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When Will a Domestic Violence Case Be Charged as a Felony?


The bottom line is, that any domestic violence case is serious, but if it’s charged as a felony you could be looking at up to six years in prison.  If there’s a great bodily injury allegation — meaning somebody was severely injured during the domestic violence incident — there’s an extra three year enhancement. Corporal injury to a spouse under California Penal Code 273.5 covers felony domestic violence charges.

So, that individual will be looking at nine years at 85% of the time.  So, that just gives you a feel for how serious some of these domestic violence cases are.

Level of Injuries on the Victim

When deciding whether a case is going to be filed as a felony or misdemeanor, the prosecutors are going to look at one big fact; and that is, what are the injuries?  Are they serious injuries?  Are they great bodily injuries?  Are there stitches?  Are there broken bones?Felony Domestic Violence Cases in California

If there are stitches or broken bones; if there’s a serious injury, the person is definitely going to be charged with a felony and be looking at prison time along with a host of other punishments.

If on the other hand, it’s not a very bad injury, it’s a first offense, the person will be looking at being charged with a Penal Code 243(e)(1) domestic battery misdemeanor and facing up to a year in the county jail and other potential punishments like a 52-week domestic violence course, three years’ probation and other things depending on what type of offense it was and what happened.

Prior Domestic Violence Conviction

There is another way that I’ve seen domestic violence cases filed as felonies and that’s if you have a prior conviction for a domestic violence case.  That would certain bode in favor of the prosecutors filing the case as a felony versus a misdemeanor.

However, that doesn’t mean they have to file it as a felony.  I’ve seen people getting convicted of misdemeanors and then picking up a new domestic violence case that was filed as a misdemeanor again.  So, it really depends on a number of different factors.

One big factor is, is it the same victim.  You keep hitting the same victim over and over again, obviously you’re going to be in a position where you’re looking at a felony charge.  Also, they’re going to look at the conduct.  What happened?  Was it dangerous?  Did you threaten the other person’s life?  Did you use a weapon?

Victim Can’t Drop Domestic Violence Charges

Everything is not what it seems in domestic violence cases.  Sometimes people will call me up and tell me, my significant other has decided they don’t want me prosecuted.  They’ve called the prosecutor.  They’ve called the police and they’ve told them they don’t want me prosecuted, so are the charges going to be dropped?  The answer is a very simple quick no.

The prosecutors don’t care what your significant other says after the fact.  They’re going to look at what they said at the time.  They’re going to look at what evidence they have.  If they’ve got pictures of injuries, witnesses who are saying you hit your significant other and your significant other saying you hit them, they’re going to file the case regardless of what you say.

Why? Because it’s not your significant other against you, it’s the People of the State of California against you and the People of the State of California have decided that they’re going to treat domestic violence cases very seriously, take away the offending party’s gun rights, put him on probation, send him to prison depending again, on what the circumstances of the case are.

Los Angeles Domestic Violence Lawyer

So, if you’re concerned about whether your case is going to be filed at the felony or a misdemeanor related to a domestic violence or spousal abuse charge, pick up the phone.  Let’s sit down and talk.  Let’s get to the nitty-gritty.  Let’s get to the bottom line.

Let’s see exactly what it’s going to take to either get a non-filing or get the case filed as a misdemeanor and not a felony.  That’s something we have to sit down and discuss. Contact a Los Angeles domestic violence attorney at our law firm to review the details of your case.

I’ve been down this road before.  I’ve defended thousands of people over the course of the last twenty-five years, know what factors matter, know what factors don’t matter and know what it takes to do damage control when it comes to a domestic violence case.

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About the Author

Named Top Los Angeles Criminal Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 criminal defense attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.