July 7, 2022 By WK MKT

What Is Coercive Control? 

When we think of domestic violence, we often think of physical abuse. However, domestic abuse isn’t always physical. Coercive control is a form of domestic violence in which an abuser uses a pattern of abusive behavior to dominate their partner and limit their partner’s freedom. Although this can involve physical violence, it is often more subtle and can include other control tactics such as intimidation, isolation, deprivation, or monitoring. This controlling behavior is designed to make the victim dependent on their abuser. 

Some examples of coercive control include:

  • Isolating the victim from friends, relatives, or other sources of support 
  • Controlling the victim’s finances, communications, and whereabouts 
  • Depriving the victim of basic necessities, such as food or sleep 
  • Humiliating, degrading, or otherwise verbally abusing the victim 
  • Stalking the victim 
  • Gaslighting the victim 

Senate Bill 1141 

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newson signed a bill that revised the state’s Family Code, establishing that coercive control constitutes abuse under the definition in the state’s Domestic Violence Prevention Act. Specifically, SB 1141 states that “disturbing the peace of the other party” is conduct that destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party, and that disturbing the peace of the other party includes coercive control. The bill further defines coercive control as a pattern of behavior that unreasonably interferes with a person’s free will and personal liberty and includes, among other things, unreasonably isolating a victim from friends, relatives, or other sources of support. 

In addition to California, Hawaii and Connecticut also have similar laws criminalizing coercive control. While these laws make it easier for victims to get justice from their abusers, it may also blur the lines between what constitutes criminal domestic violence and what doesn’t. If you have any questions regarding SB 1141 or if you have been falsely accused of coercive control, contact Wallin & Klarich to see how we can help. 

Penalties for Coercive Control 

In the state of California, if a court finds that you have committed coercive control, it may allow the victim to file a restraining order against you in family court. Violating the restraining order can carry criminal penalties. Generally, this is a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and up to one year in county jail. Additionally, anyone with a restraining order cannot purchase or own any firearms as long as the order is in effect. 

A finding of coercive control could also have a bearing on child custody. If the victim is seeking child custody, for example, the court can use coercive control as evidence of domestic violence and thus make a finding about the best interest of the child. This is because courts recognize that domestic violence, in all its forms, is detrimental to children. 

If the court convicts you of additional domestic violence charges in conjunction with coercive control, you may be facing harsher penalties. The most common criminal charges include domestic battery (Penal Code Section 243e) and inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner (PC Section 273.5). For the former crime, which makes it a misdemeanor to inflict force or violence on an intimate partner, you could face up to $2,000 in fines and up to one year in county jail. For the latter crime, which can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony, you may have more severe consequences depending on the circumstances of your case. For felony convictions, this crime is punishable by up to $6,000 in fines and up to four years in state prison, with possible sentence enhancements if great bodily injury was inflicted. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you have been accused of coercive control or domestic violence, contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of family law cases, and we have the skills and resources to clear your name and secure your freedom

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

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