Walnut Creek is a city located in Contra Costa County, the first county in California to adopt the “Zero Tolerance for Domestic Violence” initiative in February 2000. Zero Tolerance for Domestic Violence is a multi-agency effort, designed to reduce domestic and other violence between people in intimate relationships. It assumes that strong early intervention with those that commit domestic violence offenses at the misdemeanor level will prevent the violence from escalating to the felony-level.
As part of the Zero Tolerance initiative, private and public agencies in Walnut Creek are encouraged to share information with each other to facilitate stronger and more efficient responses to domestic violence. In accordance with the program’s goals, during the first ten years after the initiative began there was an increase in prosecution of misdemeanor domestic violence, but a reduction in felony-level domestic violence charges. In light of these evolving trends in enforcement, if you are accused of domestic violence in Walnut Creek, the best course is to hire experienced and knowledgeable attorneys to defend you and seek the best possible outcome.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence is defined in California Penal Code section 13700 as: “abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the suspect has had a child or is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship.”
Two types of domestic violence charges are common in criminal court: “corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant” (California Penal Code section 273.5) and “domestic battery” (California Penal Code section 243(e)).
In a “corporal injury” case, any visible physical injury perpetrated on a spouse or cohabitating intimate is charged as a crime. If convicted, the accused can be fined up to $6,000, put on probation, required to participate in diversion programs, and imprisoned for one year in county jail or for four years in a state prison.
“Domestic Battery” occurs when there is willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon a domestic partner. If convicted, the accused may be subject to fines, participation in a treatment program, and one year in a county jail.
Though arrests for domestic violence typically start with a criminal case, they may have a number of collateral consequences. A civil restraining order case often follows a criminal case if the victim maintains his or her version of events after the police become involved. Family law proceedings, child custody proceedings, and a civil case for damages may also follow.
Licensed professionals, such as nurses, doctors, and lawyers may also need to defend their license against investigation and disciplinary action by the agency that issued the professional license if they are accused of domestic violence. Those who use guns for their professions face the possibility of losing their firearms in the face of a domestic violence charge. Immigrants who are accused may face a change in their immigration status if accused of domestic violence.
What Happens After Police Investigate Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence charges may start with a couple fighting or suspicious injuries being reported to the police by a medical professional. If a fight is reported, the police are dispatched to investigate. They often must guess who the primary aggressor is.
Although there has been an increase in women being reported as aggressors in domestic violence cases, many police officers still tend to assume that the aggressor is a man. The police must read a Miranda admonishment to the person who is arrested, explaining the right to silence. As a consequence, the police report may be one-sided, involve exaggeration, or false statements may be recanted after a period of reflection.
The police report is forwarded to the District Attorney. If the District Attorney has enough information to charge the accused, the charges will not likely be dropped. At this point the District Attorney may continue to pursue the charges even if the person complaining of domestic violence changes his or her account of events. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to bring pre-trial and evidentiary motions to limit the alleged proof against the accused, or strike a deal with the prosecutor.
If the District Attorney wins the case, possible punishments the judge may impose include: jail, monetary fines, domestic violence counseling sessions, personal conduct orders, stay away orders, and temporary restraining orders.
The consequences of a domestic violence charge in Walnut Creek are severe. Information is shared with numerous agencies. In order to obtain the best possible outcome, choose a knowledgeable and nonjudgmental domestic violence attorney to represent you in these proceedings. If you or someone you love has been charged with domestic violence , the experienced Walnut Creek domestic violence attorneys at Dudek & Cintean can help. Call us at (412) 946-4020 for a consultation or contact us online.