Important California Laws To Know – Abuse and Domestic Violence
This week will feature a look at important California laws related and applicable to acts, conduct, and events that present an ever-growing problem for society. Some laws are especially relevant in 2020 when digital technology and social media have become entrenched in everyday life.
In preparing for a career as a lawyer, law students may consider a career in family law. Family law involves issues related to children such as child support, child custody, and visitation. These issues are usually related to divorce and separation. Another aspect of dealing with families and people in intimate relationships is the body of law associated with the abuse of intimate partners and family members otherwise known as domestic violence.
California’s public policy promotes the protection of family members and people in close relationships. California law thus distinctively criminalizes the abuse of current or former spouses, live-in partners, co-parents of children, and former partners with whom the accused has had an intimate relationship.
First, knowing what constitutes “abuse” and “domestic violence” Under California law is important.
California Penal Code § 13700 defines both as follows:
(a) “Abuse” 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.
(b) “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.
This section of the California Penal Code describes a cohabitant as one of two unrelated adult persons living together for a substantial period of time, resulting in some permanency of relationship. Factors that may determine whether persons will be considered “cohabitants” for purposes of this code section include, but are not limited to, (1) sexual relations between the parties while sharing the same living quarters, (2) sharing of income or expenses, (3) joint use or ownership of property, (4) whether the parties hold themselves out as spouses, (5) the continuity of the relationship, and (6) the length of the relationship.
California law also criminalizes exerting or threatening force on blood relatives to two degrees or relatives by marriage. As a result, abusive conduct against brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, brothers-in-law, step-children, nieces, and nephews is criminalized in California.
Most of the common domestic violence crimes in California are wobbler offenses, which means that the crime may be charged by the prosecution either as a misdemeanor or a felony. How is domestic violence crime is charged depends on the circumstances of the offense, the seriousness of the victim’s injuries, and the defendant’s prior criminal record.
It is not uncommon for intimate partners to have disagreements and arguments. Whether these interactions amount to abuse as defined by California law and therefore, criminal conduct, depends on the circumstances of the event. Domestic violence crimes typically include abuse, battery, threats, neglect, and intimidation.
The path to becoming an effective attorney-advocate for those harmed by and wrongly accused of domestic violence leads to the California Desert Trial Academy. The distance learning program offered by the California Desert Trial Academy College of Law is tailor-made to meet the needs and demands of students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.