Many individuals who are arrested for allegedly committing a domestic violence offense are cited with corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant (California Penal Code § 273.5), punishable as a felony or domestic battery (California Penal Code § 243(e), also punishable as a felony.
“Corporal Injury to a Spouse” is punishable as a felony by up to four years in state prison and a $6,000 fine. “Domestic Battery” is punishable as a felony of one year in state prison and a $1,000 fine.
While some charged with these crimes are unquestionably guilty, for others, they may have, in fact, committed the offense, but the legal defense of self-defense/defense of others may mitigate their conduct. Self-defense applies if all the following are true:
- A reasonable belief that you or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury or being touched unlawfully;
- A reasonable belief that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against the danger; and
- No more force was used than was reasonably necessary to defend against the danger.
Self-defense/defense of others may only be successfully raised if a reasonable belief exists that someone was in danger of an unlawful touching or physical injury. Mere words such as “I’m going to hurt you,” and nothing more, are not enough.
“Reasonable belief” is not subjective and does not refer to an individual’s reasonable belief. It refers to what a reasonable person in a similar position would have believed. The belief that a threat was imminent must also be reasonable. If a partner says, “Someday, I’m going to kill you,” then the threat is not imminent. If a spouse lunges at you with a knife because he or she is mad that you drank all the Jim Beam, the threat must be instantly dealt with, and you have a right to defend yourself, provided you do not use more force than necessary.
California’s self-defense law recognizes “stand-your-ground,” which means that using the defense does not require you to show that you could have fled from the danger rather than confronting it.
Because self-defense is an affirmative defense, the burden is on the defendant to prove it. A prosecutor is not required to prove that you were not in the act of self-defense when the alleged crime occurred.
Juries are often predisposed and prejudiced to believing that someone charged with domestic violence was acting in self-defense.
It’s logical for the members of the jury to assume you are the guilty party in a domestic dispute sine you the person charged with a crime. This may be especially true if the defendant is the person in the relationship that’s physically stronger.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial if you are facing domestic violence charges after acting in self-defense. Defending a charge of domestic violence typically requires the advice, guidance, and representation of experienced criminal defense counsel. The attorney that any defendant hires in this situation may be crucial to achieving the best possible result. Don’t be victimized by an assault or a domestic abuse charge if your actions were in self-defense. If you or someone you know has been arrested for assault or domestic violence, John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.