DOMESTIC VIOLENCE UNIT
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office takes domestic violence cases very seriously. City Attorneys prosecute domestic violence cases vigorously and provide support services to victims of domestic violence throughout the criminal justice process.
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to gain power and control over an intimate partner. An intimate partner includes a spouse, a former spouse, a live-in partner or former live-in partner, a boyfriend or girlfriend or a former boyfriend or girlfriend, or a parent of a child in common. Domestic Violence is a crime.
Domestic Violence is often accompanied by other kinds of abuse including emotional abuse, financial abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, psychological abuse and verbal abuse. Certain kinds of abuse, like sexual abuse and animal abuse, are also crimes. Other kinds of abuse, like verbal abuse, are not crimes. Whether or not the abuse is a crime, it is often part of a larger pattern of conduct used to gain power and control.
Victims of domestic violence are often told that the violence and abuse directed at them is their fault. It is not. If you are the victim of domestic violence, it is not your fault.
As part of the City Attorney’s Office's commitment to ending domestic violence, the Office has created a special Family Violence Unit. The Family Violence Unit handles the Office's most serious domestic violence cases. Cases assigned to the Family Violence Unit are handled by a team of professionals including a Prosecutor, an Investigator and a Victim Advocate. Victim Advocates assist domestic violence victims as the case moves through the criminal justice system. They can assist victims in locating emergency shelters and other support services. Victim Advocates can also help domestic violence victims contact the Victim-Witness Assistance Program so that they can obtain financial assistance.
How Does a Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Case MoveThrough The Criminal Justice System?
The City Attorney’s Office receives cases from the Los Angeles Police Department. When cases are brought to our office, a deputy trained in filing cases reviews the police report and any other additional evidence to determine whether there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has occurred.
Depending upon his or her review of the evidence, the City Attorney’s Office may, or may not, file a criminal case against the person who was arrested. It is important to understand that the victim of a crime does not make the decision about whether or not to file a case. The victim of a crime can not "drop the charges."
Arrest – The police may arrest the suspect and hold him* in jail for 48 hours or until he can post bail. Note that even if the police arrest a suspect, he may be released from jail sooner than 48 hours. If you or your children are not safe, please call a domestic violence hotline and request assistance for emergency shelter. Under certain circumstances, at the time of arrest the police can obtain an Emergency Protective Order (an "EPO") for the victim of a domestic violence crime. That order, which is valid for a specific time period, may order the person arrested to stay away from the victim and/or her children.
Arraignment – If criminal charges are filed, the person arrested (now called the Defendant) will either be brought to court by the sheriff if he is in custody, or ordered to appear in court if he is not in custody. At the arraignment, the defendant may plead guilty (admitting the charges), no contest (not fighting the charges) or not guilty. If he pleads not guilty, the judge will set new court dates for a pre-trial hearing and a trial. At arraignment, a victim of a domestic violence crime can get an order from the court ordering the Defendant to stay away from her and/or her children. This is called a Criminal Protective Order ("CPO").
*The use of "he" and "she" is not intended to exclude any group or individual. Anyone can be the victim or perpetrator of domestic violence.
Master Calendar Court – The case will be called in this courtroom for a pre-trial hearing. The defendant may plead guilty or no contest at this time or the case may proceed to trial.
Trial Court – If the Defendant does not admit the offense by pleading guilty or no contest, the case will go to trial, usually before a jury. At trial, witnesses, and maybe the Defendant, will testify. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you will likely be called to testify. If you do not speak English, the Court will provide an interpreter for you. If you have been served with a subpoena or ordered by the Judge, you must appear in court on the date and time indicated on the subpoena. After all the evidence has been submitted, the jury will decide if the prosecution has proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The majority of cases do not go all the way to trial.
Sentencing – The Judge will determine the sentence, including whether to send the Defendant to jail. You have a right to come to court to tell the judge information that you feel may be helpful in sentencing.
City Attorney Hearing Program
If formal criminal charges are not filed against the person arrested, the City Attorney’s Office may set the case for a City Attorney Hearing. The goal of the Hearing Program in domestic violence cases is to increase the safety and security of victims of family violence and their children by providing an effective alternative to prosecution of misdemeanor offenses in criminal court. If the case is set for a hearing, both the person arrested and the victim will receive a letter informing them of when and where a City Attorney Hearing will be held. At the hearing, a Hearing Officer will review the case, educate the parties about the law and provide resources and referrals as needed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by up to one year in the county jail. Crimes that are punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison are felonies. California also has crimes called "wobblers." These are offenses that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.
What is the difference between the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office?
While both offices prosecute crimes, there are two important differences. First, the City Attorney’s Office, headed by City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, prosecutes crimes within the city limits of Los Angeles, whereas the District Attorney’s Office, headed by District Attorney Steve Cooley, prosecutes crimes that occur throughout the County of Los Angeles. Second, the City Attorney’s Office prosecutes misdemeanor offenses only. Felony offenses are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office.
What kinds of crimes are considered domestic violence crimes?
California Penal Code Section 273.5 is the section that deals directly with injuries caused by an intimate partner. However, there are many other crimes that occur when violence enters an intimate relationship. For example, Penal Code section 243(e)(1) [Battery against an intimate partner]; Penal Code Section 646.9 [Stalking]; Penal Code Section 245 [Assault with a Deadly Weapon]; Penal Code Section 602 [Trespass]; Penal Code Section 459 [Burglary]; Penal Code Section 594 [Vandalism]; Penal Code Section 273.6 [Violation of a Domestic Violence Protective Order].
Do I have to be the victim of domestic violence in order to call a hotline?
No, hotlines can help friends and family members of domestic violence victims as well. Sometimes it is hard to know what to say or do. A trained advocate answering a domestic violence hotline can assist you in helping someone you know. You don’t have to tell anyone your name when you call a hotline, all calls are confidential.
How can I find the telephone number of a domestic violence hotline?
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); TDD 1-800-787-3224 and they will direct you to services in your area. All calls are free and confidential.
What do I do if I do not speak English?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline can speak to you in your native language and can direct you to culturally sensitive services in your area.
Will my batterer find me if I go to a shelter?
The location of domestic violence emergency shelters is confidential. Willful disclosure of the location of a domestic violence emergency shelter is a crime.
Can a domestic violence victim drop the charges?
No, a victim or witness to a crime can not drop the charges in a criminal case. Unlike a civil case, a victim is not a party to the criminal litigation. The decision about whether to proceed with a criminal case belongs to the prosecutor and/or the Judge.
What if the only time he hits me is when he is drinking? What if all he needs is to go to an alcohol program?
Alcohol and drugs may be present during episodes of domestic violence. However, there is no excuse for domestic violence. Domestic violence is a crime whether or not he is using drugs or alcohol. The reason he is using drugs or alcohol is separate from the reason he is using violence against you.
FAMILY VIOLENCE EMERGENCY SERVICES
If you are or have been the victim of violence from an intimate partner, a former partner, a boyfriend or girlfriend, former boyfriend or girlfriend or other family member, you are the victim of a crime. No matter what anyone says, another person’s violence IS NOT YOUR FAULT AND YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE SAFE.
If you or your children are in danger right now or you have been harmed by your partner, former partner, live-in partner, former live-in partner or parent of your child, call 911.
If you are in need of emergency shelter, support services or just someone to talk to, there are many 24-hour hotlines, in almost all languages, staffed with people who understand domestic violence can help you. Call the Domestic Violence National Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233); TDD 1-800-787-3224 and they will direct you to services in your area. All calls are free and confidential.
If you are between the ages of 13-18 and need support services or if you just need someone to talk to about teen dating violence call 1-866-331-9474; TDD 1-866-331-8453. All calls are free and confidential.
Los Angeles City Attorney
Victim Assistance Unit
Main Number (213) 978-2097
Main Fax No. (213) 978-2179