How to Drop Domestic Violence Charges in California

If you are facing charges of domestic violence, do not wait. Domestic violence charges are serious but there are ways to get the charges dropped. Consider getting legal help from a California attorney. 

What is Domestic Violence?

California State laws state that domestic violence is abuse or threats of abuse against someone intimate. This includes:

  • a spouse, 
  • domestic partner, 
  • someone with whom you have a child, 
  • someone with whom you currently live or once lived, and 
  • someone you are currently dating or once dated
  • even someone who is closely related by marriage or blood such as children or close family members

What constitutes abuse exactly? 

Domestic violence laws in California state that abuse is any situation where:

  • someone tries to physically hurt another person recklessly or intentionally
  • they sexually assault another person
  • they make someone frightened for their well-being through threats
  • someone stalks another person, harasses them, threatens them it’s them, destroys personal property, or disturbs the peace

Physical abuse can take the form of hitting, throwing things, following you, shoving you, pulling your hair, abusing your family pets, preventing you from freely leaving or returning to your home, or following you.

Legally, domestic abuse does not have to be physical. It can also include verbal abuse, psychological abuse, or emotional abuse.

Penalties for Domestic Violence

Domestic abuse in California can be a misdemeanor whereby the individual gets minimal penalties in addition to probation or a felony especially if this is not the first charge of domestic abuse.

In California, there are a range of potential penalties if convicted of domestic violence and they can include a mandatory jail sentence, participation in domestic violence classes as a form of rehabilitation, fines, restraining orders, a loss of custody rights of children are involved, a loss of gun rights, potential deportation for non-citizens, as well as a permanent mark on a criminal record.

If convicted that can be long-term repercussions that influence career opportunities, volunteer opportunities as well as social opportunities. 

Can domestic violence charges be dropped in California

Yes, they can. There are two situations in California where you would seek to drop charges of domestic abuse. The first is when someone else was incorrectly charged, you simply don’t want to seek this type of legal recourse. The second is when you are incorrectly charged.

How to drop charges against someone in CA

The first way is much more challenging. California law for domestic violence heavily favors prosecutors. In fact, the prosecutors are responsible for determining which charges can be laid against another person and which charges can be dropped. Often, prosecutors want to ensure domestic violence is taken very seriously because it is a serious situation but there can be instances where mistakes were made or police arrested someone in a situation where they should not have been arrested, and in these cases, as the defendant it is up to you to seek a consultation where you can provide statements, documents, or other evidence to try and drop some or all of the charges.

With the help of a qualified attorney, you can try and persuade the prosecutor to drop a charge that is in favor not just of the person being charged with domestic violence but in favor of the state. You can also review the police report to determine what evidence will be brought against the defendant and from there, challenge that evidence.

How to get domestic violence charges dropped in California

If you were charged with domestic abuse in California, but you were acting in self-defense or defense of others, you need to know how to get a domestic violence case dismissed in California. The penalties are quite serious and will stick with you. 

There are many situations where an argument begins between two parties but by the time law enforcement arrives on the scene, they do not know how it began. What can happen in these situations is a mistake on behalf of law enforcement; They might arrest the wrong person making you the defendant trying to fight charges of domestic violence when in fact you were simply protecting yourself or others. 

Challenges to Domestic Violence 

In either of the two situations above, the best legal recourse is to challenge the evidence or challenge the legality of the arrest.

Challenging the Evidence

In California, the police report will function as the main source of evidence but there will also need to be proof that the defendants violated state laws, created an abusive environment and were abusive. Experienced attorneys can review the evidence against an individual and prepare a defense that can include things like:

  • Photographs or medical records which could indicate any sustained injuries were not the result of the altercation in question. Working with medical professionals can confirm that certain injuries were perhaps the cause of a recent biking accident or that they were much older than projected. 
  • Witness testimonies, coming from the other parties involved or witnesses, can go a long way toward challenging the evidence especially in situations where the prosecution is claiming that the defendant created a hostile and abusive environment where they wouldn’t let the family members leave, but neighbors saw the family members leave just fine. 
  • Similarly, documentary evidence like phone calls, emails, or text messages can go a long way toward disproving accusations. 

Challenging an Unlawful Arrest

California state law requires that when police officers respond to a domestic violence call, they make sure the family is left in safety. This is up to the police officers to determine and in California they can determine that making an arrest of who they believed to be the perpetrator will keep the family in safety. 

This means the police officers need probable cause but there are situations where, again, they might not understand the entirety of the situation and arrest the wrong person.


In these situations, there are many defenses to domestic violence charges that can get domestic violence charges dropped in California. California state law allows individuals to protect themselves in situations where they are in harm.

If an argument breaks out and one person shoves another, the first person is not allowed to reciprocate by shooting the person who shoved them. However, if that argument breaks out and Escalades and threats are made alongside hitting or kicking, the first person is allowed to protect themselves where they have a reasonable belief that they are going to be harmed or they have already been harmed. 

In these situations, self-defense can serve as your best defense for challenging charges of domestic violence and getting them dropped.

Defense of Others

Similarly, in California you are allowed to defend others so if you are in a home with your children or other members of your family and fearful for your safety and well-being, you can defend yourself and others against a perpetrator or abuser, when someone is violent or potentially lethal. This creates another valid legal defense to try and drop domestic violence charges in California.

Contacting a Lawyer

If you were charged with domestic violence or you are trying to get charges dropped, consider speaking with a criminal attorney in California. You can seek legal protection and find resources that are less extreme than criminal charges such as restraining orders. A qualified attorney can review your situation and answer questions about dropping the charges.

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