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Understanding the Legal Definition of Domestic Violence in California


Domestic violence is a national epidemic that harms countless men and women across the United States each year. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such an injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.” Victims of domestic violence in California can apply for emergency protective orders and restraining orders in both criminal and civil court. However, before you take legal action, it’s important to first understand California’s definition of “domestic violence.”

Defining Domestic Abuse

California’s domestic violence laws are intended to protect people from experiencing abuse in familial or romantic relationships. For the purpose of getting a protective order, the California Penal Code identifies domestic violence as when a current or former romantic partner – such as a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend, family member, cohabitant, or coparent causes you or your children physical, mental, or sexual harm.

The state recognizes the following actions and behaviors as “domestic violence”:

  • Causes or attempts to cause you physical injury
  • Sexually assaults you or attempt to sexually assault you
  • Threatens you or the people you love with physical violence
  • Attacks, batters, molests, or stalks you
  • Destroys your personal property or disturbs your peace
  • Harasses you in person or through alternative communication methods

As such, domestic violence encompasses misdemeanor and felony offenses such as domestic battery (California Penal Code Section 243(e)(1), inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner (California Penal Code Section 273.5), and child abuse (California Penal Code Section 273(d).

The California Penal Code

A prosecutor considers many factors before determining if a defendant should be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. For instance, the prosecutor needs to evaluate the severity of a victim’s injuries, the circumstances surrounding the relationship, and the defendant’s past criminal and domestic violence history.

Applying for a Restraining Order

Identifying the signs and dynamics that are commonly associated with domestic violence and abuse can only be the first step in escaping a dangerous situation. If your safety or the lives of your children are in jeopardy, it’s important to contact a qualified attorney immediately. At the Arnold Law Group, APC, we can help you apply for emergency protective orders as well as temporary or permanent restraining orders.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation Today

Contact the trial-tested Fresno domestic violence lawyers at Arnold Law Group, APC if you need to secure legal protections against a dangerous party. We can help you compile essential evidence and prepare a strong case strategy that can be presented to the court. We can stand by your side through each step of this harrowing experience. With our help, you can obtain the protection you need to safeguard your life.

Contact Arnold Law Group, APC at (559) 900-1263 to schedule a consultation.

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