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What Constitutes Domestic Violence in California?

In California, domestic violence is considered a criminal act involving harm or threats of harm against a protected person. A “protected person” is most often a spouse, cohabitant, the other parent of your child, or someone you are or were dating. In some cases, it can also include a child or relative. 

Common Domestic Violence Charges in California

Two common domestic violence charges in California include domestic battery and inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner.

Domestic Battery

Under California law, the term “domestic battery” refers to acts of force or violence perpetrated against an intimate partner. This could be pushing, shoving, kicking, hitting, or anything else that is considered force. For a defendant to be convicted of this charge, no physical injury to the alleged victim is required. 

Penalties: If you’re found guilty of domestic battery in California, the penalties can be far-reaching and severe. The offense is typically classified as a misdemeanor and could result in up to one year in jail, probation, fines, and/or domestic abuse classes. If the battery resulted in serious bodily injury, the crime could be charged as a felony carrying up to four years in prison.

Inflicting Corporal Injury on an Intimate Partner

Corporal injury to a spouse is defined as willfully causing physical harm to an intimate partner that results in a traumatic condition. In other words, there must be a physical injury to the alleged victim for you to be convicted of this crime. 

Examples of inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner include punching someone and giving them a black eye, grabbing someone hard enough to leave a bruise, or pushing someone who falls and hits their head on the ground, causing them to bleed. 

Penalties: Infliction of corporal injury to a spouse in California is considered a “wobbler” offense. This refers to crimes that prosecutors have the discretion to file as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on factors such as the severity of injuries inflicted and your criminal history.

If convicted of this crime as a misdemeanor, you may face up to one year in county jail and/or a fine not exceeding $6,000. If charged as a felony, you can be sentenced to up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000. 

Subsequent offenses within seven years will lead to harsher penalties, regardless of whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. 

Defenses To Domestic Violence Charges in California

Facing charges related to domestic violence can be a scary prospect, but you have the right to present a legal defense. Some of the most common include the following: 


Self-defense is a legal justification you can use to argue that any force you employed was strictly for the protection of yourself during an immediate threat.

To successfully rely on self-defense as your argument, you need to prove three main points:

  1. There was an imminent threat of physical injury, or you suffered actual physical harm from the alleged victim; 
  2. You believed that immediate use of force was necessary to prevent injury; and
  3. The amount and type of force you used in response was reasonable, given the circumstances.

For example, your partner raises their fist, signaling intent to harm or strike you, and says they’re going to kill you. In response to this imminent threat, you push them away. They trip and fall, hitting their head on the ground. You may have a valid self-defense claim.

False Accusations

Unfortunately, false allegations of domestic violence occur in situations like custody battles or relationship disputes. If this is your situation, it will require establishing that the claims against you lack credibility.

To refute false allegations, it’s essential to collect and present evidence that contradicts these untrue statements. Such evidence may include contradictory statements from the accuser, absence of physical injury supporting their allegations, or witness testimony from others who can corroborate that the incident didn’t occur the way the accuser is claiming. 

Insufficient Evidence

The burden of proof lies with prosecutors to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Your lawyer can work to poke holes in the prosecution’s case to raise doubt in the judge or jury’s mind.

Pointing out inconsistencies or discrepancies in the alleged victim’s statements is one common way to do this.

Contact a Redwood City Domestic Violence Attorney for Help Fighting Criminal Charges

Confronting domestic violence charges can be an overwhelming experience, especially when the accusations feel unjust. However, remember that being arrested does not equate guilt. You have rights and options at your disposal. For help, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a domestic violence defense lawyer.

For more information please contact our domestic violence law firm of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys at the nearest location for a free consultation.

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – San Jose Office
1625 The Alameda, Suite 405, San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 217-8818

Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys – Redwood City Office
600 Allerton St Suite 201G, Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 299-0500

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