The Family Protection Unit (FPU) is responsible for the prosecution of domestic violence cases.
Domestic violence is defined as an act of violence, or threat to commit an act of physical violence, against one’s spouse, former spouse, cohabitant or former cohabitant, present or former boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancée/fiancé, or other parent of a child in common. Many victims are reluctant to prosecute due to fear, family dynamics and pressures.
The essence of domestic violence is the RELATIONSHIP between the parties. Therefore, virtually any crime of violence (murder, robbery, or assault) could be “domestic violence.”
Most frequently used code section: Penal Code Section 273.5, refers to a defendant who willfully inflicts corporal injury (visible or actual) on another with whom they share a domestic relationship as described above.
The Family Protection Unit looks at several factors in deciding whether to charge a case as a felony or a misdemeanor;
- Nature and severity of the attack
- Infliction of injury, extent of the injury inflicted
- Use of any weapon
- History of the parties as to prior assaults or threats
- Criminal history of either party
- Presence of alcohol/drug use between the parties
- Any other aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
These types of cases require special expertise and sensitivity. Veteran prosecutors with extensive felony trial experience are assigned to prosecute these cases from filing to sentencing. Each prosecutor works with an experienced investigator to prepare these cases for trial. Both the investigator and prosecutor attend specialized training on the subject of domestic violence.
The Family Protection Unit specializes in the filing of felony domestic violence. The misdemeanor filings of domestic violence are handled by the appropriate branch courts. If the injury or violence results in death, then the case will be prosecuted by the Homicide Unit.
People v. Betancourtrayo
Eduardo Betancourtrayo and the victim are married but separated. He waits for the victim as she gets off work shortly before midnight and follows her in his truck as she drives off in her car. When the cars stop at a traffic light, he shoots into her car three times, narrowly missing her. The victim speeds off and dials 911. During the call, the defendant rams her car with his truck three times. The victim is narrating the attack to the 911 operator. The defendant was charged with attempted premeditated murder with a gun. Mr. Betancourtrayo was found guilty by a jury and is awaiting sentencing.
People v. Robinson
Mr. Robinson is one of three people who were criminally charged for a fight that broke out at Disneyland on July 6, 2019. In this highly-publicized, video-taped brawl amongst a group of family members visiting the park, Mr. Robinson punches his sister and his girlfriend, the mother of his children, multiple times, knocking them both to the ground. He continues the assault on his girlfriend while she is on the ground and grips her hair while other park guests try to pull him off. Over an hour later, Mr. Robinson speeds through the parking structure, almost hitting his sister, girlfriend, and their two minor children, as well as guests and Disneyland security officers. He gets out of the jeep and confronts the ladies, threatening to kill them. Anaheim Police Department investigators and the assigned prosecutor unravel the case by viewing the cell phone videos, which had already been posted on the internet and broadcast on multiple television channels. Ultimately, Mr. Robinson was charged with fourteen felony and misdemeanor counts, and plead guilty to a court offer of six months in jail and four years formal probation.
To file a police report, you should contact your local city police or sheriff’s department.
- Orange County Office of the District Attorney Family Protection Unit
There are several shelters for victims of domestic abuse in Orange County, and the list below is not exhaustive. There are also faith-based community shelters that can be located through local places of worship. There is help for minority community women in culturally-sensitive projects and shelters that can be found through the community centers that assist these groups. Some of this assistance takes the form of outreach efforts, walk-in centers, and help in linking with other providers of shelter service. Four such centers are
- Laura’s House, (South Orange County)
- Human Options (South/Central OC)
- Interval House (West/Central OC)
- Women’s Transitional Living Center (Central/North OC)
If a batterer is threatening you and/or your family, you may file a temporary restraining order against that person.
- For temporary restraining order assistance and counseling:
- For the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Each battered women’s shelter has outreach help and walk-in centers where women who aren’t sure what to do can still get information and help. You don’t have to move into the shelter to get help from the people who work there. Contact them for safety planning, for counseling referrals, and for general information about what is available in the community. Click here for domestic violence resources.
Most people incorrectly believe a victim of crime has the power to “press charges” and “drop the charges” against a defendant. All crimes are offenses collectively against the People of the State of California. The District Attorney’s Office prosecutes crimes on behalf of the State of California and not the victim who may have been harmed by the defendant’s crime. The decision to drop charges in any criminal prosecution can only be made by a prosecutor with the approval of a judge. The victim’s wishes will be considered, but the final determination of whether or not the charges will be filed or dismissed rests with the District Attorney’s Office. If you would like to discuss your case, you should speak with the district attorney investigator assigned to your case or ask the District Attorney’s Office to refer you to a Victim/Witness Advocate.
If the police were called, the officer should have gotten an emergency protective order at the time of the assault. If the police were not called, or if there was nothing that the police could do because there was not enough evidence for there to be criminal charges filed, you can seek your own protective order. You need to go to the 7th floor of the Lamoreaux Justice Center, 341 City Drive South, Orange, California, where you will find assistance. Alternatively, you can contact one of the battered women’s shelters for assistance in getting an order.
It depends. If there are no pending criminal charges, you will need to consult a private attorney.
If you do not have an attorney, you can call the Lawyer Referral Service, which is operated by the Orange County Bar Association at (949) 440-6700.
Also, the Victim/Witness Assistance Program may be able to assist you in obtaining a domestic violence restraining order. Contact the Domestic Violence Assistance Program located at the Lamoreaux Justice Center in the City of Orange at (714) 935-7956.
If criminal charges are pending against your husband/wife, etc., the District Attorney’s Office generally requests a criminal protective order in court pending resolution of the case.
Oftentimes, the District Attorney’s Office will also request a criminal protective order as part of a defendant’s sentencing.
Finally, if you are being abused, you should contact your local police agency to file a report. The police agency may also assist you in obtaining an emergency protective order.