Articles Posted in Domestic Violence

The law provides criminal defendants with various tools and options for carrying their defenses. Some of these defense techniques may be based upon the specific facts involved in the case, while other tools are based upon case law, statutory law or rules of procedure (and may have nothing to do with your unique facts). Either way, success may rise and fall based upon utilizing these rights and legal tools to the best possible extent. To make sure your defense is as strong as it can be, ensure you have a knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney in your corner.

Back in the spring, The Mercury News reported on one of the more closely followed recent criminal cases involving a sports figure — the domestic violence charges pursued against Reuben Foster, a linebacker for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. The player’s girlfriend at the time, with whom he shared a home in Santa Clara County, alleged that Foster beat her.

Based on the woman’s allegations, the state brought charges against the man for felony domestic violence. In California, you can face either misdemeanor or felony charges for an alleged crime of domestic violence. There are several factors that can make an alleged incident of domestic violence a felony instead of a misdemeanor. If the incident caused serious physical injury to the victim, that might make it a felony. Another way that an incident can become felony domestic violence is if you have a previous conviction for a violent crime within the last seven years, including a conviction for domestic battery.

Plea agreements can be a very helpful way to resolve your criminal case, including a case that involves domestic violence charges. A plea deal can help you maintain a degree of control and avoid the unpredictability of leaving your punishment up to the judge. A plea agreement may allow you to avoid jail and get a sentence that includes only probation. When that happens, you may potentially be entitled later to ask the court to terminate your probation early. All of these techniques work best when you have experienced California criminal defense counsel on your side, who are very familiar with both the law and the system.

The case of a woman named Reyna serves as a real-life example of how these processes work. Reyna was involved in a domestic dispute that eventually escalated to the point that Reyna used a weapon:  her car. The state eventually charged her with felony domestic violence in violation of Section 273.5 of the Penal Code and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm. These charges were very serious and could have had a very serious impact on Reyna’s life, including a substantial period of incarceration.

Reyna and her legal counsel worked out a plea deal, however. In exchange for Reyna’s plea of guilty, the prosecution lowered the charges to assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm. As part of that plea arrangement, Reyna was sentenced to three years on probation.

When you are facing criminal charges, you are likely to face off against a prosecutor who is both very knowledgeable when it comes to the law and skilled when it comes to maneuvering within the criminal legal system. The prosecutor in your case may know many legal techniques and strategies to give the state a strong chance of achieving a conviction. To give yourself a fair chance in your criminal trial, you need to have the same amount of resources, meaning a skilled San Francisco criminal defense attorney with an in-depth knowledge of the law and the system.

An example of how trial strategy matters, and how you can counter the prosecution’s strategies in some situations, was a recent case from San Mateo County. Willard was on trial for felony domestic violence. The charges against the man were definitely serious, since they included “felony enhancements, prior strikes and prison priors.” This meant that Willard’s current case had the potential to conclude with his receiving a very long incarceration sentence.

In Willard’s case, the prosecution was attempting to exclude from evidence a statement by a police officer to a deputy prosecutor that the alleged victim was “a little unreliable and inconsistent,” and the defendant was seeking to keep that statement in. The judge ruled against the prosecution, meaning that the statement critical of the alleged victim stayed in.

Interactions with law enforcement can be stressful events. You may think that you are being pulled over for a traffic violation, only to find that the scope of the stop has expanded now that the officer has you pulled over. The law places certain limits on what the police can do, however, and that includes the searches they perform without a warrant. If your person or possessions have been the subject of a warrantless police search, and you have subsequently been charged with a crime, make sure that you promptly retain an experienced San Francisco criminal defense attorney to fight for your rights.

An example of how a warrantless search can lead to the exclusion of evidence was the criminal trial of a man named Leroy. Leroy’s March 2015 interaction with law enforcement began the way many encounters do:  an officer stopped him for committing a traffic violation. While that officer had Leroy stopped, another officer contacted him to let him know that Leroy was a suspect in a domestic violence incident that had happened 1-2 days earlier.

The two Fairfield officers took Leroy from his car, handcuffed him, and put him in a police vehicle. They then proceeded to search Leroy’s car. Since Leroy was alone in the car, and, allegedly, no one was available to take possession of the car, the police had it towed. In their search, the police found a two-foot-long brown wooden baton with a red tape handle. Based on that find, the prosecution added another charge against Leroy:  violation of Penal Code Section 22210, which bars possessing “any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a billy, blackjack, sandbag, sandclub, sap, or slingshot.”

When you are accused of certain crimes, you face the possibility of multiple different forms of punishment. For some crimes, you may potentially be at risk of being ordered to serve a prison sentence and to pay restitution to a victim. In order to face the possibility of restitution, though, the law has to authorize it. All of these legal and procedural details point out the importance of having a skilled and knowledgeable San Francisco criminal defense attorney on your side to use the law to defend you to the fullest extent possible.

One defendant facing a restitution issue recently was a man named Steven from Imperial County. The facts behind Steven’s case began as, unfortunately, many domestic violence matters do. Both Steven and his wife Veronica had been drinking in the garage. The drinking was followed by an argument, and the argument was followed by the husband grabbing the wife by the throat and bashing her head against the garage floor so hard that it cracked her skull. The gash in her head required seven staples.

The prosecution charged Steven with domestic violence in violation of Section 273.5 of the California Penal Code. He pleaded no contest, ultimately receiving a sentence of three years in prison. The law also allows the court to order a convicted defendant to pay monetary restitution. In this case, the wife sought restitution for a new cell phone, repairs to the washer/dryer, and $2,500 in medical bills, which collectively totaled more than $3,000. She also asked for another $14,000 in restitution to cover an alarm system and security windows. The trial judge ordered Steven to pay the full $17,000 in restitution.

There can be a variety of ways to achieve a successful result in your criminal case. One way is to succeed based upon the facts:  demonstrating that the factual proof within your case simply cannot support a conviction. Other times, you may be able to avoid, or obtain a reversal of, a conviction if you can show that the law will not allow for a conviction on the charge that the state alleged. In still other circumstances, you may be able to use a procedural misstep by the state to your benefit in your case. Sometimes, even seemingly small errors can have big consequences. To make sure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent of the law, be sure you have retained experienced San Francisco criminal defense counsel.

An example of the last of these things in the above list was on display in the case against Johnny from San Diego County. Johnny began dating Dulce in the summer of 2014. Some time later, he moved in with the woman and her family. At some point after that, the relationship became violent. On various occasions, Johnny assaulted both Dulce and her ex-boyfriend. From this series of alleged attacks, the state arrested Johnny and charged him with numerous offenses. Two of those charges were counts of “corporal injury to a cohabitant” in violation of Subsection 273.5(h)(1) of the Penal Code. Johnny was eventually convicted on all of the charges and sentenced to 22 years. The court arrived at that sentence through several sentencing enhancements, one of which was based upon the two 273.5(h)(1) offenses.

The man appealed and won a reduction of his sentence. The problem with the original sentencing process was that the charging document (called an “information”) stated that Johnny was being accused of violating Subsection 273.5(h)(1), but the sentencing enhancement that the state sought was the one connected to Subsection 273.5(f)(1).

The outcome of a federal immigration case decided by the federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati might not seem, at first blush, like something that would matter to someone in California. In one recent case, however, the outcome was highly relevant to people here, especially those who may have been accused of certain crimes. In the federal case, the man’s previous guilty plea on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge in state court directly harmed his efforts to avoid deportation. The case’s conclusion points out how wide-ranging an impact criminal convictions, especially those involving domestic violence, can have. It is yet another good reason to make sure you have skilled California criminal defense counsel to advise you about the consequences of any plea deal decision you might consider making.

The man facing deportation, Sofonias, entered California from Mexico as an undocumented immigrant in January 2001. Later that year, following an incident between Sofonias and his girlfriend, police arrested the man for domestic battery. Sofonias agreed to plead guilty to violating Section 273.5 of the California Penal Code. In exchange for this guilty plea on a misdemeanor charge, he received a sentence of probation and suspended court costs of $300.

Sofonias and his girlfriend patched things up, got married, moved to Michigan, and welcomed a son in 2007. The man, in fact, had worked at the same restaurant in Michigan for eight years, from 2005 until 2013, when his California conviction came back to haunt him. In November of that year, immigration officers arrested Sofonias. Federal authorities designated the man for deportation.

California has strong legal safeguards, including criminal statutes, to protect against domestic violence. Part of understanding domestic violence-related criminal law is understanding the purpose of the domestic violence statute. The law exists to protect people who are, in the words of the California courts, “in a special relationship for which society demands, and the victim may reasonably expect, stability and safety, and in which the victim… may be especially vulnerable.” In other words, not all relationships are covered by this statute. A person should not be convicted of a domestic violence crime if the facts of their case don’t meet the law’s requirements, including those governing the relationships that are (and aren’t) covered by the law. If you have been accused of a domestic violence crime, it is important to have an experienced California domestic violence attorney, who understands the process and the details of the law, working for you.

One example of a case that went forward as a domestic battery case but should not have was the interaction between “Jane Doe” and a man named Jason. Jane Doe was involved in a sexual relationship with Jason. After Jane Doe made statements that Jason had beaten her “all week long,” the police investigated, but the woman recanted everything and told the officers that the bruises on her body were a result of consensual rough sex she had with Jason. Despite this, the state brought charges against Jason for domestic violence (Section 273.5 of the Penal Code). He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to six years.

Jason appealed, and he was successful. The basis of his appeal was straightforward:  he argued that he could not possibly be guilty of violating Section 273.5 of the Penal Code because that statute requires that the abuser and the victim share one of a short list of specific relationships, none of which applied to him and Jane Doe. His attack on Jane Doe could only be simple battery, rather than domestic battery.

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