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What Qualifies as Domestic Violence In California?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Allegations of domestic violence are severe and can hold long-term consequences for those facing these accusations. When most people think of domestic violence, the first thing that comes to mind is spousal abuse, especially between a man and a woman; however, the spectrum of domestic violence can range from physical altercations to mental or emotional abuse, all ranging in severity and penalization. Classifying any specific action as domestic violence requires an understanding of the legal foundations of the charge, as well as what doesn’t count.

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence refers to abuse against an adult or a juvenile who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, or anyone with whom the suspect has had a child, is dating, engaged to be dating, or was a cohabitant. The three major areas of domestic violence that make up these charges typically include battery, making threats, abuse, and neglect of those in need of care, such as children or the elderly. The amount of crimes contained under the label of domestic violence is very wide, making the prosecution process quite complex.

Which Crimes are Considered Domestic Violence?

The charges that can be considered domestic violence vary greatly, but some of the most common include:

  • Inflicting Corporal Injury: any form of physical injury made by a partner or cohabitant, typically visible, which always results in a felony.
  • Domestic Battery: any form of physical injury, seen or unseen, committed against a partner or cohabitant, which can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor based on severity.
  • Child Abuse: inflicting any kind of corporal punishment or violence on a child that is purposely cruel or unusual and can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
  • Child Endangerment: any action that exposes a child to a harmful environment willingly, with no reward to the child’s safety, which is typically pursued as a misdemeanor but can be escalated to the felony level.
  • Child Neglect or Failure To Provide Care: purposefully or willfully being unable to care for a child properly by not providing necessities like food or housing, which is punishable as a misdemeanor.
  • Elder Abuse: any physical, emotional, or mental abuse inflicted on an elder, either through neglect, purposeful endangerment, or coercive behavior concerning important documents. Elder abuse can be pursued as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the extent of the abuse.
  • Criminal Or Terroristic Threats: any written or verbal threats of violence on another’s safety and well-being, which can be punished at either the misdemeanor or felony level.
  • Stalking: harassing or following and keeping tabs on a person that causes them to fear for their safety. Depending on the extent of the interactions, stalking can be punishable as a misdemeanor or felony.
  • Revenge Porn: considered “cyber harassment,” revenge porn consists of distributing any sexually explicit photos or videos of an individual to deliberately harm or cause them distress, which is punishable on the misdemeanor level.

Domestic violence contains a wide array of crimes, and each has a specific sentencing guideline for the crimes committed. Those prosecutable at the felony and misdemeanor levels are considered “wobblers,” which allows the prosecution to determine the appropriate level of escalation for the charges based on the facts of the case and the evidence brought to court.

Are False Accusations of Domestic Violence Common?

The subject and seriousness of domestic violence accusations may vary depending on the evidence presented by both parties and any modifications to the fundamental facts of the case, which can occasionally cause inconsistencies. This will depend on witness testimony, evidence gathered, and the skill of your legal team. The purpose of having a trial go to court is to sort out any accusations and crimes, as well as provide evidence to support these actions if need be. False accusations, although extremely rare, can happen, and being prepared to take these allegations on in court is the only way to avoid any wrongful charges.


Q: How does domestic violence work in California?

A: In California, the legal definition of domestic violence is any kind of violence committed against a significant other, family member, or cohabitant. This violence can range from physical altercations, verbal altercations, and sexual assault, which can lead to a restraining order or a civil harassment order, depending on the evidence of the case.

Q: What’s classed as domestic abuse?

A: In California, domestic abuse is categorized as any form of injury or harm, or injuries creating any long-lasting conditions and problems, committed against a spouse, child, dependent, or coresident, and it is punishable as a felony. Some of the crimes that fall under the category of domestic abuse include child abuse, child endangerment, elder abuse, making criminal threats, stalking, damaging a phone line, or aggravated trespassing, among others.

Q: Is domestic violence considered a felony in California?

A: Depending on the type of crime committed, as well as its effects, domestic violence can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. In cases of physical violence, which is any act that creates a lifelong condition in the victim, these crimes are always charged as felonies due to the lasting effects of the abuse.

Q: How long does domestic violence stay on your record in California?

A: Once five years have passed after your sentence was served, you can apply to have a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction cleared from your record. So, you would be eligible for expungement in 2027 if you were arrested in 2020, went to trial in 2021, and were released from jail in 2022. Felony convictions, however, are much harder to get removed from your record, and depending on the charge, it may make you ineligible for expungement.

Seeking Help with Domestic Violence Allegations

With allegations as serious as domestic violence, making sure to have a solid defense is the best way to avoid any unnecessary backlash or stigma from your case. Every person facing criminal charges deserves a fair trial, no matter the sentencing, and at the Exum Law Offices, our legal team is here to help you compile your case. For more information on our services, visit our website and contact us today.