Arguments between married couples happen all the time. Anyone who has been married for any length of time knows the difficulties that arise in the context of marriage and family life. To curb the situations in which normal family arguments become violent and abusive, California has taken an aggressive approach to domestic violence law.
If your spouse or any other family member has accused you of domestic violence, you are in for the fight of your life. The penalties for a conviction are severe, including stiff fines and even prison sentences in some cases. Further, your reputation could be ruined in the community, making it much more difficult to get a good job or housing with a domestic violence conviction on your record.
Even a winning case has its drawbacks
Although there are good reasons to fear a domestic violence conviction, even a case in which you are given probation instead of incarceration might pose an extraordinary burden on you. In domestic violence probationary matters, a common judicial probation option is the Batterers’ Intervention Program (BIP).
What is the Batterers’ Intervention Program?
Although admittedly better than prison, the BIP is no picnic. The program involves 2-hour sessions every week for 52 weeks. The programs are basically anger-management and group therapy sessions, with some domestic violence education.
Some of the critical details of the program include:
- The time period: The program is intended to run for 52 weeks, roughly a year, without break, but the court allows 18 months to complete the required 52-week sessions. However, although you technically have up to 18 months to complete the sessions, the relevant statute (California Penal Code 1203.097) requires weekly session attendance, with regular reporting on progress, “unless granted an excused absence for good cause by the program for no more than three individual sessions during the entire program.” As a practical matter, it is impossible to complete the entire program in more than 13 months without obtain a variance or exception.
- Progress reports: The statute requires periodic progress reports, made at least every three months, that include “attendance, fee payment history, and program compliance.” There is almost no way to get out of attending these meetings, short of revocation of your probationary status, with prison as the likely outcome.
- Final evaluation: The final evaluation will look at whether you attended the program adequately, whether you met the financial obligations of the program, whether you have avoided any violent behavior and whether you have demonstrated assimilation to the program’s behavioral requirements, among other things.
These are just a few of the elements of the BIP. This program can be extremely difficult and cumbersome, and it is conceivable that you go through all 52 weeks of the program and still have to attend further sessions.
What happens if you fail the program?
If you choose not to attend, you don’t pay promptly or fail the program due to behavioral relapses, the most likely scenario is that your probation will be revoked and you will have to spend that time in jail rather than go through the program.
This outcome is worse than it seems on the surface, because with the loss of your probationary status comes the loss of any hope of later expunging your record and wiping away these charges from public access.
Fight back aggressively
As you can see, the BIP, while better than prison, is not something people look forward to. If at all possible, you should fight the case on the merits to avoid a conviction. Make sure you work with a team of aggressive domestic violence defense lawyer who can protect your future.