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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Domestic Violence?

Domestic Violence is a violent confrontation that explodes in the home between family members; between two people in a relationship who live together; between a woman and the father of her children.  It can happen between father and daughter, mother and son, an adult child and an elderly parent, but most often it occurs between a man and a woman living together, married or not, with the woman being the victim in the overwhelming majority of cases.  Sometimes weapons are used, sometimes property is damaged, but most often it involves the use of force by either a male or female abuser.

Misdemeanor or Felony?  What’s the Difference?

Generally, if you suffer broken bones, or other serious injury, or receive a wound from a weapon (such as a knife or a gun), or if your injuries require a hospital stay, or result in permanent physical damage to you, then the assault against you is classified as a felony.  Also, if the act is committed by someone who has a significant criminal record, or who has a prior conviction for this type of conduct, the case may be charged as a felony

What is the Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit?

The Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit of the District Attorney’s Office is a special unit formed to prosecute misdemeanor and felony Domestic Violence cases in San Bernardino County.  The Unit consists of a specially trained staff of attorneys, victim-witness advocates, clerical personnel, investigators, and volunteers.  The Unit was formed in effort to diminish the escalating violence occurring in San Bernardino County homes.

Why Were Changes Filed Against my Abuser?

If you are the victim in a case being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office, the man or woman who hurt you had a criminal complaint filed against them by the District Attorney’s Office for the following reasons:

The police officers who responded to the 911 emergency call believed that a crime against you had been committed.  They wrote this information in a report and sent it to the District Attorney’s Office with a request that the defendant be prosecuted for breaking the law.

A prosecutor in the District Attorney’s Office read this police report and also believed that a crime against you had been committed.

If the defendant has a criminal history, including acts of violence against you or others, a computer printout of this information was reviewed and attached to the case file.

If photographs were taken by the police, at the time of the incident, showing your injuries and/or damage to your property, these were studied and included in the case file.

The prosecutor ordered a tape-recorded copy of the 911 emergency call from the police department, listened to it, and made it part of the case file.

Any written information voluntarily provided by you to the District Attorney’s Office detailing the immediate case and also any past history of abuse against you by the defendant is also made part of the case file.

The prosecutor may ask an investigator to interview you and any witnesses to the violence. The investigator’s written report then becomes part of the evidence in the case.

If the case goes to trial, all of the above information will be used as evidence in the courtroom to prove that the defendant is guilty of the charges filed against him by the District Attorney.  This will be in addition to the live testimony of the police officers who responded to the 911 emergency call, as well as any witnesses to the incident, including paramedics, neighbors, and children.

What Will My Abuser's Sentence Be?

First-time offenders are required to enroll in an anger management counseling program. They are also placed on informal probation for three years and ordered by the judge not to break any more laws, and not to annoy, molest or harass you.  If the District Attorney feels that it is appropriate, based on the facts of the incident, the defendant’s prior criminal history, or if he or she is currently on probation for any offense, he or she will make a recommendation to the Court that the defendant serve some jail time.  For a first offender, they are frequently allowed to complete their jail time on weekends and/or in a work service program through the county jail.  If the defendant does not do what the judge gave them a chance to do, then the judge has the power to send the abuser to jail.

Will I Have To Testify Against My Abuser In Court?

You only have to testify in court if you receive a subpoena from the District Attorney ordering you to appear in court to testify in a trial.  But at least 90% of Domestic Violence cases are resolved without going to trial.  This is how it works:

When a criminal complaint has been filed against the defendant, he or she is ordered to go to court and enter a plea of either “Guilty” or “Not Guilty.”  This first step is called the arraignment.  For a variety of reasons, many defendants plead “Not Guilty” when they are arraigned.  If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, he or she will ask the court to appoint one at this time.  A second court date is then scheduled.  This is called the pretrial; it usually takes place about 15 days after the arraignment.

At the pretrial, the defendant will appear with his or her attorney.  On this date the attorney will have a conference with the prosecutor and review all of the evidence that the prosecutor will use in court to prove that the defendant committed a violent act against you. The prosecutor will offer to recommend a particular sentence to the judge, in exchange for a “Guilty” plea from the defendant, on the pretrial date.

The defense attorney will talk to the defendant and let him or her know what sentence the prosecutor will recommend to the judge.  A majority of the defendants in Domestic Violence cases change their pleas to “Guilty” at the pretrial.  This is because they now realize how much evidence the prosecutor has and they also realize that if the case goes to trial and they are found guilty by a judge and/or jury, the prosecutor will recommend a harsher sentence.

If the defenant refuses the prosecution’s offer at the pretrial date, then a date is set for trial.  The trial date will generally be 15 days after the pretrial.

 It is important for you to know that if the defendant pleads “Guilty” at either the arraignment or the pretrial date, there will be no trial, and you will not have to testify in court.

 Even if a trial date is set, the defendant can still change his plea on the day of the trial.  This means that although you will have to go to court if you receive a subpoena, you will not have to testify if the defendant changes his plea to “Guilty” at this time.

While the criminal case is pending, the judge will usually make a “stay away” order.  This order means that until the criminal case is resolved through a plea of “Guilty” or a trial, the defendant is ordered to stay away from you.  He or she is not to visit you, write you, call you, come to your home, come to your place of business, or send you messages through other people.  This order is to protect you from being harassed by the defendant or pressured by your abuser or others.  If the defendant does not obey the terms of this order, he or she will be told to appear in court again to answer to the judge who issued the order.  Again, this means that if he or she did not do what the judge told them to do, the judge has the power to send your abuser to jail.  If you would like an order like this one as a term of the defendant’s probation, rather than just an order that he not annoy you, please let the Deputy District Attorney or the victim-witness advocate assigned to your case know.

Will I Have To Hire An Attorney?

No. You do not have to hire an attorney because you are the victim of a crime.  When this man or woman abused you, they committed a criminal act which violated the laws of the State of California.  The prosecutor from the District Attorney’s Office represents the People of the State of California.  The People of the State of California are prosecuting him or her for what he or she has done.

My Abuser is Pressuring Me To Drop Charges, Can I?

Tell the defendant that it is impossible for you to drop the charges because you are not the one who filed the charges.  The charges were filed by the District Attorney’s Office after reviewing a considerable amount of evidence against him or her.  It is important for this person to realize that he or she must live within the laws of our society and that his or her violent actions against you, or anyone else, have no place in our community.  It is also important that he or she get the help they need, whether it is counseling or whatever else may be appropriate.

My Abuser Says He/She Won’t Hit Me Again, Will He/She?

Unless your abuser receives counseling for their violent behavior towards you, they may not be able to stop being violent on their own, even if his or her intentions are sincere.  Many violent men and women grew up in violent homes where they themselves were abused or where they either saw their fathers physically hurt their mothers, or their mothers hurt their fathers.  This violent behavior may also create a danger to your children.

Does your Office Prosecute Elder Abuse?

Yes. Abuse and neglect of the disabled and elderly happens more often than any of us would like to admit.  It is serious, and it can happen in any setting. All of us, as responsible citizens, must help to prevent and stop abuse, neglect, abandonment, and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults by reporting suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities.  

Am I Required To Report Abuse Of An Elderly Or Disabled Person?

A person, including health practitioners, or an owner or employee of an institution, who has reasonable cause to believe that the physical or mental health or welfare of a resident has been adversely affected by the abuse or neglect caused by another person shall report the abuse or neglect.  In fact, failure to do so, is a criminal offense (see California Penal Code § 368) 

When I Make a Report of Elder Abuse, What will I be asked?

The name, address, apartment number, age, and telephone number of the adult you think is being harmed

Any information about the circumstances  

The name, address, relationship and telephone number of the person you think is causing the harm  

Name of other people who can provide information about the situation  

Any safety concerns you may have  

Your name and address  

I Suspect Physical Elder Abuse Might be Taking Place. What are the Signs?


Unexplained bruises, welts, black eyes, wounds, or fractures  

Multiple injuries in various stages of healing  

Sudden changes in behavior (adult is fearful or depressed or engages in self-destructive behavior)  

The caregiver refuses to allow visitors  

Person is in restraints or locked in a room  

Missing patches of hair or hemorrhaging below the scalp  

Client reports abuse



Person is emotionally upset, agitated, withdrawn, non-communicative, depressed, or non-responsive  

Caregiver refuses to allow visitors or does not let the person participate in family or community events  

Client reports abuse



Bruising around breasts and/or genital area  

An unexplained venereal disease  

Soiled underclothes or bedding  

Sudden changes in behavior

What is Financial Abuse? Does Such  A Thing Exist?

Yes, financial abuse is using the elder’s money or assets contrary to the elder’s wishes, needs, or best interests—or for the abuser’s personal gain.

What Should You Do If You Are a Rape Victim?

This information can assist in the attacker’s arrest:

Contact your local law enforcement agency right away

Write down as many details about the incident as possible

The most important things to remember after an attack:

Do not wash

Do not douche

Do not disturb anything in the area where the rape occurred

Do not change your clothes

Doing so may accidentally destroy valuable evidence the police or prosecutor might need to arrest and convict your attacker.

What Type of Emergency Assistance is Available?

The Victim Services Unit can assist you in applying for the following expenses if they are incurred as a direct result of a crime as long as there are no other sources of reimbursement available:


Mental Health Counseling

Lost Wage/Income

Lost Support to Eligible Family Members

Domestic Violence Moving and Relocation


Job Retraining



© 2011 San Bernardino County District Attorney. All Rights Reserved | Privacy Statement & Conditions

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It is the mission of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office to represent the interests of the people in the criminal justice system, as mandated by California State law. The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office serves the residents of San Bernardino County by: seeking the truth, protecting the innocent; holding the guilty accountable; preserving the dignity of victims and their families; and, ensuring that justice is done while always maintaining the highest ethical standards.

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