Domestic Violence – Penalties

Last Modified: August 14, 2023




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Do not gamble with your future. Accusations related to domestic violence can be devastating to you, your family and your career. Once an accusation is made it is critical that you have a knowledgeable expert on your side.


The penalties in domestic violence cases can vary widely, and will always depend on the kind of offense charged and the exact circumstances of the offense. Whether or not the defendant has a criminal history, or a history of previous domestic violence offenses, will also affect the severity of the penalty imposed.

Of course, penalties are only of concern if a defendant is actually convicted of an offense. At Summit Defense, our aim in every case is always the complete dismissal of all charges and we will do everything possible to avoid a conviction in your case. However, in cases where a conviction cannot be avoided, Summit Defense Attorneys will fight to minimize consequences. In many cases we can:

  • Get charges reduced to lesser offense/s;
  • Achieve a sentence of only a fine or short probation period;
  • Seek counseling and jail alternatives; and
  • Enroll our clients in diversion programs.


What factors will the judge take into account when sentencing me?

Apart from the nature of the offense itself and any criminal history, the judge will consider the specific circumstances of each case before passing sentence. Some of the things that the judge will consider are known as aggravating and mitigating circumstances  – these are factors that might either increase (aggravate) or decrease (mitigate) the eventual sentence.

There are some common factors that can occur in domestic violence cases – for example, if alcohol or drug use was associated with the offense, and you voluntarily enter into a treatment program, then your attorney may persuade the judge to take that into account as a mitigating circumstance. On the other hand, if the offense was part of a pattern of violent and abusive behavior over some time, that might be considered an aggravating circumstance. However, every case is different and every defendant is unique – an experienced Summit Defense attorney will best know how to put together a positive case on sentencing that brings together as many mitigating circumstances as possible, and reduces the negative effect of any aggravating circumstances.


What other consequences can occur as a result of being convicted of a domestic violence offense?

Being convicted of a domestic violence offense exposes a defendant to several other consequences besides possible imprisonment or fines. This is, in part, due to the policies surrounding domestic violence and the fact that the law and the courts try to address some of the underlying causes of violence, as well as aiming to protect victims. This means that the law gives judges significant power to restrict a defendant’s liberties beyond the standard sentences available. We outline the most significant additional consequences that a defendant may face in a domestic violence matter, below.


Immigration status jeopardized

A conviction for a domestic violence offense can have particularly serious consequences for non-citizens. A conviction can jeopardize your immigration status, such as by making it difficult to renew your visa in the future – which may affect your job, and your opportunity to remain in the US.

If you are not a US citizen, and on a visa, or hoping to apply for a Green Card, then you need Summit Defense – we are the only criminal defense firm in the Bay Area with a specialized immigration attorney on our team. This means we are able to provide the best representation to our clients who are immigrants by taking into account all of their legal needs.



If there is a restraining order made against you, you will be required to sell your guns and provide proof of that sale to the police, or hand your guns over to the police to keep until the order ends. If you are convicted of certain domestic violence offenses, you will be forced to give up any guns that you own – and in many cases, you will not be allowed to own a gun ever again. This is fairly complex area of law, because both Federal and state laws apply here – and, where Federal and California laws conflict, the Federal law must be followed. Further, the courts have held that these bans do not violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The way in which domestic violence offenses trigger these bans on gun ownership are as follows:

  1. California ban on gun ownership if convicted of a felony: Under Penal Code 29800, anyone convicted of a felony anywhere in the world is prohibited from having a gun. This includes felony domestic violence convictions. If you breach this law, there are serious penalties, including jail time and large fines.
  2. California ban on gun ownership if convicted of certain misdemeanors: Under Penal Code 29805, there is a ten-year ban on gun ownership for people convicted of certain misdemeanors. Those include domestic violence related offenses of battery, making criminal threats, and stalking. It is only after the ten-year period expires that you are allowed to own a gun again.
  3. Federal lifetime ban on gun ownership for domestic violence offenses: Under 18 United States Code 922(g), there is a Federal ban on owning firearms for life that is imposed on anyone who is convicted of most domestic violence offenses. So, regardless of the California ten-year ban, the Federal law would actually ban most people convicted of domestic violence offenses from owning a gun ever again, anywhere in the United States.


Compulsory restraining or protective orders

In most cases where a domestic violence conviction is recorded, the judge will impose a criminal protective order. And, in the case of some offenses, the law requires the judge to do so. These orders can – and are – imposed whether the victim requests the order or not.

These orders can be very restrictive – they can prevent a defendant from living in their home, from spending time with their family, from seeing or talking to their partner, or from communicating with their children. Considering that orders can be imposed for up to five years in some cases, these orders can have a significant and ongoing impact on your life. A Summit Defense attorney will always try to avoid a conviction so these kinds of consequences aren’t imposed on our clients. And even in cases where a conviction cannot be avoided, we will present compelling evidence to the court to have orders made that are reasonable and take into account our client’s and their family’s circumstances.

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