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California Domestic Violence Law

In recent months domestic violence has often come to dominate the cable news cycle. Almost daily, reports of new incidents appear. Most high profile incidents have involved men and their spouses or girl friends, but children have been subject to violence as well. A recent case in which an NFL player knocked out his then girlfriend on a Las Vegas elevator caused a national debate on just how this violence should be dealt with. California law, however, very clearly spells out the manner and penalties that those convicted of domestic violence charges can expect.

There are numerous California laws that define and deal with various aspects associated with domestic violence.

Pre-Trial Motions in California

After the preliminary hearing, and before a criminal case goes to trial, the prosecutor and the defense team usually appear before a criminal court judge and make pre-trial motions. Pre-trial motions are legal arguments presented by the prosecution and the defense in an effort to set the parameters for trial, should one take place. In pre-trial motions, determinations may be made on what physical evidence and testimony can be used and what legal arguments can and cannot be made. The defense may offer valid reasons why the defendant should not be forced to stand trial and that the case should be dismissed altogether.

Specific possibilities are countless for arguments made during pre-trial motions and the following are common examples of pre-trial motions that might be made in a criminal case:

Making A Terrorist Threat

The term “making a terrorist threat” is a familiar phrase to frequent viewers of cable news programs. It brings to mind images of black-hooded, threatening figures in videos posted by jihadist groups known only to those specialists who study such things.

Laws enacted to address this type of activity, at both the state and federal levels, are used to prosecute terrorists, but now are used far more often to prosecute other violations of criminal law such as domestic violence, hate crimes, bomb threats, and school violence. So much so that, in California, crimes previously known as terrorist threats are now defined as “criminal threats.”

Motions to Suppress Evidence

There have been instances when law enforcement conducted searches for which they either had no warrant or obtained a warrant that was in violation of constitutional law. When a prosecutor seems likely to present evidence that was found during such a search in a case against you, a motion to suppress that evidence should be filed by your criminal defense attorney and could result in the prosecutor dropping the charges or in a reduction in charges.

A motion to suppress evidence may be used to challenge both searches that were conducted either with or without a search warrant. Without a warrant, the defendant has the initial burden of showing that a search or seizure was without a warrant and that it was unreasonable under the circumstances.

California Law on Driving without a License

Due to state funding problems, California newscasts often feature DMV offices with lines outside the building or sometimes even with closed doors being angrily shaken by citizens firm in their belief that the office should be open. The services DMV provides often cannot be deferred and are not optional. Take, for example, obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. Though it may seem that driving without a license is a relatively minor offense, it is a misdemeanor and a conviction will appear on your criminal record.

Driving in California requires a valid license, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be issued by the California DMV. It is permissible to drive with a valid driver’s license from the state in which you reside, and which is applicable for the type of vehicle (car, motorcycle, commercial truck, etc.) that you are driving.

Destroying or Concealing Evidence in California

In the era of electronic communications, many daily transactions such as sales, medical records, and transfer of funds are accomplished online. While these transactions leave a digital trail, this trail may be easy to alter or even destroy. Alteration or destruction of such information may be a crime when such data becomes regarded as evidence in a legal investigation. Likewise, any physical evidence such as weapons, documents or even EKG printouts are subject to concealment or destruction. California Penal Code 135 makes it illegal to destroy or conceal any evidence, written or physical, that you know is relevant to either a criminal investigation or court case.

This crime has two elements which are:

Allowing an Unlicensed Minor to Drive in California

A recent tragic car accident occurred in Southern California when a sixteen-year-old boy crashed an older BMW into a freeway embankment, killing five other teens. The driver, who survived the crash, did not have a learner’s permit, yet alone a driver’s license. The teen had not even started the process of obtaining a license, according to investigators. Furthermore, the question of just how the boy was in possession of the car brought his family members under a cloud of suspicion. The CHP stated that they were trying to determine just exactly who gave permission to the teen to drive the car, which is registered to someone else.

A provision within the California Vehicle Code absolutely prohibits a parent to cause or knowingly permit an unlicensed minor to drive. In addition, Vehicle Code 14604 stipulates that any owner of a motor vehicle is “required only to make a reasonable effort or inquiry to determine whether the prospective driver possesses a valid driver’s license before allowing him or her to operate the owner’s vehicle.”

Buying Alcohol for Minors In California

Many Californians can relate to an experience common to those who have had the occasional need to purchase alcohol at the neighborhood convenience store. Needing just the right bottle of wine to go with the fresh scallops waiting in your fridge, you head to the nearby store where you are approached by a young woman asking if you’ll buy her some beer. To you, she looks old enough and when she says she just forgot her ID (which you’ve done yourself a time or two), you decide to buy her a six pack.

You’ve fallen prey to the “shoulder tap,” a method used by minors to illegally obtain alcohol by standing outside of a licensed establishment and asking nearby adults to purchase alcohol for them. California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has recognized the wide spread use of this technique and now utilizes the shoulder tap as the basis for sting operations. The agency will place a decoy minor, who is under the direct supervision of a law enforcement officer, outside a liquor or convenience store who then tells patrons that they are underage and asks the patrons to buy them alcohol. Such sting operations have resulted in hundreds of arrests in recent years.

Claiming Self Defense in California

In California, self defense can be a viable legal defense in some situations. This means that you can’t be found guilty of a violent crime that you committed in order to protect yourself, as long as your conduct was reasonable under the circumstances. If you use force against an intruder in your home, the self defense laws are closely defined. Outside of your home, the law is less clear.

Within your home, California has a law often referred to as “the castle doctrine” and is defined in Penal Code Section 198.5. It deals with situations where someone has broken in. It is not a license to kill any intruder you find in your house, but only creates a presumption that can make it easier for you to establish, as your affirmative defense, that your act of violence was justified. In order to establish that shooting someone in your home was justified, you will have to demonstrate that the requirements of Penal Code 197 were met. This code describes the legal standards that must be met in order to justify self defense in the commission of a homicide.

California’s Disturbing the Peace Laws

In California, whenever someone acts in a way that disrupts the public order or disturbs the peace and tranquility of the community, they are in violation of Penal Code 415 PC. Disturbing the peace laws cover a wide variety of activities, and for this reason they are one of the more commonly charged crimes. Most disturbing the peace offenses are misdemeanors, though some may be felonies or even infractions.

California law defines three forms of disturbing the peace providing prosecutors multiple ways to pursue criminal charges against defendants. A person can violate California’s “disturbing the peace” laws by:

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