California Domestic Violence Laws [2024 Updated]

Over the years, California has continued to update its laws regarding domestic violence in an effort to impose harsher punishments on abusers and establish greater protections for victims. Nevertheless, domestic violence continues to plague families throughout the state. If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, it is important that you speak with a California domestic violence attorney as soon as possible.

An experienced domestic violence attorney, like those at Najera Law Group, P.C., can protect your rights and advocate for your defense throughout a process that can be both legally and emotionally challenging. If you’re facing domestic violence charges, reach out today.

How Is Domestic Violence Defined?

Domestic violence can potentially refer to a range of abusive behaviors. These can be physical, emotional, verbal, psychological, economic, or sexual in nature. Any abuse that happens between family members, spouses, current or former intimate partners, roommates, or dating partners can be considered domestic violence. These behaviors include, but are not limited to:

  • Physical abuse. This includes any form of physical harm, such as hitting, pushing, punching, or throwing objects.
  • Emotional abuse. This includes insults, constant criticism, belittling, or other verbal manipulation that breaks a person’s self-esteem.
  • Psychological abuse. This includes threats, isolation, or intimidation. Stalking, which includes following, harassing, or monitoring someone’s communications, could also be considered a form of psychological abuse.
  • Economic abuse. This includes withholding access to funds or other financial resources, preventing a partner from working, or otherwise controlling someone through monetary means.
  • Sexual abuse. This includes any sexual activity that is forced or otherwise engaged in without consent, such as rape.

How Are Domestic Violence Cases Prosecuted?

Domestic violence cases can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the nature of the behavior and the severity of the charge.

  • Misdemeanor charges. Minor injuries or threats of abuse could qualify as a misdemeanor abuse charge, especially for non-serious first-time offenses. Convictions can lead to fines, probation, mandatory counseling, and up to 1 year in jail.
  • Felony charges. Using a weapon, repeated offenses, injuries that require medical attention, acts of abuse that are particularly egregious, such as sexual abuse, or acts that could lead to death, can be charged as a felony. Felony convictions can lead to longer prison sentences, higher fines, and longer probation periods.

What Other Penalties Occur for Domestic Violence Convictions?

In addition to fines, jail time, and probation, there are additional penalties that those who are convicted of domestic violence incur. Often, individuals with domestic violence convictions lose access to certain rights or freedoms or have certain obligations imposed. These may include:

  • Firearm rights restrictions. Those who’ve been charged with domestic violence lose the right to own or possess a firearm. Depending on the severity of the offense, this may be during probation or permanent.
  • Loss of custody rights. Domestic violence convictions can impact child custody determinations or current custody arrangements. In some cases, a parent may completely lose their parental rights.
  • Protective orders. Individuals who are convicted of domestic violence may have restraining orders or protective orders imposed on them. These limit or prohibit contact with the victim or other family members. Further legal penalties may result after violations of these orders.
  • Damage to social opportunities. Being convicted of domestic violence can have an impact on an individual’s employment, future job opportunities, and background checks. Access to certain housing opportunities may also be restricted. Convictions can additionally have a social impact, straining relationships and leading to social isolation.

Being convicted of domestic violence can carry heavy consequences that have both short- and long-term effects on a person’s personal, professional, and social life. For these reasons, it is imperative that you work with a qualified and experienced domestic violence attorney if you are facing charges of any kind.


Q: Is There a Statute of Limitations on Domestic Violence in California?

A: In California, the statute of limitations on domestic violence is five years. This gives victims five years from the time that the violence occurred to bring a case against their alleged abuser. The law used to allow only one to three years, but recent changes have extended the timeframe to five years to allow victims the time to come forward. Because domestic violence is often a hidden crime, victims may hesitate to act until much later.

Q: What Is the Average Sentence for Domestic Violence in California?

A: Domestic violence cases can vary greatly in both severity and circumstances. These can have an impact on the average sentence for convictions. Generally, convictions will lead to between 1 and 4 years of prison time. Misdemeanor domestic violence cases only carry up to a year in jail, while felony convictions carry harsher penalties. In most counties, the minimum jail time for a domestic abuse charge is 30 days.

Q: What Is the 2023 California Family Rights Act?

A: The 2023 California Family Rights Act expanded protection for families as it related to employment and leave-from-work rights. This included protection for victims of domestic violence as well.

Employers must keep victim information confidential and provide reasonable accommodations at work, such as adjusting schedules or transferring employees as needed. Victims are legally allowed time off to seek protection and treatment. Victims are also protected against retaliation by employers for exercising these rights.

Q: How Long Do Most Domestic Violence Cases Last?

A: Every domestic violence case is unique and can vary in duration based on the surrounding circumstances. Generally, they can last from a few months to over a year. The average length for a domestic violence case that goes to trial is about 9 months. The complexity of the case, the court’s schedule, and the availability of the witnesses to the case can all impact the length of time a case can take.

Contact Your California Domestic Violence Attorney Today

Najera Law Group, P.C., has been handling family law cases throughout Southern California, defending those unfairly accused of committing domestic violence and helping hold false accusers accountable. If you are facing charges, contact our office today for a consultation, and get the help you deserve.



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