Breaking The Cycle of Domestic Violence: Rehabilitation Programs and Legal Defense In California
Breaking The Cycle of Domestic Violence: Rehabilitation Programs and Legal Defense In California

Despite a recent downward trend in domestic violence cases, the issue still affects tens of thousands of victims yearly. In 2020, police agencies in San Diego County received 17,683 calls regarding domestic violence, of which 6,802 were accounted for by the City of San Diego. Across the State of California, police officers responded to 160,646 reports of domestic violence.

California law requires that anyone sentenced to probation for domestic battery must complete a year-long batterer’s treatment program, but research disagrees on the effectiveness of such programs. Remaining on probation for a year while attending treatment increases the odds of a technical probation violation.

Be that as it may, completing treatment can still help in some cases, seeing as how agreeing to probation and treatment can help an offender avoid the risk of a conviction for a more serious offense. It can also help them find better ways of coping with domestic issues and even get them to break the cycle of domestic violence altogether.


Domestic Violence Charges In California

California has two statutes that cover domestic violence. The more serious charge, domestic corporal injury, happens when the accused inflicts a wound or other trauma on any of the following individuals:

  • A current or former spouse, cohabitant, or fiance
  • A co-parent
  • A person with whom they had a dating relationship

The crime is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $6,000. If the court sentences the offender to probation, a condition of that probation must be completing a year-long batterer’s treatment program.

The lesser charge, domestic battery, happens when someone uses unlawful force or violence against the same three categories of domestic partners. A domestic battery is a misdemeanor punishable by the following:

  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • Imprisonment for up to one year
  • Probation

A judge can choose whether to sentence a convicted offender to probation or a suspended period of imprisonment. In these two situations, the sentence the judge hands down must include the successful completion of a year-long batterer’s treatment program as an added condition.

When probation for either offense includes treatment, judges can revoke an offender’s probation and sentence them to jail for the following reasons:

  • Not attending treatment
  • Failing to complete the program
  • Committing any new offenses while on probation
  • Violating any other condition of probation, such as a no-contact order with the victim

Attending counseling might seem like a simple probation condition, but keep the following in mind:

  • Many approved counseling programs charge fees
  • Counseling programs might not be close to the offender
  • The issues addressed in treatment might make participation difficult emotionally

As such, there is no guarantee that the offender will attend or complete the treatment program. Similarly, the treatment provider cannot guarantee that offenders who complete the program will never re-offend.

Defenses to Domestic Violence in California

People arrested and charged with domestic violence have several legal defenses. An experienced San Diego domestic violence attorney, like the ones at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers, can help assert any of the following:

No Relationship

All domestic violence crimes in California require proof of a domestic relationship. No domestic corporal injury or battery has occurred if the victim does not fall into such a category.

California law has specific language determining when you can and cannot pursue domestic violence charges. Domestic violence is very narrowly defined under the penal code, primarily covering those with whom you have had a marital, romantic, dating, or sexual relationship. However, it may extend to parents, siblings, and relatives in certain cases.

As such, one defense to domestic violence charges is that there is no relationship within the scope of the law. The accused might still face battery charges, but domestic battery charges, in particular, might not apply.

No Injury

Another defense to domestic corporal injury is that the alleged victim sustained no injury. In one version of the defense, the accused’s lawyer would argue that any injuries resulted from an accident or someone else’s actions.

As such, if a couple argued in their car and the driver accidentally lost control of the vehicle, injuring the passenger, prosecutors would have a hard time proving that the injury was intentional. Similarly, if a person banged their head against a wall during an argument, the accused did not cause corporeal injury.

Keep in mind, however, that arguing there was no injury would not be a valid defense to domestic battery, as the crime does not require an injury to be sustained. It only requires the use of force or violence to be considered battery; knocking someone’s phone out of their hand, for instance, could constitute the definition of the crime even if no one suffered an injury.

No Battery

One more possible defense is that there was no force or violence involved. Defenses like these typically apply to cases in which the alleged victim makes a false accusation. 

Suppose prosecutors cannot show the accused intentionally used force or violence against the victim. In that case, they cannot prove domestic battery, so the accused might escape domestic battery charges if the evidence only shows that they threw a cup against a wall away from the victim, for instance.

Rehabilitation Programs Before or After Conviction

Offenders have two options for seeking rehabilitation instead of imprisonment:

Pretrial Diversion Programs

When offenders face misdemeanor charges of domestic battery, they can apply for a pretrial diversion program, which will allow them to receive treatment and perform community service. In exchange, prosecutors will suspend the case and agree to drop the charges if the accused completes all the diversion program’s conditions.

Probation and Treatment

Offenders sentenced to probation must complete a treatment program to fulfill their probation conditions. Domestic violence rehabilitation in California consists of one full year (52 weeks) of group therapy sessions that last two hours each. Specific counties set different conditions for completing the program.

San Diego County judges and probation officers have wide discretion to determine whether offenders have met the conditions. Most expect probationers to attend all therapy sessions with approved program providers. If an offender misses a session, they must explain their absence to their probation officer and make up for the missing session.

Breaking The Cycle of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is preventable, and those who commit this terrible crime require intensive counseling and treatment. With help, those accused of domestic violence can break the cycle.


Leave a Comment