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Domestic Violence – Is It A Felony Or Misdemeanor?


May 25, 2014

Domestic violence is defined as the crime where an intimate partner is using a pattern of abusive behavior to overpower and control the other person in a relationship. Domestic violence is considered a very serious offense and in California, it is considered a wobbler case. A wobbler case is a case where the prosecutor is the one who decides whether the crime is charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor.

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

Crimes that are charged as felony are crimes that are very serious and have devastating effect on the victims, the crime is a blatant disregard for the law and crimes committed against minors. For example, if the injuries sustained by the victim are life threatening, then it will most likely be charged as a felony. Cases that are not as serious as previously discussed are charged as misdemeanors. Apart from this, the punishments are also different between the two. In misdemeanor cases, if proven guilty, will carry prison sentence no more than one year along with fines and probation. On the other hand, felony charges carry prison terms that is more than one year along with heftier fines and longer probation.  More on this can be found at Randy Collins website.

What circumstances would make a domestic violence case charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor?

Normally, when domestic violence results to a little scuffle, the charge will be a misdemeanor. However, there are a lot of cases when a domestic violence is charged as a felony. The discretion in deciding whether a domestic violence case is charged as either a felony or misdemeanor is the prosecutor. The prosecutor usually looks at the aggravating factors of the case and when one or more of these aggravating factors is present, then a felony case is charged.

The aggravating factors to look at are:

  1. Severe bodily harm and injury to the victim. When the act in domestic violence is so severe that it has resulted to severe bodily harm and injury to the victim and especially is the injuries sustained is life threatening, then it will most likely be charged as a felony.
  2. Domestic violence that results to injuries to minors can also result to a felony charge.
  3. The use or involvement of dangerous weapons like knife and gun, even if it was only used as a threat, during a domestic violence case will also result to a felony charge.
  4. If the domestic violence case also includes another crime like sexual assault and/or rape, then the charge will most likely be felony.

A domestic violence case can be a complicated case so hiring a legal representation is a must. An expert and experienced domestic violence defense attorney can help make a strong defense to prevent a guilty verdict and the punishment and consequences with it. The most important part in a domestic violence charge is to not get charged with felony. An experienced lawyer can make sure that the prosecutor see the case as a whole and negotiate for the case to be charged as a misdemeanor. That is the first important step. So as soon as you are charged, it is imperative that you immediately contact a lawyer.

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About the Author

At the Law Offices of Top Gun DUI Defense Attorney Myles L. Berman, our experienced team of DUI / Drunk Driving defense lawyers are dedicated to aggressively defending people arrested for DUI.