In 1994, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act was signed into law. It was created to provide extra protections for the victims of domestic violence in our state. Unfortunately, the language in this legislation may not have been clear enough. Now innocent people could be facing dire consequences due to domestic violence laws that are too vague, and options for the accused could be slim.
How Vague Are California Domestic Violence Laws?
In 2009, a man went to his ex-wife’s house to have a conversation. It had been three years since the last time the man had seen his daughter and according to his testimony, he had come to give her Christmas gifts and arrange some sort of visitation. However, the ex-wife made a wholly different claim about that day.
She said that when her ex-husband popped in for a surprise visit, he threatened the woman’s boyfriend and demanded to see her daughter. The two divergent stories came to a head when the woman took her story to court to get a temporary restraining order, which was granted by the judge.
You see, in California, disturbing the peace can be considered domestic violence. As a matter of fact, annoying phone calls, letters or even calling someone a name can be construed as domestic violence. Even when those attempts of contact are an attempt to reestablish contact with your child. This is due to vague wording in the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, which was broadly written so other less common behaviors such as stalking or emotional abuse could be considered domestic violence. This has left judges to interpret how the language of the act is to be fairly interpreted, and that has left some vulnerable when evidence becomes hard to come by in certain cases.
For the man wanting to reestablish contact with his daughter, his temporary restraining order was extended to five years. That’s because the child’s mother accused him of child molestation in 2006, and though police investigations proved inconclusive, the case still affected the judge’s ruling in the 2009 case. That long-term restraining order was then used to strip that man’s parental rights away in 2012, and now he is in court, fighting a protracted battle just to see the daughter he hasn’t seen in 12 years.
Understanding the intricacies of California’s domestic violence laws is important. If this father had contacted an experienced criminal defense attorney before trying to reestablish contact with his daughter, then his courtroom nightmare may have been avoided. Channels of communication unlikely to be misinterpreted as domestic violence could have been established with legal help, and potentially false claims could have been addressed much earlier.