How Are Domestic Violence Cases Handled in California?

Domestic violence encompasses physical harm and non-physical abuse like stalking, theft, and verbal threats. If you are a victim of such abuse, contact a domestic violence lawyer for legal assistance. Here are ways domestic violence cases are handled in California:


Domestic violence cases often start with a report to law enforcement. Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence or witnesses such an incident can report it to the police. The report includes information such as the incident’s date, time, and location.

When you contact the police, be prepared to provide details, such as medical concerns, any weapons involved, and the perpetrator’s description. If you have any physical evidence, such as photographs of injuries or damaged property, keep it for use in legal proceedings. A domestic violence lawyer can use police reports as concrete evidence to build a strong case.


The law allows for mandatory arrest in domestic violence cases under specific circumstances in California. When law enforcement responds to a domestic violence call, they can identify and arrest the primary aggressor. While most arrest require a warrant, there are times one isn’t needed. Law enforcement officers must have probable cause to believe domestic violence has occurred.

The decision to arrest is based on the severity of the alleged abuse, the presence of visible injuries, and witness statements. Mandatory arrest policies are designed to protect victims from further harm. Law enforcement officers make arrests when they believe it is necessary to boost the victim’s safety.

Protective Orders

Protective orders are available to victims who have a domestic relationship with the alleged abuser. This includes spouses, cohabitants, current or former dating partners, and family members. After an arrest, the court may issue a restraining order to protect the victim from further harm. The court can issue emergency protective orders, temporary restraining orders, and permanent restraining orders, depending on the circumstances of the case. Emergency protective orders can be given at the scene to provide immediate protection.

Victims can get temporary restraining orders if the emergency protective order expires or wasn’t issued at the scene. This type of order is set for a certain amount of time until something more permanent is decided on. The court issues a permanent restraining order when it determines the victim has a reasonable fear of harm from the alleged abuser. An experienced lawyer can help a domestic violence victim obtain a restraining order in California because the process can be complex. 

Criminal Charges

After an arrest in a domestic violence case in California, the district attorney’s office initiates criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator. The district attorney’s office reviews the evidence gathered by law enforcement officers during the investigation. Evidence includes statements from the victim, witnesses, and physical evidence or documentation of injuries.

Misdemeanor charges include assault, battery, or domestic battery. These convictions can lead to penalties like probation, fines, counseling, and potentially jail time. Felony charges entail aggravated assault, corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant, or violations of restraining orders. Felony convictions can result in substantial prison sentences and fines. During court proceedings, the victim and defendant can seek legal representation.


Restitution helps compensate the victim for their financial losses due to domestic violence. The court may order the perpetrator to pay restitution to the victim to cover medical bills. This includes emergency room visits, doctor’s appointments, surgery, medication, and therapy.

Restitution can cover repair or replacement costs if the abuse damaged the victim’s property, such as personal belongings or the home. In cases where the victim needs to change their residence for safety reasons, restitution may cover relocation expenses. The court holds a restitution hearing after the defendant has been found guilty or has pleaded guilty. A domestic violence attorney can work closely with the victim to assess and document eligible expenses related to the incident.

Hire a Qualified Domestic Violence Lawyer

A domestic violence lawyer can help victims understand their legal rights and options, including obtaining protective orders to enhance their safety. Qualified lawyers can represent the victim’s interests in cases involving family law matters, such as divorce, child custody, or spousal support. They can also explain each step, including court dates, hearings, and potential outcomes. Book an appointment with an experienced lawyer to evaluate your domestic violence case. 

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