Criminal Defense

Domestic Violence


“Domestic Violence” is the crime attorney Ryan L. Smith handles second-most-often (second to DUI). The first thing to learn about Domestic Violence is that judges often issue Criminal Protective Orders (CPO) at the first court date preventing the accused from coming within 100 yards of the victim — which can also expressly order you move out of your shared home. This can happen even if the victim is not present in court; even absent request by the victim for such; and even if an Emergency Protective Order (EPO) was refused by the victim on the night of the arrest. If the victim wishes to prevent a CPO from issuing, they should attend the first court date and object to the issuance of a Criminal Protective Order; even then … neither outcome is guaranteed.


In California, “Domestic Violence” can be a misdemeanor or a felony. A “domestic” relationship exists between: current and former spouses, domestic partners, fiancées, cohabitants, dating partners, and people who have a child in common. A misdemeanor “battery” exists when one person intentionally “…touches another person in a harmful or offensive manner…”; “…the slightest touching can be enough to commit battery if it is done in a rude or angry way…”; and “the touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind.” Self-defense is an affirmative defense to Domestic Violence. 

If the touching causes “…a wound or other bodily injury, whether minor or serious…” the charges can be filed as a more serious misdemeanor charge, or as a felony. It is common for people to be arrested and booked on felony domestic violence, have bail set at the felony amount, and then ultimately be charged with only misdemeanor domestic violence, or sometimes have no charges filed at all. If charged with Domestic Violence Causing Injury, an additional partial defense is to argue that no injury occurred. 


Book of law with a gavel and a Restraining Order as the Law with respect to family-related, domestic violence.

Conviction for misdemeanor Domestic Violence, without causing injury, is punished as follows: up to 1 year in jail, a work program, or on electronic monitoring; 3-5 years probation; up to $2,000 in fines; 52 Domestic Violence counseling classes; and the loss of gun ownership rights. Domestic Violence Causing Injury is punished with: up to 4 years in prison; 3-5 years probation; up to $6,000 in fines; 52 Domestic Violence counseling classes; and the loss of gun ownership rights.


In California, police are uniquely authorized to make Domestic Violence arrests even without any complaining-reporting victim. Many “victims” of Domestic Violence ultimately wish for no prosecution to take place, and some “victims” never called the police to begin with. The prosecutor can file Domestic Violence charges without the consent and cooperation of the victim, but without other proof of Domestic Violence, the prosecutor cannot prove the case at trial without the testimony of the victim. Victims of Domestic Violence have an absolute right to choose not to testify in a Domestic Violence trial, without fear of being punished for such. (CCP 1219(b)). However, it is a crime to intimidate, threaten, blackmail, bribe, extort, or even use-guilt-to-discourage any victim from testifying.