If you or a loved one has been arrested or accused of domestic violence, Long Beach criminal law attorney Matthew Kaestner can answer your questions about what to expect from the legal process. Attorney Kaestnerâ€™s most recent â€śNot Guiltyâ€ť verdict at after a jury trial, occurred July, 2015. This was his second â€śNot Guiltyâ€ť at trial on a domestic violence case in recent years.
Mr. Kaestner is certified by the State Bar of California Board Legal of Specialization as a specialist in criminal law. He has over 30 years of trial experience handling cases charging domestic violence in the Long Beach and surrounding courts. Mr. Kaestner personally handles each case from start to finish. Attorney Kaestner has a long history of aggressive and successful defense of domestic violence charges. Contact him directly at (562) 437-0200.
What follows is a brief overview of domestic violence law in California.
A.) DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROSECUTIONS
In California various laws encourage police agencies to develop policies that encourage the arrest of domestic violence suspects and that mandate the arrest of anyone believed to have violated a civil court protective order. [Penal Code sections 13701 (a) & (b).] The law also requires law enforcement officers to make "reasonable efforts" to determine who is the "dominant aggressor" in a domestic disturbance where their is evidence of a physical altercation. The dominant aggressor is defined as "the person determined to be the most significant, rather than the first, aggressor."
The term "domestic violence" is used to describe any sort of physically violent conduct or any type of threatening conduct against: a current or ex-spouse, a present or former cohabitant, anyone with whom the suspect currently has or has had an engagement or dating relationship or a person with whom the suspect has a child (or presumed to have had a child.) Domestic violence can also be violence or threatening conduct toward one's child, a child of a person in one of the above categories, any other person with whom the suspect is related by blood or marriage within the second degree, or anyone who is 65 years of age or older and related to the suspect by blood or legal guardianship.
In the City of Long Beach, when police are summoned to the location of a domestic dispute, one of the two parties is often arrested. This occurs even when there is a complete lack of any corroborating evidence or witnesses. The police can make a "probable cause" arrest based only upon a cursory investigation. The arrest is often based only upon the unsworn allegations of one person who claims the other party was the "primary aggressor." When Long Beach police arrest a citizen at a location of a domestic disturbance, they usually make a "felony" arrest. At the police station, the bail is temporarily set at $50,000. Upon arriving to court, if bail is not posted, the Courts rarely reduce bail below $50,000.
Most of the time a person is arrested for an incident where domestic violence is alleged, criminal charges will be filed by the city prosecutor against the arrestee. Criminal charges are brought even if the alleged victim expresses an unwillingness to cooperate in court and opposes the bringing of criminal charges. And although most of the time a misdemeanor charges are brought even after the police make a felony arrest, sometimes the district attorney's office will file a felony case if the arrestee has a very bad record, has multiple prior convictions for violence, or where severe injuries were suffered by the alleged victim. Normally the city prosecutor will file a misdemeanor charge under Penal Code section 273.5, which is domestic assault causing a "traumatic condition." As a practical matter any visible injury will be viewed by the police and prosecutors as a "traumatic condition."
After an arrest for a domestic offense, the law requires an arraignment before a judge in court within 48 hours of the arrest. This excludes holidays and weekends. Persons who have bailed out are usually given a court date several weeks from the time of release. At an arraignment, an accused party is advised of the charges and a pre-trial and trial date are set. A person in custody is entitled to a jury trial within thirty days of the arraignment. an accused on bail is entitled to a trial within 45 days of his arraignement.
As a general practice, first offenders facing domestic violence offenses will be offered the legal minimum. The legal minimum for such misdemeanor offenses include 3 years of informal probation, a 52 week domestic violence counseling program, 40 hours of community service and approximately $655 dollars in fines and fees. However, all sentences in criminal cases are negotiable.
Unfortunately, many persons accused of domestic violence who don't post bail, will enter a guilty plea simply to get out of jail. Persons accused who are local residents, have no prior history of criminal activity, and have verified employment, will not be released by the judge if they wish to contest the charges at the arraignment. Accused persons who are able to post bail are in a much better position to fight the charge and negotiate a better plea bargain if necessary. Citizens who face an accusation of domestic violence, like any other persons charged with a crime, are entitled to a jury trial where a 12 person jury must unanimously agree that guilt was proved by the prosecution. The prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
B. PENALTIES AND CONSEQUENCES OF A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CONVICTION
Persons convicted of a domestic violence offense can be sentenced up to one year in the county jail for most misdemeanor domestic violence charges. Felony offenses carry maximum sentences of 3 years and above. A conviction by guilty plea or at a trial when the charge involves domestic violence can also have other long term consequences that can include deportation for "legal" non-citizens, as well as difficulties obtaining employment, restraining orders, and firearm prohibitions. These consequences are in addition to an sentence that is handed down by a judge or negotiated prior to trial.
A domestic violence conviction requires that the convicted person can not own or possess a firearm for 10 years under California law. Federal firearm prohibitions apply as well and can result in a lifetime ban. Persons who have pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges and are on probation may be presumed by law enforcement to be the guilty party in future domestic disturbances. Probation violations can oftentimes involve substantial jail time. A person on probation can be found in violation of probation and sentenced to jail without a jury trial. A judge only needs to find that a violation occurred at a brief hearing. However, the probationer is entitled to the assistance of counsel at the hearing.
When confronted with an arrest or accusation involving a domestic violence charge, you need the advice and assistance from a criminal defense lawyer who has successfully represented persons accused of domestic violence many times before. Long Beach criminal law attorney Matthew Kaestner has over two decades of experience that you can rely on when you need an expert in the field. You can contact Mr. Kaestner directly at (562) 437-0200.
Matt Kaestner Attorney. This website is designed for informational use only and the information presented on this website should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney/client relationship.
For more information about the Law Office of Matthew Kaestner visit his site at www.lbcrimlaw.com.