Domestic violence is a common problem in most families, including the LGBT community. However, more domestic violence cases have been reported in heterosexual relationships than in same-sex relationships. It could be because many people have been homophobic for a long time, including law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and others in the legal justice system. But, the legalization of same-sex relationships and public pressure has ensured that domestic violence cases among the LGBT community are handled with the importance they deserve.
Sadly, some people take advantage of the increased vigilance by the police on domestic violence matters to falsely accuse others. Innocent people are prosecuted and convicted of violence by people who barely understand same-sex marriage's working dynamics. It helps to understand the law regarding domestic violence and what you must do if you face domestic violence charges in Los Angeles today. For more information and legal assistance, contact the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney.
Domestic Violence in Same-Sex Relationships
California is considered the most liberal state in the United States as far as LGBT rights are concerned. The LGBT community has been fighting for national recognition since the 1970s. Sexual relations among same-sex individuals have been legal in California since 1976. The state has laws protecting the LGBT community against gender identity, sexual orientation, and expression discrimination. These laws were adopted in 2003. Today, transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender on official documents without the interference of medical professionals.
After California, other states followed suit in recognizing and legalizing same-sex marriages. The evolution of laws about bisexuals, lesbians, gays, and transgender people has been pretty rapid throughout the country, at least compared to other laws. In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government should recognize the benefits of same-sex marriages. Two years after, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws could not prohibit individuals of the same sex from marrying. In 2020, employers were prohibited from discriminating against workers based on gender identity.
However, this does not mean that all issues regarding LGBT are over or can be resolved quickly. The country has a long way to go in ensuring the community feels safe and accepted like everyone else. But, the most contentious area that requires more knowledge, research, and recognition as far as LGBT is concerned is domestic violence. Domestic violence is common in all types of relationships. But it is still not handled as it should when it affects LGBT couples.
Just like in other relationships, domestic violence in same-sex relationships takes many forms, including:
- Battery and assault
- Domestic abuse
Some people have experienced one or more forms of abuse at the hands of their partners.
The truth is that domestic violence is prevalent in both LGBT and heteronormative relationships. But, victims of same-sex domestic violence are less likely to report and seek legal help. It could be because they are afraid of facing discrimination if they call the police. Or that the justice system will treat them differently. Some fear that the police could dismiss their issue and term it as violence among people of equal ability due to transphobia or homophobia.
But, victims of domestic violence in same-sex marriages should not be afraid of seeking legal help against a violent or abusive partner. California law provides equal protection to the LGBT community, as it does to everyone who experiences domestic violence in their relationship.
Type of Domestic violence in Same-Sex Relationships
Generally, domestic violence is the same for all relationships, whether heterosexual or LGBT. The most common forms of abuse for the victims are:
- Psychological abuse, including the instillation of fear and intimidation
- Physical violence, even without injury
- Sexual violence
- Financial abuse, including withholding resources and finances
But, some domestic violence situations in same-sex relationships could be a little different from what heterosexual couples experience. For example, an abuser can threaten to expose the victim to their colleagues, family, and friends as an LGBT person. The abuser could call their victim offensive names or say their partners are not real men or women. Abuse could also include ridiculing how their partner's body appears.
Domestic Violence Laws in California
If you are in an LGBT relationship and face domestic violence charges in Los Angeles, you need to understand domestic violence laws and how they could impact your case. Partnering with an experienced criminal attorney for advice, support, and legal help fighting your charges is crucial. With the proper legal aid, you could avoid a conviction, and possible consequences, including time in jail or prison and a damaging criminal record.
The police almost always make an arrest when responding to a domestic violence situation. They aim to protect the victim and other innocent individuals, like children, from harm if the alleged abuser is allowed to remain at the crime scene. The mistake that the police make in cases like these is to arrest a person without establishing the facts of the matter. They sometimes arrest innocent people facing false accusations. It would be best if you did not talk to law enforcement officers when they come to arrest you for domestic violence. Remember that anything you say or do at that instance could be used against you during the trial. But talk to a skilled criminal attorney to understand your rights.
Domestic violence laws in California apply to all residents, regardless of their relationship. They do not distinguish between LGBT and heterosexual families and couples. When it comes to LGBT, the law seeks to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence in:
- Domestic partner relationships
- LGBT couples in cohabiting relationships
- Individuals with one or more children in common
- LGBT individuals that were or are dating
- Individuals that were previously domestic partners
The laws against domestic violence cover several forms of abuse, like partner abuse, violence, and child endangerment. You could be guilty under any of these laws even if you did not intend to endanger or hurt the victim. A competent criminal attorney can change the outcome of your case.
Remember that a domestic violence case deserves special consideration regardless of the defendant's or victim's sexual orientation. Specially-trained deputy prosecutors working in special units within the district attorney's office prosecute domestic violence cases. Here is some behavior that could result in charges for domestic violence for someone in an LGBT relationship:
- Physical assault or abuse — Including acts like slapping, pushing, punching, kicking, and restraining another person
- Sexual abuse
- Threats and any other form of verbal abuse
- Stalking, harassing, intimidating, or establishing unwanted contact with the victim
- Making harassing, unwanted, or irritating phone calls
How Domestic Violence is Prosecuted in California
California law against domestic violence makes it unlawful for a person to harm, or issue threats to harm a former or current spouse, co-parent, cohabitant, intimate, or dating partner. You face charges for domestic violence depending on the details of your case. The typical charges brought against people accused of domestic violence are:
- Domestic battery, under California PC 243(e)(1)
- Corporal injury on a spouse or intimate partner, under California PC 273.5
Domestic violence is prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of your case. How the DA files your charges will depend on your criminal history and the severity of the alleged victim's injuries. If you used a weapon to commit domestic violence, or your actions resulted in severe physical damages to the victim, you will face a felony charge.
But the prosecutor could charge you with a misdemeanor if the victim did not sustain physical injuries. An offender with a previous history of violence or domestic violence will likely face a felony charge for the underlying offense. The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is in the penalties you receive after conviction. A misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence is punishable by a maximum of one year in jail. But a felony conviction attracts a prison sentence of four or five years if you have a previous conviction for the same or similar offense.
California laws define domestic violence as any abuse or violence committed against a spouse or intimate partner. You commit abuse when you recklessly or intentionally use physical force or threaten to use physical force against your intimate partner.
Corporal Injury on a Spouse or Intimate Partner
The crime against inflicting a corporate injury on a spouse or intimate partner is under PC 273.5. The law makes it unlawful for anyone in a close relationship to inflict an injury, however slight, to a person they are or were in an intimate relationship with. The offense is mainly a felony. But you could receive misdemeanor charges under different circumstances.
If you face domestic violence charges under this statute, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt for the court to find you guilty:
- That you willfully inflicted a physical injury on another person
- The person is your former or current partner
- The bodily injury you caused them resulted in a traumatic condition
Note that you are guilty under this statute if your actions are willful, deliberate, or done on purpose. But, you do not need to have intended to break the law.
A traumatic condition is a wound or physical injury resulting from a direct application of force. It does not have to be serious. Even a minor injury or wound will be a traumatic condition. Examples of common traumatic conditions in domestic violence cases are:
- Broken bones
- Internal bleeding
- Injuries from strangulation or suffocation
Since the offense is a wobbler, the prosecutor can charge it as a felony or misdemeanor based on the facts of the case and your criminal history. You will likely face felony charges if you inflicted severe injuries on the victim and/or have a prior account of domestic violence.
A misdemeanor conviction for inflicting a corporal injury on a spouse is punishable by one year in jail and a fine of not more than $6,000. The judge could send you on misdemeanor probation instead of jail time.
A felony conviction under this statute is punishable by:
- Two, three, or four years in prison
- A fine of $6,000
- You could also be eligible for felony probation in place of or together with jail time
If you have a previous conviction on your criminal history for battering your spouse, under California PC 243(e), your penalties for the underlying charge will increase to:
- Two, three, or four years in prison
- A fine of $10,000
The law against domestic battery in California makes it unlawful for anyone in an intimate relationship to inflict violence or force against a former or current intimate partner. Domestic battery does not necessarily require proof that you inflicted a visible injury on the victim. Domestic battery is mainly a misdemeanor.
But, the prosecutor must prove the following elements of this offense for the court to find you guilty:
- That you willfully touched another person in an offensive or harmful manner (hence committing a battery offense)
- You had an intimate relationship with the person
- You did not act in self-defense and were not defending another person
Remember that domestic battery also requires a willful or deliberate act. But your actions do not necessarily intend to break the law or injure another person.
Domestic battery is punishable by:
- One year in jail
- A court fine of $2,000
The judge could send you on misdemeanor probation instead of jail. If that happens, you must complete a batterer's intervention training or any other appropriate counseling class. The judge will also give a protective or restraining order, requiring you not to harm, harass or threaten the victim.
Other Consequences of a Conviction for Domestic Battery LGBT
Domestic violence is a grave offense in California, resulting in incarceration for the convict. Thus, you will likely spend time behind bars and away from your family and friends if found guilty of domestic violence. That could significantly impact your career and social life.
You will also be required to pay the victim or their family restitution. The victim could use the money to obtain medical treatment, counseling, and pay for property damage and lost wages. You will also be subject to court fines that could go up to $10,000, depending on the details of your case. Additionally, you could be ordered to fund one or more domestic violence programs in the state.
A domestic violence conviction leaves you with a permanent criminal record. The record will appear every time someone conducts a background check on you. People will likely judge you according to what they find on your criminal record. Thus, you could face challenges finding a suitable job after that. You could also experience trouble looking for a house or a property to lease. Employers and landlords conduct background checks before engaging potential employees or customers.
You could also lose your custody rights after a domestic violence conviction. Family court judges are very particular about who they grant custody rights. They must make decisions that will favor a child's best interests. Thus, you could be prohibited from obtaining custody of your minor child after a conviction. But you could get visitation rights. Remember that a sentence is unnecessary for a family court judge to deny custody rights. An accusation is enough for the judge to base their decision on.
A felony conviction for domestic violence will affect your gun rights. Felons are prohibited from possessing or purchasing a gun in California. Thus, if you are guilty of inflicting a corporal injury on your spouse, you could permanently lose your gun rights. Sadly, there is no way to recover your gun rights after a conviction for domestic violence.
Lastly, domestic violence carries serious immigration consequences. You have a cause for worry if you are an immigrant and face domestic violence charges in Los Angeles. The offense is listed among aggravated felonies and crimes of moral turpitude, impacting your immigration status. After a conviction, you could be deported if you are already living and/or working in the U.S.
You are also marked as inadmissible, making it hard for you to return to the country in the future.
Defending Yourself Against Domestic Violence Charges
If you face domestic violence charges in an LGBT relationship, finding a way to fight to avoid a conviction is necessary. A criminal conviction has grave consequences, including loss of rights and privileges, a damaging criminal record, time in jail or prison, and payment of a hefty fine.
A competent criminal attorney could help you develop a solid defense that could compel the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges. Fortunately, the best defense strategies are available that your attorney can use in your situation, including the following:
It Was an Accident
If you face domestic violence charges for accidentally inflicting an injury on your spouse, you can use this defense to have the judge dismiss your charges. Accidents always happen and could result in severe injuries, more than we could ever expect. You could have accidentally pushed your spouse, causing them to fall and seriously injure their head, neck, or back. But your attorney must demonstrate in court that your actions were accidental and not willful. If the court accepts your defense, the judge will dismiss your charges.
You Are Not Responsible for the Victim's Injuries
If your current or former intimate partner sustained severe injuries and you are being blamed for them, you could defend yourself using this strategy. It could be that someone else injured them, and you are only taking the blame because you are their former or current spouse.
Sometimes a former intimate partner can frame you for domestic violence to protect the actual perpetrator. In another instance, your intimate partner could be too injured to identify the perpetrator, and you are identified as the main suspect. You require proof that you are not responsible for their injury. Your attorney can also weaken the prosecutor's case, making it hard for them to prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.
You Acted in Self-Defense
Self-defense is legally allowed if you or someone else is in imminent danger. You could use force against someone if you are sure they are about to harm you or someone else. But, you must not use more force than necessary to defend yourself. The judge would like to know the gravity of the danger you were in and how much force you used to protect yourself or the other person. If you use reasonable force, you will be free. But if you used more force than necessary under the circumstances, you could still face charges for domestic violence or a related offense.
You Face False Accusations
False accusations are common in domestic violence situations. Some spouses or former partners lodge false accusations against innocent people out of revenge, jealousy, or to get even. If it happened to you, you only need to prove in court that you could not have possibly injured the victim, whether a current or former intimate partner.
For example, your ex-partner could accuse you of domestic battery. Since this offense does not require proof of a physical injury, they can quickly get away with it and cause you a criminal conviction for a crime you know nothing about. Skilled criminal attorneys have handled false accusations several times in their careers. Thus, your attorney will know how to reveal the truth and compel the court to dismiss your charges.
Find a Skilled Los Angeles Criminal Attorney Near Me
Domestic violence among LGBTs is as severe as among heterosexuals. It is an offense that carries grave consequences in California that will affect all aspects of your life. You must devise a solid defense against your charges to avoid a conviction and its implications if you face domestic violence LGBT charges in Los Angeles today. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we advise you to find legal help from the start of the process. Allow your attorney to guide, advise, support, and even help you obtain a fair outcome for your case. Call us at 424-333-0943 to discuss your situation and options.