Domestic violence is a serious crime that can have long-lasting effects on both the victim and the perpetrator. Domestic violence’s physical, emotional, and psychological consequences can devastate victims. In addition to the immediate impact of the abuse, victims may also experience long-term effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. For perpetrators, the consequences of domestic violence can include jail time, a loss of child custody, and a loss of employment.
In California, a statute of limitations for domestic violence crimes exists, and it is essential to understand it if you are a victim or accused of domestic violence. By better understanding this crime’s nature and the laws governing it, you can make informed decisions about your case.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Domestic Violence in California?
The statute of limitations is the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after you’ve been injured. In California, the statute of limitations for most crimes is two years. However, this was originally different for domestic violence. The state used to have a one-year rule for any misdemeanor domestic violence offense and a three-year rule for any felony domestic violence offense. However, many victims of domestic violence did not come forward until long after the abuse had occurred. Since domestic violence is often a hidden crime, victims may be afraid to come forward for fear of retaliation from the abuser.
In 2020, California lawmakers passed a bill (SB 273) that extended the statute of limitations for domestic violence to five years. This means that victims of domestic violence now have five years to file a police report or charge the abuser with a crime. The bill also created a new category of domestic violence called “coercive control,” which encompasses a broader range of abusive behaviors beyond physical violence. This change in the law was a victory for victims of domestic violence, as it gave them more time to come forward and seek justice.
What Common Factors Prevent Victims From Coming Forward?
There are many reasons why victims of domestic violence may not come forward right away. Often, the abuse is a gradual process that escalates over time. This can make it challenging for victims to recognize that they are being abused, and they may not realize how severe the abuse is until it is too late. Other times, victims may be afraid to come forward because they fear retaliation from the abuser. For example, the abuser may threaten to hurt the victim or their family if they go to the police, and this can intimidate victims into staying silent.
In even more extreme cases, the abuser may threaten to kill the victim if they speak out. Because an individual’s life may be at risk, they may feel it is not worth coming forward. While these reasons are legitimate fears experienced by many, they do not protect the abuser from prosecution. The bottom line is that no one has the right to abuse another person, and victims have every right to come forward and seek justice.
What Should I Do If the Statute of Limitations Has Expired for My Case?
If the statute of limitations has expired for your case, there are still avenues to protect yourself and seek justice:
- File a police report: Even if you can’t file criminal charges or sue the abuser, you can still file a police report. This will create a record of the abuse, and it can be used to help prosecute the abuser if they commit abuse again in the future.
- Get a restraining order: If you are still in danger from the abuser, you can get a restraining order. This will legally protect you from the abuser and require them to stay away from you for a certain time and distance. This can be extended if necessary, giving you peace of mind knowing that the abuser is not allowed to come near you.
- Seek therapy: If you are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the abuse, seek professional help. A therapist can provide support and resources to heal.
- Speak to a prosecutor: If you want to pursue criminal charges against the abuser, you can speak to a prosecutor. They will review your legal case and decide whether to press charges. Even if the statute has expired, the prosecutor may still be able to file charges if there is enough evidence.
- Tell your story: One of the most powerful things you can do is tell your story. This can help other victims feel less alone, and it can also help raise awareness about the issue. You can tell your story to a friend, family member, therapist, or domestic violence advocate. You can also share your story publicly by writing about it, speaking to the media, or testifying in court. Speak with an attorney about how much or what parts of your story you can publicly share without risking yourself.
FAQs About California Domestic Violence Laws
Q: How Long Do You Go to Jail for Domestic Violence in California?
A: The amount of time someone may spend in jail for committing domestic violence in California will depend on the offense and whether or not the victim was seriously injured. For example, if the abuser only caused minor injuries, they may spend a few days in jail. However, if the victim was seriously injured or the abuser has a history of domestic violence, they may spend several years in jail.
Q: Is Domestic Violence Considered a Felony in California?
A: Yes, there are cases where domestic violence is considered a felony in California. If the abuser caused immense physical or mental harm, has a history of such abuse, or used a weapon during the attack, they would likely be charged with a felony.
Q: Can a Domestic Violence Case be Dismissed in California?
A: In some cases, a domestic violence case may be dismissed if the victim does not want to press charges or if there is not enough evidence to prove the abuse occurred. However, the abuser can still be prosecuted even if the victim does not want to press charges. Prosecutors may choose to press charges if there is enough evidence to prove the abuse occurred.
Q: What Local Attorneys Can Help with My Domestic Violence Case?
A: At the Law Offices of Dorie A. Rogers, we are here to help. We understand how difficult it can be to deal with the aftermath of domestic violence, and we are here to support you in California every step of the way. We can help you understand your legal options and fight for the justice you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.