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What is a crime of domestic violence?

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2017 | Domestic Violence |

What exactly is domestic violence?

Despite the fact that the term is used a lot in news stories and online, there’s still a lot of confusion about what does and doesn’t qualify as domestic violence — partly because the phrase is actually a “catch-all” term for a variety of different criminal offenses.

If you are charged with an act of domestic violence in California, for example, you may actually be facing one or more common charges within the state’s penal code:

1. Spousal abuse or cohabitant abuse

This charge relates to the purposeful infliction of a physical injury upon your spouse, someone that you live with or someone with whom you have a child. The injury has to be verifiable either through the responding officer’s observation or a medical exam.

2. Battery

Unlike spousal or cohabitant abuse, the victim can be any of those listed above as well as a non-cohabiting former spouse, someone to whom you are or were engaged or someone you are or were dating. No visible injury is required.

3. Terroristic threats

This includes all of those people listed above and their immediate family members, like their parents, siblings, or children. A terroristic threat is one that is immediate, unconditional and specific. It must be possible enough to cause sustained fear for the target’s safety.

4. Stalking

Again, this crime could involve any of the people listed above. Stalking is a pattern of behavior that, when viewed as a whole, causes someone a reasonable and sustained fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family.

Why are domestic violence crimes different than other crimes of a similar nature?

You can be arrested for physical abuse, battery, terroristic threats and stalking whether or not the target of your actions falls into one of those relationship categories listed above. However, in domestic violence situations, the court recognizes that the personal relationship between you and the other person could lead to repeat offenses or escalating problems. As a result, the court tends to push for additional penalties, like restraining orders that prevent you from going near the other person or mandatory participation in a batterer’s counseling program.

If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence crime, contact an attorney as soon as possible. Early intervention by an attorney may be able to help you get the charges reduced or build a solid defense.

Source:, “Domestic Violence: Laws Related to Domestic Violence,” accessed March 15, 2017


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