Most people assume that the term “domestic violence” just refers to violence in a romantic relationship such as one between and husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend. In fact, the term “domestic violence” can be applied to numerous types of abusive situations such as physical and emotional as well as various types of relationships, including elder abuse.
What is Domestic Violence?
The consequences associated with domestic violence charges can be life-changing and not only can a domestic violence conviction result in jail time and significant fines, but also tear apart your family, ruin your personal and professional relationships, jeopardize your career, and lead to other life-changing problems.
Domestic violence can be applied to many things, including physical and sexual abuse, stalking and harassment. Below we outline a few more things that fall under the term “domestic violence.”
- Physical abuse can include attacking, hitting, biting, slapping, battering, shoving, punching, pulling hair, burning, cutting, pinching, etc. (any type of violent behavior inflicted on the victim). Physical abuse can also include denying someone medical treatment and forcing drug/alcohol use on someone.
- Sexual abuse is when the abuser coerces or attempts to coerce a victim into having sexual contact or sexual behavior without the victim’s consent. This takes many forms, including marital rape, attacking sexual body parts, physical violence that is followed by forcing sex, sexually demeaning the victim, or even telling sexual jokes at the victim’s expense.
- Emotional abuse involves invalidating or deflating the victim’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem. This can happen in many forms including constant criticism, name-calling, and even injuring the victim’s relationship with his/her children.
- Economic abuse takes place when the abuser makes or tries to make the victim financially reliant upon the abuser. Economic abusers often seek to maintain total control over financial resources via withholding the victim’s access to funds or by prohibiting the victim from going to school or work.
- Psychological abuse is when an abuser invokes fear through intimidation; threatening to physically hurt himself/herself, the victim, children, the victims family or friends, or the pets; destruction of property; injuring the pets; isolating the victim from loved ones and prohibiting the victim from going to school or work. Threats of hitting, injuring, or using a weapon are also forms of psychological abuse.
- Stalking can include following: spying, watching, harassing, showing up at the victims home or work, sending gifts, collecting information, making phone calls, leaving written messages, or appearing at a person’s home or workplace. These acts individually are typically legal, but any of these behaviors done continuously can result in stalking charges.
- Cyberstalking refers to online action or repeated emailing that inflicts substantial emotional distress in the recipient.
When any of the above happens to an elderly person, this can be deemed elderly abuse. This is why elderly abuse can also fall under the umbrella of “domestic violence.”
The term “elder abuse” refers to the physical, emotional or financial abuse of elderly individuals or dependent adults, or any other harsh treatment that causes elders to suffer physical and/or mental pain and suffering. California’s elder abuse laws cover a wide variety of criminal offenses carried out against a group of individuals the legal system considers to be generally less able to protect themselves and/or to understand or report criminal conduct. Under California Penal Code § 368 PC, elder abuse can include any of the following types of abuse directed at anyone who is 65 years of age or older, regardless of his or her mental or physical abilities:
- Physical abuse – Physical contact causing injuries, such as pushing, shoving or kicking; deliberately administering extra doses of medication; ignoring chronic health problems
- Neglect and endangerment – Deliberately neglecting to provide for basic comfort, safety, emotional, nutritional or health care needs
- Emotional abuse – Behavior that causes psychological trauma but does not involve physical injury, such as threats, embarrassment, ridicule, insults or manipulative behavior
- Sexual abuse – Rape, inappropriate touching, sexual harassment, indecent assault or any unwanted sexual behavior
- Financial abuse or exploitation – Stealing money or valuables; improperly accessing personal financial records; forging signatures
Nursing Home Abuse
Perhaps the most common location of Los Angeles elder abuse is in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, where elderly and incapacitated residents are vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment by negligent staff members, but the criminal offense can involve any person over the age of 65, regardless of where he or she resides and who his or her caregivers are. Some examples of scenarios that could lead to charges of California elder abuse include: a nursing home staff member sexually molesting an elderly resident, an adult daughter intentionally withholding medication she is supposed to give to her elderly father, and a man taking advantage of his elderly aunt by stealing her Social Security checks.
Conviction for Domestic Violence Penal Code § 273.5
Although other violent crimes like assault and battery are illegal, and prosecuted as such, violent acts are taken much more seriously in Los Angeles when the alleged victim is a spouse, dating partner, family member, or someone who lives with or has a child with the defendant. Unfortunately, there are few safeguards in the California legal system to protect innocent men and women from being falsely accused of and wrongfully charged with domestic violence, and this type of crime often carries the stigma of “guilty until proven innocent.” It is still up to the prosecution though, to meet the requisite burden of proof to convict on charges of Los Angeles domestic violence. For instance, in order to get a domestic violence conviction under California Penal Code § 273.5 PC, the prosecutor must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt every element of the offense, including that:
- The defendant intentionally and unlawfully inflicted physical injury on his or her intimate partner;
- The injury resulted in a traumatic condition; and
- The defendant did not act in self-defense or in defense of another person.
Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction
The state of California has taken steps to prove that it is tough on violent crime in recent years, and as such, the penalties associated with domestic violence charges have become considerably more severe. In addition to jail time and significant fines, the consequences of a domestic violence conviction can include: a restraining order, a loss of gun rights, mandatory participation in a batterer’s program, a loss of child custody rights, immigration consequences for non-citizens, and a permanent criminal record.
Under Penal Code § 273.5 PC corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, willfully inflicting corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition upon a spouse, cohabitant, intimate partner, co-parent or close family member is a “wobbler,” which means it can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the circumstances of the case. As a misdemeanor, Penal Code § 273.5 PC is punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or up to $6,000 in fines. As a felony, the crime is punishable by two, three or four years in state prison and/or up to $6,000 in fines.
Under Penal Code § 243(e)(1) PC domestic battery, when battery is committed against a spouse, former spouse, fiancé, a person with whom the defendant is living, a person who is the parent of the defendant’s child, or a person with whom the person currently has, or previously had, a dating relationship, the crime is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
Under California Penal Code § 422 PC criminal threats, it is illegal to willfully threaten to commit a crime that will result in great bodily injury or death to another person, causing that person to reasonably fears for the safety of his or her immediate family. As a misdemeanor offense, Penal Code § 422 PC is punishable by up to one year in county jail, and as a felony, the crime is punishable by up to four years in state prison.
In some instances, the judge in your case may be willing to sentence you to probation, rather than jail time, if the crime is your first offense, or if the victim’s injuries are not significant. This is more often the case with misdemeanor offenses, as felony domestic violence charges are typically brought only in cases where the victim suffers a significant injury.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence is a damning offense in this day and age, one that requires the expertise of a criminal defense attorney willing to aggressively defend your rights and help you achieve a favorable resolution to your case. There are several defenses to domestic violence charges in Los Angeles, including the following:
- The so-called domestic violence was an accident;
- The alleged victim made a false accusation;
- The defendant acted in self-defense or in defense of another person; or
- The alleged victim’s injuries did not result from the defendant’s actions.
Connection Between Elder Abuse and Domestic Violence
The crimes of elder abuse and domestic violence are sometimes similar in nature, but there are important distinctions between the two, namely that domestic violence traditionally involves abuse committed against someone intimately related to the victim, while the only requirement for elder abuse is that the victim is over the age of 65. However, if you are charged with California elder abuse and the alleged victim is your spouse, significant other, domestic partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent or roommate, you could be prosecuted for domestic violence under California Penal Code § 273.5 PC corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, or Penal Code § 243(e)(1) PC domestic battery. Not only can a domestic violence conviction adversely impact your relationship with your loved ones, it can also increase the maximum penalties typically associated with elder abuse. Some other offenses related to elder abuse include Penal Code § 242 PC battery,Penal Code § 261 PC rape, Penal Code § 187 PC murder, Penal Code § 192 PC involuntary manslaughter and Penal Code § 422 PC criminal threats.
Hiring a Qualified Domestic Violence Attorney in Los Angeles
Domestic violence is a serious transgression that carries harsh penalties and serious social consequences that can ruin your reputation and follow you for the rest of your life. Unfortunately, in some cases, false allegations of domestic violence are made out of anger by someone trying to manipulate the system or get revenge against their partner during divorce proceedings, child custody battles and other sensitive family law cases. It is far too easy for an innocent person to be wrongfully charged with domestic violence in Los Angeles because of a misunderstanding or manipulation, and the Los Angeles courts are full of men and women facing domestic violence charges who were wrongly convicted at trial or who agreed to a plea deal for something they didn’t do. If you have been charged with or are being investigated for domestic violence, contact our knowledgeable defense lawyers at Criminal Defense Attorney Los Angeles today to discuss the details of your case.