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Defining domestic violence in California

The Office on Violence Against Women, a division of the U.S. Department of Justice, comprehensively defines domestic violence as "a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner." However, this is a general, all-encompassing definition of a problem that presents in many different forms.

Domestic violence can include one, several, or all the following: Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, economic abuse, psychological abuse, threats, stalking, or cyberstalking. These not only apply to spouses, but rather any individual involved in an intimate or trust-based relationship.

The California Penal Code contains multiple sections specifying differing types of domestic violence, and setting out sentencing guidelines for each. Punishments depend on the severity of violence, harm to the victim, and any unique circumstances of each instance.

One example of these differing sentences would be a battery charge. Section 243(e)(1) of the California Penal Code addresses battery within one of the specified relationships, and defines it as "willful and unlawful use of force or violence against the person of another." In addition, Section 243(d) also addresses battery, but is utilized when a party "inflicts serious bodily harm" on a victim. If a prosecutor chooses to charge a Defendant with battery under this section, a greater sentence can be imposed.

Any party who finds themselves the victim of any form of domestic violence may benefit from the advice of an experienced family law attorney who can assist in obtaining protection from any further harm.

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