Can I Get a Domestic Violence Charge Dropped in California?

domestic violence charges dropped

Being arrested and charged with domestic violence can feel like a nightmare. Even if you believe the allegations aren’t true, facing criminal prosecution is scary. Naturally, you want to know what options you have. Can you possibly get the charges against you dropped?

The short answer is yes; it is sometimes possible to get domestic violence charges dismissed in California. But it depends on the circumstances of your case.

Let’s walk through how a typical domestic violence case proceeds in California and when you may have a chance at dropped charges. As an experienced criminal defense firm, we’ve helped many clients facing domestic violence allegations explore their options. There are steps you can take to increase the odds of dismissed charges.

How Domestic Violence Cases Move Forward in California

If you’ve been arrested for domestic violence, the police report their findings to the District Attorney’s office. A prosecutor then reviews the evidence and decides whether or not to file charges against you.

California domestic violence law defines abuse as intentionally or recklessly causing bodily injury to a partner, spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or other family member. Common charges include:

  • Penal Code §273.5 – Corporal injury on a spouse, cohabitant, fiancé/fiancée, etc.
  • Penal Code §243(e) – Domestic battery
  • Penal Code §245 – Assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury

These charges can lead to years in prison. Naturally, you want to avoid conviction if at all possible.

Once filed, your charges will either go to trial, get dismissed, or you’ll take a plea bargain. Let’s look at each of those paths more closely.

Taking Your Case to Trial

Some people want to fight their domestic violence charges at trial. This option makes sense if:

  • You have strong evidence of innocence
  • The prosecution’s case is weak
  • You’re unwilling to take a plea deal

Trials allow you to challenge the allegations and require prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can evaluate your case and advise if trial is a wise choice.

Seeking a Plea Bargain

Many domestic violence cases end with plea bargains. This involves pleading guilty, but to a less serious charge to avoid harsher penalties.

For example, pleading to disorderly conduct rather than domestic battery. While you avoid the worst outcomes, plea bargains still lead to a conviction on your record.

Pretrial Diversion Programs

Some California counties offer pretrial diversion for qualifying first-time domestic violence offenders. These programs allow you to avoid prosecution by completing:

  • Domestic violence counseling
  • Anger management classes
  • Community service

Once completed, the charges are dropped. However, any repeat offenses disqualify you from this diversion option.

Scenarios Where Charges May Get Dropped

While every case is different, some common themes arise in our experience where charges get dismissed.

Insufficient Evidence

A thorough investigation by your defense attorney may reveal holes in the prosecution’s case. If they lack strong evidence to prove your guilt, we can file a motion highlighting that weakness. Judges may agree to drop charges when the case seems unlikely to lead to conviction at trial.

Example: The accuser recants their statement or stops cooperating. With no victim testimony, the case falls apart.

False Accusations

Unfortunately, false domestic violence allegations do happen during bitter breakups, divorce disputes over child custody, and other situations. Skilled domestic violence attorneys know how to build a defense highlighting the ulterior motives behind false claims.

Example: Your ex-girlfriend files a report, but text messages reveal her admitting to lying to gain leverage in a custody battle.


Police make split-second arrest decisions without hearing the full story. If you have evidence you acted in self-defense, charges can potentially get dismissed.

Example: Witnesses back up that you only pushed your brother away as he was hitting you, and it was him who started the fight.

Mental Health Issues

In certain cases, mental illness may have contributed to the alleged incident. We’ve seen charges dropped when treatment and counseling address underlying conditions.

Example: An emotional breakdown related to PTSD led to an isolated outburst, but ongoing therapy shows you managing the condition.

How to Increase Your Odds of Dropped Charges

While dismissal is never guaranteed, certain steps improve your chances:

1. Don’t delay. Immediately call a top domestic violence attorney who routinely gets charges reduced or dismissed. Acting quickly helps build your defense.
2. Gather favorable evidence. Texts, voicemails, photos, injury records, and witness statements are all crucial.
3. Stay out of trouble. Avoid any police contact while your case proceeds. Even minor run-ins can hurt your case.
4. Comply with court orders. Fully participate in counseling, classes, treatment programs, or other court directives. Judges notice compliance.
5. Highlight mitigating factors. If mental illness, self-defense, or false accusations played a role, be vocal about those circumstances.
6. Explore plea bargains. Pleading to a lesser offense often works better than outright dismissal. It guarantees closure.
7. Don’t give up hope. Even tough cases can turn around with an aggressive legal strategy. The justice system aims to reach fair outcomes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Domestic Violence Charges

What are the penalties for domestic violence in California?

In California, domestic violence penalties vary depending on the specific charges, but can include any of the following:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail for misdemeanor domestic battery
  • 2 to 4 years in state prison for felony domestic battery charges
  • Up to $6,000 in fines
  • Mandatory counseling or batterer’s treatment programs
  • Restraining orders prohibiting contact with the victim

Will a domestic violence charge show up on my record?

Yes, if you are convicted of domestic violence in California, it will show up as a misdemeanor or felony on your criminal record. Domestic violence convictions cannot be expunged. However, if your charges are dismissed after successfully completing a diversion program, it may not appear.

What are my options for fighting domestic violence charges?

Common legal strategies for fighting domestic charges include:

  • Contesting the evidence and weakening the prosecution’s case
  • Seeking dismissal by highlighting weaknesses and insufficient evidence
  • Pursuing plea bargains to lesser charges like disorderly conduct
  • Using justifiable self-defense arguments with supporting evidence
  • Leveraging mitigating factors like mental illness or false accusations

Don’t Face These Charges Alone – Let Our Experienced Attorneys Fight For You

If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, everything feels uncertain and overwhelming. You’re likely scared about what penalties you may face and how this will impact your future. But you don’t have to go through this alone. The skilled criminal defense attorneys at Kolacia Law have successfully defended clients against domestic violence allegations for over 15 years.

We know how to build a strong case on your behalf and give you the best chance at reduced or dismissed charges. Don’t leave the outcome to chance – contact us for a free case evaluation. Our team can carefully assess your situation and advise you on the smartest legal strategies. With an aggressive defense, we can protect your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to discuss your options.

Author Bio

Daniel Kolacia is the CEO and Managing Partner of Kolacia Law Firm, a Rancho Cucamonga, CA, criminal defense law firm. As a former prosecutor with more than 15 years of experience in criminal defense, he is knowledgeable about both sides of the courtroom, an advantage he uses to help defend his clients. He has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including white-collar crimes, misdemeanors, felonies, traffic cases, and other criminal charges.

Daniel received his Juris Doctor from the Southwestern University School of Law and is a member of the California Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work and has worked on several high-profile cases featured on Dateline, CNBC, Los Angeles Times, and various local publications.

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