Legal Dictionary


Domestic Violence

Generally, domestic violence is violence between people who live together, usually spouses. According to California law, domestic violence is physical violence, threatened violence (assault), and abuse which occurs in relationships between: married couples (also referred to as spousal abuse); cohabiting couples; individuals who have a child or children in common; people who are dating or used to be dating, and individuals who were formerly married to each other. Domestic Violence is also known as Spousal Abuse, Spousal Battery, or Domestic Battery.

In California, there are several laws that punish the use of physical force or threats of harm related to domestic violence:

  • Corporal Injury to a Spouse- Penal Code 273.5: It is unlawful to willfully inflict corporal injury on his or her spouse or cohabitant resulting in a traumatic condition. A person commits this crime when his or her spouse or intimate partner willfully inflicts bodily injury (minor or serious) as a result of the application of physical force. This crime is prosecuted as misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances, punishable by up to one year in county jail or up to four years in state prison.
  • Domestic Battery – Penal Code 243(e) (1): It is unlawful to touch your spouse, intimate partner, cohabitant, or the parent of your child in a harmful or offensive manner. Under this Penal Code section there does not have to be any visible injury. Pushing or pulling the hair is sufficient for this crime. This crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail.
  • Criminal Threats – Penal Code 422: It is a crime to communicate a threat of serious bodily injury to another person with the specific intent that the threat be taken seriously and that this threat puts the other person in fear. This crime can be charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail or a felony, punishable by up to three years in state prison.
  • False Imprisonment – Penal Code 236: It is unlawful to restrain, confine, or detain another person without justification and without his or her consent. This offense comes with a one year county jail if charged as a misdemeanor or a state prison sentence of up to three years if charged as a felony.
  • Violation of a Restraining Order – Penal Code 273.6: It is a crime to violate the terms of a restraining order or protective order issued by the court. These types of orders are issued to protect a person from harassing, threatening, or contacting another specified person. This crime can be charged as a misdemeanor which comes with up to one year in county jail or a felony which is punishable by up to three years in state prison.

If you or someone you know is facing domestic violence charges, contact a skilled domestic violence defense attorney to learn about the criminal justice system and what legal options are available.