Allegations of domestic violence or abuse can affect your personal and professional life for many years. In the state of California, such charges are taken very seriously and usually prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Individuals facing these types of charges need to have an experienced defense attorney to help them through this process and ensure that they are not branded for life as violent criminals.
What Constitutes Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behavior in a relationship where the use of or threat of force is used as a way of maintaining control over an intimate partner. The law in California defines such violence or abuse as the intentional or reckless cause or attempt to cause bodily harm or sexual assault to a domestic partner.
It also allows for the fear of imminent bodily injury to be classified as abuse.
A domestic partner refers to anyone that you have or have had an intimate relationship with or that you co-habitat with such as a roommate.
Misdemeanor Versus Felony Domestic Violence Charges
In California, these offenses are often treated as wobblers where the prosecutor has discretion as to whether or not to file misdemeanor or felony charges. In making such a call, the judge will consider a number of things:
- The extent of injury to the victim
- If there was a weapon involved
- If drugs or alcohol were involved
- If an existing restraining order was violated
- The defendants prior criminal history, especially in regards to violence and/or abuse
- Did the defendant violate his terms of probation or parole
Penalties and Record Info for a Conviction
The penalties related to relationship abuse are similar in almost all aspects except for the extent of time incarcerated and whether you will be in jail or prison. These penalties could include:
- Mandatory counseling
- Community service
- Fines of up to ten thousand dollars
- A restraining or no contact order with the victim
- Jail time
For a misdemeanor conviction, the prison sentence will not be longer than a year in county jail, as opposed to anywhere from two to five years in state prison for a felony conviction. While the consequences of a misdemeanor conviction are bad, the ones for a felony can be devastating to your future.
A defense attorney can work with the prosecutor and offer compelling evidence as to why an individual should be charged with the misdemeanor offense.
So just how long till a felony is off your record? Many online records for a person’s conviction have the potential to be available until the defendant obtains an expungement.
A felony conviction counts as a strike against the defendant under California’s three strike law. In addition to the increased prison time and strike, the defendant will most likely also lose the ability to have his charge expunged if he is charged with the felony.
Expungement Options You Should Consider
When a conviction is expunged, a plea of guilty or no contest is removed and a new plea of not guilty is recorded. The California justice system can dismiss a misdemeanor domestic violence charge if the defendant finishes the terms of his or her probation early, meets all necessary requirements, files all necessary documentation with the court, and convinces the court that it is in the best interest of everyone involved.
If the defendant is serving a sentence for another offense, including probation, this could serve as an obstacle towards having the charge expunged.
How Does Having My Charges Expunged Help Me?
Having a criminal history of any kind can be a barrier towards productive employment and housing. If the charges are expunged, the defendant is under no obligation to disclose any information about the case unless he or she plans on running for public office whereas a felony conviction will show up on a background check.
An individual seeking to put the matter behind him or her and start a fresh life would have a better chance at doing that if the charge were erased from his or her record.
Although defined as such, not every instance of abuse is indicative of a pattern of behavior. There are many instances where one event or action leads to an offense. In California, the law is that once filed, those charges cannot be dropped regardless of what the victim desires.
This leads to many defendants being branded as violent solely based on one turn of events.
Keeping Your Record Clean
The best way to keep your record clean is to avoid a conviction. That can be accomplished by:
- persuading the prosecutor to dismiss the charge;
- convincing the judge that the law requires the charge to be dismissed;
- obtaining favorable rulings on motions that force the prosecutor to dismiss the charge;
- entering into a deferred prosecution agreement; or
- winning a “not guilty” verdict at trial.
Representation by a skilled and experienced domestic violence defense attorney maximizes the opportunity to obtain one of those outcomes.
If a conviction has been entered, an expungement is the next best option to clean up a record. A California expungement does not necessarily make the fact of the conviction “go away,” since private companies keep records of convictions and sell those records to interested parties.
In addition, expunged convictions must be disclosed for certain purposes, including most applications for professional licensing. However, an expunged conviction cannot usually be used against job applicants in private employment.
As our expungement section explains, not all convictions will necessarily be expunged. When a conviction is eligible for expungement, the chances of obtaining one are better when the accused is represented by an experienced domestic violence defense attorney who is familiar with the judges and prosecutors who will be handling the case.
How Our Defense Attorneys Can Help
Having a clean criminal record begins by choosing to take the necessary steps. The Law Offices of Randy Collins will always provide an honest assessment of criminal charges and of the possibility of avoiding or expunging a conviction.
If you have an a new domestic violence charge or an old conviction that you’re dying to avoid or get rid of, we’re here to help. We’ll talk to you about your case and give our honest professional opinion as to what you can do to put your alleged offense behind you.