Will I Go to Jail for a First Time Domestic Violence Charge in California?
Being arrested for domestic violence can be an incredibly stressful and uncertain experience. Common questions race through your mind—Will this go on my criminal record? Will I lose my job?And most worryingly—will I go to jail?
While jail time is possible even for first offenses, the truth is several factors influence whether incarceration will be part of your sentence.
There are steps an experienced criminal defense attorney can take to minimize the penalties and help you move forward.
Misdemeanor Domestic Battery Offenses
In California, domestic battery is when someone commits battery against a spouse, cohabitant, dating partner, ex-spouse, fiancé/e, or co-parent. It is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine. Probation requires completing a batterer’s treatment program for at least one year.
If granted probation, the court may also require:
- Payments up to $5,000 to a domestic violence shelter program
- Reimbursing the victim for counseling and other expenses related to the offense
The court determines the defendant’s ability to pay fines, shelter program fees, or victim restitution. These cannot impair their ability to pay child support or direct restitution to the victim.
Domestic battery is a serious offense in California, and it carries fines, jail time, counseling, restitution, and other consequences upon conviction.
Felony Domestic Violence Crimes
Felony domestic violence occurs when someone willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition on certain victims, including:
- Spouse or former spouse
- Cohabitant or former cohabitant
- Fiancé/e or former dating partner
- Parent of the offender’s child
This is punishable by 2-4 years in state prison, up to 1 year in county jail, a fine up to $6,000, or any combination of these.
Cohabitation does not require holding oneself out as spouses – simply living together is enough.
“Traumatic condition” means a wound or injury, either minor or serious, caused by physical force. This includes internal or external injuries and injuries from strangulation or suffocation.
Consequences Beyond Potential Incarceration
While jail is a top concern, it’s important to remember domestic violence charges also bring other consequences:
- Permanent criminal record
- Suspension of professional licenses like nursing, real estate, etc.
- Loss of the right to possess firearms
- Limitations on child visitation or custody
- Difficulty obtaining housing
- Potential impact on immigration status if not a U.S. citizen
- Civil lawsuit by the victim for damages
Factors Impacting Your Sentence
Severity of Abuse
More violent offenses with serious injuries or weapons lead to harsher sentences. Any history of escalating abuse will also be considered.
First-time offenders often have a better chance of avoiding jail compared to those with prior domestic violence convictions. Other violent crimes like assault will impact the sentence as well.
Many first-timers can plea to a lesser charge, like disorderly conduct, in exchange for completing counseling, community service, etc. But the judge and prosecutor must approve any plea deal.
For example, a plea bargain may reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor in exchange for completing a year-long batterer intervention program. But this depends on the discretion of the judge and prosecutor.
Remorse and Rehabilitation
Actions taken before conviction, such as voluntarily attending counseling, demonstrate remorse and willingness to reform positively, which judges consider favorably.
Can Domestic Violence Offenders Avoid Jail Time in California?
If convicted of a domestic violence offense in California, jail time is a very real possibility. Prosecutors and judges typically take a strict approach to these charges and are very unlikely to grant a diversion.
But, as experienced criminal defense attorneys, we understand that jail time is not always the answer. There are more rehabilitative alternatives we can pursue to reduce recidivism and promote long-term public safety.
Some options we may pursue include:
- Counseling and treatment programs to manage emotions, substance abuse, and develop healthy relationship skills. Completing an accredited domestic violence intervention program shows a commitment to overcoming abusive tendencies.
- Negotiating probation or supervised release with requirements like routinely checking in with officers, attending counseling, or performing community service.
- Restorative justice programs that allow repayment to society and victims through positive contributions.
- Collaborating with mental health professionals, social workers, and treatment providers who can assess rehabilitation needs and recommend customized counseling approaches.
Ultimately, the most effective way to seek alternatives to jail for domestic violence charges is to engage an experienced attorney to advise on all options and develop a rehabilitation-focused strategy. Their guidance maximizes the chance of a more restorative outcome.
Steps to Take to Avoid Jail Time for DV
The right legal strategy and actions can help minimize jail time. Important steps include:
- Retaining counsel immediately – This provides time to build your defense.
- Expressing remorse – Admit fault and commit to change rather than make excuses.
- Starting counseling voluntarily – Show the court you’re reforming before conviction.
- Complying with any restraining order – Don’t contact the victim or enter prohibited areas.
- Avoiding discussion of the incident – Don’t admit guilt in texts or conversations.
- Securing character references – Have friends/family write letters vouching for your character.
While challenging, even those facing first-time charges can often avoid jail with the right legal guidance.
Don’t Navigate This Alone – Let an Experienced Attorney Help Guide You
If you or a loved one are facing domestic violence charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner. Protecting your rights and securing the most favorable outcome possible should be the top priority. This is one of the most challenging times you’ll ever face. But you don’t have to go through it alone.
An adept domestic violence lawyer can stand by your side, humanize you in the eyes of the court, and develop a defense strategy encompassing every option from plea bargains to trial. They will leverage mitigating factors, secure lesser charges when possible, and ensure you take responsibility in the best light.
Don’t leave your future up to chance. Contact Kolacia Law today for dedicated legal guidance during this difficult time. With the stakes so high, counsel from a trusted legal advisor can make all the difference.