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California Domestic Violence Laws: What to know if arrested for Domestic Violence.

On Behalf of | Jan 14, 2024 | Domestic Violence

In the realm of criminal defense, understanding the nuances of domestic violence laws in California is crucial for both legal professionals and the general public. Domestic violence cases are treated with the utmost seriousness, and the consequences of an arrest can be life-altering. This blog post aims to shed light on the unique, key aspects of California laws related to an arrest for domestic violence, offering valuable insights for those seeking information or facing such allegations.

1. Definition of Domestic Violence:

Domestic violence is a serious criminal offense in California, and it carries severe penalties, including significant fines, mandatory counseling, and jail time. Domestic violence is defined as abuse or threats of abuse when the victim and the abuser are or have been in an intimate relationship or household members. Acts of abuse encompass physical harm, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and even economic control. More information about specific domestic violence offenses and their definitions can be found here: domestic violence.

2. Penal Code § 13701 – Mandatory Arrest Policies:

The State of California is considered a mandatory arrest state when domestic violence allegations are reported to law enforcement. Penal Code section 13701, subdivision (a) requires all law enforcement agencies to develop, adopt, and implement written policies and standards for officers’ response to domestic violence calls. Further, Penal Code section 13701, subdivision (b) requires the written policies to “encourage” the arrest of domestic violence offenders if there is probable cause an offense has been committed. Penal Code section 13701, subdivision (b) also requires investigating officers to identify the “dominant aggressor” involved in the dispute. The statute defines “dominant aggressor” as, “the person determined to be the most significant, rather than the first, aggressor.”

San Diego County law enforcement agencies have adopted policies and standards that reflect the “encouragement” of arrests when allegations of domestic violence offenses have been made. It is also important to recognize that probable cause for an arrest is considered a low standard of proof. Very often in cases involving allegations of domestic violence, an alleged victim’s statement against an individual is sufficient for a probable cause finding to support an arrest.

3. Domestic Violence Bail in San Diego County:

If the individual arrested for allegations of domestic violence is booked into county jail, then the individual will be required to post bail to be released from custody. When someone is arrested for an alleged criminal offense, and is subsequently booked into county jail, their bail amount is typically determined by the local bail schedule. The local bail schedule designates bail amounts for specific criminal offenses an individual is alleged to have committed.

In San Diego County, the bail amount for a domestic violence offense will vary on a number of factors and circumstances: Was the individual arrested for a misdemeanor or felony? How egregious were the allegations? Are their any other aggravating factors, or does the individual have a significant criminal record?

Typically, a misdemeanor domestic violence arrest in San Diego County can expect bail to be between $10,000 to $25,000. For a felony arrest in San Diego County, the bail amount will increase to between $50,000 to $100,000 (or more).

If an individual is unable to post bail following an arrest for an alleged domestic violence offense, and criminal charges are filed, there will be an opportunity to ask a judge to reduce or eliminate the need for bail at the Arraignment.

4. Protective Orders and Restraining Orders:

Following a domestic violence arrest, a court may issue various protective or restraining orders. This may come in the form of an Emergency Protective Order, which will only be in place for a shorter duration of time. The alleged victim may file a petition with the family court for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. If criminal charges are filed, then the alleged victim and/or prosecuting attorney will request a Criminal Protective Order during the pendency of the criminal case.

These orders are designed to safeguard the alleged victim and may include provisions such as maintaining a certain distance, refraining from contact, or even vacating the shared residence. You will also be required to surrender any and all firearms in your possession.

5. Pre-File Representation for a Domestic Violence Arrest:

If you have been arrested or are under investigation for a domestic violence offense in San Diego County, it is important to seek legal representation as soon as possible. In some cases, it may be possible to avoid criminal charges altogether through pre-file legal representation.

Pre-file representation refers to legal representation provided to individuals who are under investigation but have not yet been formally charged with a crime. During this stage, a skilled criminal defense attorney can work to prevent charges from being filed against you by conducting an independent investigation, negotiating with law enforcement officials, and presenting evidence in your favor. An attorney can communicate with law enforcement officials and prosecutors on your behalf to protect you from making statements that could be used against you in a criminal proceeding.

The goal of pre-file representation is to stop criminal charges from being filed against you in the first place, which can save you time, money, and the stress of going to trial. This can be especially important if you are facing a serious felony charge, as a conviction could result in lengthy prison time, hefty fines, and other consequences.


California imposes severe penalties for domestic violence convictions, including potential jail time, fines, probation, and mandatory attendance at counseling programs. A conviction can also have far-reaching consequences, affecting employment opportunities, professional licenses, and even child custody arrangements. Beyond the criminal penalties, individuals facing domestic violence charges may also encounter collateral consequences. These can include the loss of firearm rights, immigration issues for non-citizens, and a tarnished reputation within the community.

Understanding California domestic violence arrest laws is essential for anyone involved in or affected by such cases. If you are facing charges for a domestic violence offense in California, it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side who can provide effective legal representation and protect your rights. At the Law Office of Ari S. Lieberman, we have the knowledge and experience necessary to handle these complex cases and will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. This comprehensive guide is intended to provide an overview of the key considerations surrounding domestic violence arrests in California, but it is not a substitute for legal advice tailored to your specific situation.