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What Happens After I Am Arrested for Domestic Violence in California?

pexels-tima-miroshnichenko-6266772-200x300California is known for having some of the strictest domestic violence laws in the nation. If you find yourself arrested for domestic violence–whether it’s for simple domestic battery or something more serious like criminal threats or corporal injury–there’s a high probability that you will spend some time behind bars, even before being officially charged. Understanding the process and knowing what to expect can help you navigate this challenging situation more effectively and with less fear. Let’s explore the key stages following a domestic violence arrest in California, from the initial arrest to potential court proceedings.

Immediate Arrest and Booking

Once law enforcement arrives at the scene of a reported domestic violence incident, they will assess the situation. If they determine that there is probable cause to believe that a domestic violence offense has occurred, they are required by law to make an arrest. In California, domestic violence is taken very seriously, and an arrest is almost always inevitable if there are visible injuries or other evidence of an assault.

California law mandates that most individuals arrested for domestic violence are detained immediately. This means you will likely spend time in jail until a court hearing determines your release status. After your arrest, you will be taken to the local jail for booking. This process includes:

  • Recording personal information: Your name, address, and the details of the alleged offense.
  • Fingerprinting and photographing: Standard procedure for all arrestees.
  • Confiscation of personal belongings: Any personal items, including your phone and wallet, will be held until your release.

Initial Custody and Bail

After booking, you will be held in custody until a bail hearing can be arranged. In California, domestic violence cases are often treated with a “no bail” policy until the accused appears before a judge, particularly if there is a perceived threat to the victim’s safety. However, depending on the circumstances, bail may be set, allowing you to post bail and secure your release until your court date.

Bail amounts for domestic violence cases can vary widely based on factors such as:

  • The severity of the alleged offense
  • Your criminal history
  • The risk of flight
  • The potential danger to the alleged victim

In some cases, the court may deny bail altogether, particularly if the charges involve significant bodily harm or if there is a history of domestic violence.

Protective Orders

In conjunction with your arrest, the court may issue an emergency protective order (EPO) to protect the alleged victim. This order typically includes provisions that:

  • Prohibit you from contacting the victim
  • Require you to stay away from the victim’s home, workplace, or school
  • May consist of other restrictions deemed necessary by the court

After your arrest, your accuser may file a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against you, which will last up to 25 days, pending a hearing. At the hearing, a judge will decide whether to make the restraining order permanent. If so, the restraining order will last up to five years. If the trial judge overseeing your case believes you are a danger to the safety of the victim, the judge may issue a criminal protective order (CPO) independently of any civil restraining order requested by your accuser.

Violating a protective order can lead to additional criminal charges, complicating your defense and potentially resulting in more severe penalties. Also, remember that protective orders can remain in effect even if you are acquitted of the charges, and no criminal charges are ultimately filed. 


Your first court appearance following a domestic violence arrest is the arraignment. This is a critical stage in the criminal justice process, where you will be formally charged and informed of your rights. During the arraignment, the judge will:

  • Read the charges against you
  • Ask how you plead: guilty, not guilty, or no contest
  • Decide on bail or whether you should remain in custody until your trial

It is crucial to have legal representation during the arraignment. An experienced criminal defense attorney can argue for a reasonable bail amount or advocate for your release on your own recognizance, depending on the circumstances.

Pre-Trial Procedures

Following the arraignment, several pre-trial procedures will take place, including:

  • Discovery: Both the defense and the prosecution will exchange evidence. This includes police reports, witness statements, and any other pertinent information.
  • Motions: Your attorney may file motions to dismiss the charges, suppress evidence, or request other forms of relief.
  • Plea Bargaining: In some cases, your attorney may negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution to reduce the charges or recommend a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Diversionary Programs

If you are a first-time offender on a misdemeanor charge and the alleged victim has few or no signs of visible injury, you may be eligible for a diversionary program. This program will require you to meet certain conditions, such as attending treatment (if drugs were involved in the offense), attending anger management classes or a Batterer’s Intervention Program (BIP), and other requirements. If you fulfill the terms of your diversionary program, your charges will be dropped, and you can avoid a criminal record.


Twelve jurors will be questioned and selected if your case goes to trial. During the trial, the prosecution will present their evidence against you (including possible testimony from the victim), and your attorney will present your defense. The jury will then deliberate and render a guilty or not guilty verdict. 

If you are convicted, your sentence may include a number of penalties, including fines and jail/prison time. If the judge imposes probation in lieu of jail, you will likely be required to fulfill other conditions, including regular meetings with your probation officer, mandatory attendance of a BIP, community service, and other requirements.

The Importance of Legal Representation

Being arrested for domestic violence in California is a serious matter that can have lasting consequences on your personal and professional life. Because of California’s aggressive approach to claims of domestic violence, attempting to face the charges on your own is inadvisable as it may increase the chances of receiving maximum penalties. Hiring an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney affords you the best chance of minimizing the damage to your life after a domestic violence arrest. By contacting an attorney immediately after your arrest, your attorney will be able to provide critical guidance, protect your rights, and work to achieve the best possible outcome in your case so you can move forward with your life. For compassionate legal representation, call our offices today.

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