What Happens if You’re Charged with Felony Domestic Violence in California?

domestic violence felony california

Being accused of felony domestic violence can feel like a nightmare – but for the accused in California, it’s a harsh reality that must be faced head-on.

As experienced domestic violence attorneys, we’ve seen many good people struggle under the weight of these life-changing allegations.

While domestic violence accusations must always be taken seriously, not every claim is true. That’s why having an advocate in your corner from the very start is crucial when facing California’s complex justice system.

Understanding the Seriousness of a Felony DV Charge

Felony domestic violence in California is defined by Penal Code Section 273.5 as willfully inflicting corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a spouse, cohabitant, or anyone you have a close relationship with. Unlike lesser domestic violence charges, felony domestic battery involves serious bodily injuries like wounds, broken bones, burns, or loss of consciousness.

The prosecutor has wide discretion when deciding to charge felony domestic violence. Aggravating factors like using a weapon, having a criminal record, violating a restraining order, or committing the act in front of children make it more likely you’ll face a felony charge rather than a misdemeanor.

Once charged with a felony, you’re looking at:

  • Years in state prison instead of county jail time
  • Long-term probation lasting up to 5 years
  • Large fines up to $6,000
  • Permanently barred from owning firearms
  • Ordered into mandatory counseling programs

This is just the beginning. The impact spreads, limiting housing options, professional licenses, and job prospects well into the future. A felony domestic violence conviction brings collateral consequences that turn your life upside down.

The Arrest

In most cases, the police will arrest the suspected aggressor on the spot once a felony domestic violence accusation has been made.

With emotions running high, snap judgments get made. Details about what truly happened often remain unclear.

Yet you’ll still end up handcuffed, photographed, and fingerprinted down at the precinct despite your innocence.

It’s a traumatic experience we never want our clients to face alone. Having an advocate present during questioning can make all the difference.

After booking, bail will be set – commonly between $50,000 to $100,000 for felony domestic violence charges. The court views these accusations as posing a community safety risk, hence the high bail amount.

While monetary bail is not required in California, you must be proactive about compiling evidence showing you’re not a flight risk and do not pose a danger if released pre-trial. The last place anyone wants to await trial is behind bars.

Know Your Options Before Accepting a Plea Deal

Soon after the arrest, the prosecution will offer a plea bargain to efficiently resolve the case.

This involves pleading guilty in exchange for reduced charges or a lighter recommended sentence. It’s tempting to accept the deal just to end the nightmare.

But we caution clients not to accept anything without fully understanding the long-term consequences. Once you plead guilty, there’s no going back.

As your counsel, we’ll pursue every effort to get charges dropped or dismissed pre-trial. Thorough investigation and advocacy early on can put you in a better bargaining position if pleading is advisable.

The prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt – a high bar with the right defense.

Sentencing If Convicted at Trial

Domestic violence trials often boil down to “he said, she said.” The accuser’s word is hard to refute without unbiased eyewitnesses or solid evidence.

If convicted, you face 2, 3, or 4 years in California state prison. Probation lasting up to 5 years may be offered instead for first-time offenses or extenuating circumstances.

Counseling or treatment programs focusing on anger management are typically mandatory when probation is granted. The goal is rehabilitation, but costs quickly add up.

Fines between $1,000 to $6,000 are assessed upon conviction. If unable to pay, alternatives like community service may satisfy the court’s imposed financial penalties.

Finally, restraining orders will be issued, restricting all contact with the accuser. Violating the order leads to additional charges.

Collateral Impacts Spread Across Your Life

Beyond the direct sentencing, a felony domestic violence conviction detrimentally impacts nearly every area of life.

If you hold a professional license, it will be suspended or revoked. Finding a new job becomes exponentially harder as employers shy away from convicted felons. Rental applications get denied once background checks show a violent offense.

Gun ownership is prohibited for ten years under federal law. In California, it’s a lifetime ban.

Years on probation mean complying with monthly, even weekly check-ins, drug testing, and restrictions on everything from where you can go to what time you must stay home. Violating any condition means jail time. It’s like living life on a tightrope.

An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Make All the Difference

The risk of harsh punishment is real if convicted of DV, even if the accusations aren’t true.

Having a trusted advocate in your corner every step of the way makes all the difference. The stakes are simply too high to go at it alone.

A domestic violence defense attorney understands how to investigate the claims, interview witnesses, and negotiate firmly to get charges reduced or dismissed pre-trial. We know which defenses resonate best with judges and juries in these emotionally charged cases.

And if trial becomes unavoidable, we’ve budgeted the costs and built the defense strategy necessary to win. Our sole focus is helping clients regain their freedom, family, and future.

Don’t wait to seek counsel if you or a loved one is facing felony domestic violence charges. Reach out in confidence today to discuss your best path forward. This marks the beginning of putting the nightmare behind you for good. Contact Kolacia Law 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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