Domestic violence crimes differ from many other offenses because they come with mandatory conditions should a defendant be convicted. These mandatory conditions must be met if the defendant is placed on probation rather than jailed, or placed on probation following their time in jail.
In most criminal cases, judges are able to use their discretion regarding the penalties a defendant faces. But under California law, judges must meet the minimum conditions outlined in the penal code. Even if the defendant’s sentence is reduced to a more minor charge that does not usually qualify as a domestic violence situation, the mandatory conditions must be met if the original crime involved domestic violence.
Penal Code Section 1203.097 and Its Requirements
This penal code is applicable in all criminal offenses in which the defendant has one of the following relationships to the victim:
- The defendant is the victim’s current or former spouse
- The defendant cohabitates or cohabitated with the victim
- The defendant dates or dated the victim
- The defendant co-parents a child with the victim
- The defendant is the parent of the victim
The California penal code outlines the minimum sentences that must be given to defendants who are placed on probation after a domestic violence conviction. The following requirements must be met:
- The defendant’s probation period must last for at least three years
- A criminal protective order must be issued by the court in order to protect the victim from further threats, violence, abuse, harassment, or stalking
- The defendant will be fined a minimum of $500
- The defendant must complete a year-long batterer’s program
- The defendant must complete an amount of community service specified by the judge
The criminal protective order can vary in its issue. A “Level One” order is an order that allows for contact between the involved parties, provided that contact remain peaceful. There are also full restraining orders which prevent the defendant from contacting the victim in any way.
Sometimes the fee can be reduced to a lower fee if the defendant proves their financial hardship.
Applying the Penal Code to Other Criminal Charges
In some cases, a defendant may be arrested and charged with a domestic violence offense covered under this penal code. However, the prosecution might drop the charges in favor of bringing lesser charges against the defendant. If the victim has a relationship with the defendant that has been specified in the California Family Code Section 6211, the penal code section applies even when the defendant has pled down to a lesser charge.
This legal ruling was made in the People v. Cates decision, which concerned a vehicle that had been damaged during a domestic fight. Though the defendant was convicted of a lesser vandalism charge, the existence of domestic violence in the case made the penal code apply.
Judges must meet the minimum requirements for sentencing a convicted defendant who is on probation. They don’t need to stick only to the minimum, though. Probation periods might last longer than three years, fines may be higher than $500, and the defendant may have to provide progress reports to show that they are committed to rehabilitation through the batterer’s program.