestic violence (DV) offense is one of the most common types of prosecuted crimes in Los Angeles criminal courts. The district attorney (prosecutor) takes an aggressive approach against alleged perpetrators of domestic violence when there is credible evidence.

Most people who are arrested for domestic violence have no prior criminal record. When police respond to a 911 domestic violence call, they do not have much discretion on whether or not to make an arrest. In other words, any call to police with allegations of domestic violence with credible evidence will usually result in an arrest.

First Domestic Violence Arrest in Los Angeles
Most first-offense domestic violence arrest in Los Angeles will not include any jail time.

When police respond to a DV call and arrive at the scene, they will take statements from both parties and look for any visible injuries. They will attempt to determine who the primary aggressor is.

Notably, it's not uncommon for both parties to be arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Next, the arrestee is transported to jail and might have to post bail to get released, even with no criminal record. After posting bond, they will receive a court date for their arraignment.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm has represented many people who called 911 about domestic violence only to find themselves arrested after police arrived.

Often, neither party involved in the DV incident wants the other person arrested or prosecuted, but police are typically legally obligated to make an arrest.

For someone who is a first-time arrestee accused of domestic violence, the process is intimidating. There are some standard charges related to first-time domestic violence cases and some likely legal consequences.

How Does the DA Determine What Charges to File?

Notably, a major distinguishing factor in domestic violence prosecutions by the DA's office is whether or not the alleged victim suffered any bodily injury.

A minor injury that results in a visible mark can sometimes result in a felony domestic violence prosecution under California Penal Code 273.5 PC, known as corporal injury to a spouse. PC 273.5 is a "wobbler" under California law, meaning it can be prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor. Consider the following:

  • Defendants convicted of PC 273.5 felony domestic violence potentially face state prison time.
  • If prosecuted as a misdemeanor, a conviction for Penal Code 273.5 carries only county jail time, not state prison.

In DV cases where no visible marks were left on the body of the alleged victim, the more common criminal law that the district attorney uses is Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC domestic battery, which is always a misdemeanor crime.

A PC 243(e)(1) prosecution does not require injuries; instead, any "offensive" touching, meaning a non-consensual, non-privileged touching, no matter how brief or how minor, is sufficient to justify a misdemeanor prosecution. Other standard first-offense domestic violence charges are:

  • Elder abuse is defined under California Penal Code 368 as the physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of someone 65 years of age or older. This crime can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony (wobbler) and is punishable by up to four years in jail.
  • Child endangerment is defined under Penal Code 273(a) as willfully exposing a child to unjustifiable pain, suffering, or danger.

What are the Penalties for First-Offense Domestic Violence?

In most cases of first-offense domestic violence prosecutions in Los Angeles, the sentence will not include any significant jail time unless substantial injuries were inflicted on the victim. The typical penalties include the following:

  • In a routine minor case, probation will often be imposed.
  • The court will impose a 52-week domestic violence counseling course.
  • A special $500 fine that applies only to domestic violence cases.
  • Other conditions that are designed to address the underlying domestic violence issue with the defendant.
  • The judge may also order substance abuse counseling and anger management classes, community service, or some jail time.
  • You will be prohibited from owning, possessing, or having any custody or control of a firearm.

While on probation for a domestic violence conviction, you must attend all the ordered classes, keep all counseling appointments, and complete them on time.

What About a Protective Order?

In most domestic violence prosecutions, the judge will issue a criminal protective order that is often a shock to first-time arrestees who considered the incident that led to their arrest as a simple misunderstanding.

Domestic Violence Protective Order
In most domestic violence cases, the judge will issue a criminal protective order.

Suppose the alleged victim does not want the protective order. Still, courts will routinely issue a full no-contact stay-away order to domestic violence defendants appearing at the first court date (arraignment).

The hardship imposed by a protective order is often substantial. If the parties live together, the defendant is forced to move out and find new housing. If they have children together, the protective order can be a temporary loss of parental rights.

Sometimes, the defendant's rights to continue maintaining a relationship with their children are considered. In a lesser form of protective order, known as a "peaceful contact," the judge might issue a criminal protective order.

Suppose family or dependency court litigation is already pending between the parties. In that case, the criminal court might decide to have the protective order follow any other valid orders issued by the civil court.

This is based on the assumption that the family or dependency proceedings will result in an appropriate arrangement involving child custody, visitation, and peaceful exchange of the child.

How Can A Domestic Violence Lawyer Help You?

Before the O.J. Simpson murder trial back in the 1990s, there was a widespread perception that police were not taking domestic violence incidents that resulted in minor or no injuries seriously enough and that they were letting domestic abusers get off with a warning.

Today, it's clear that law enforcement and prosecutors handle domestic violence cases quite differently. Domestic violence cases are treated extremely seriously by the courts, prosecuting agencies, and law enforcement agencies.

If you or a family member is under investigation or was arrested for domestic violence, contact our experienced Los Angeles domestic violence defense lawyers to review the case details and legal options.

Through a process known as prefiling intervention, we might be able to persuade the district attorney not to file formal criminal charges before the case proceeds to court, especially if you are a first-time domestic violence offender. Contact us for a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, CA.

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