When Teens Are Accused of Domestic Violence: How to Avoid Long-Term Repercussions


Domestic violence is an issue that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. Unfortunately, teens are not immune to this problem; statistics show that about 10 percent of adolescents have been victims of dating violence. It might not necessarily be a sign of an emerging violent pattern in your child; teens tend to be impulsive and not always in control of their emotions. But unfortunately, when those impulses run up against the law–particularly domestic violence laws–the negative repercussions can last for many years. California law is strict regarding domestic violence, and while California’s juvenile process operates differently than the criminal justice system for adults, a single moment of bad judgment can still follow a teen into adulthood, making life complicated and ruining potential opportunities. 

While it’s impossible to control our teen’s behaviors and choices completely, understanding how the law works can help you and your teen navigate a difficult situation and hopefully minimize the damage. If your teen has been accused of domestic violence—or if you are a teenager who has been accused—the following information may be able to help.

Domestic Violence and the Juvenile Justice System

In California, domestic violence refers to a range of abusive behaviors within an intimate or family relationship, such as physical assault, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and verbal threats. When a teenager is accused of domestic violence, their case is typically handled by the juvenile justice system, which focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

There are several important distinctions between the juvenile and adult justice systems that impact the handling of domestic violence cases:

  • Age Requirement: The juvenile justice system deals with individuals under 18 years of age. Once a person turns 18, they are tried in the adult justice system. (The exception is if the child is 14 or older and is accused of a particularly violent crime in the context of domestic violence, which we’ll discuss shortly.)
  • Emphasis on Rehabilitation: The juvenile justice system aims to support and rehabilitate the accused rather than focusing solely on punishment. This may include counseling, education, and other resources to help them address underlying issues that contributed to the domestic violence incident.
  • Confidentiality: Juvenile court proceedings are generally closed to the public and are more confidential than adult court proceedings, which helps protect the accused’s privacy.
  • Sealing records: As long as the teen is tried and convicted as a juvenile, you can petition to have their criminal records permanently sealed once they turn 18. This gives the teen an opportunity for a fresh start without their mistake following them into adulthood.

When Can Teens Be Tried as Adults for Domestic Violence?

In California, a minor over the age of 14 may be tried as an adult at the courts’ discretion if accused of certain particularly serious offenses–including offenses in the context of domestic violence. Examples include murder, assault with a deadly weapon, rape, and serious physical abuse. If your teen is tried as an adult and is convicted in the adult justice system, their sentence will be much harsher, and their criminal record will not be eligible for sealing once they turn 18. 

Potential Repercussions for Teens Accused of Domestic Violence

Whether a teen is tried as a juvenile or as an adult over a domestic violence accusation, they may still have to deal with severe long-term repercussions–and sometimes these repercussions occur regardless of whether the conviction of a crime occurs. These include, but are not limited to:

Protective Orders

In many cases, the person accusing a teen of domestic violence may seek to obtain a protective order–also known as a restraining order–from the court. This prohibits the accused from entering certain locations or having contact with the accuser, and violating it can lead to serious charges. While a protective order is not a criminal charge and doesn’t show up on a criminal record, it can affect where the accused can go and what they can do. Additionally, a protective order can be issued regardless of whether criminal charges are filed.

Strike(s) on Their Record

In California, even if someone is tried and convicted as a juvenile for a serious crime, if that crime qualifies as a “strike” under the state’s Three Strikes Law, it will count even after the teen reaches adulthood and even if they have their juvenile records sealed.

Sex Offender Registration

As with qualifying “strike” offenses, if a teen’s act of domestic violence involves a sex crime, they can be registered as a sex offender even as a juvenile, regardless of whether they’re convicted as a juvenile or an adult. Depending on the offense, they will be required to maintain their registration for at least ten years, and in some cases, for life.

Psychological Effects/Social Stigma

Regardless of their guilt or innocence, being accused of domestic violence can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation for the accused teen. It can also result in social stigma for the teen, as friends, family members, and peers may distance themselves out of fear or judgment. This may contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. The stress of the situation can also affect their performance at school and their ability to maintain healthy relationships.

Mitigating the Impact of Domestic Violence Accusations

If a teen has been accused of domestic violence due to a lapse in judgment or a misunderstood action, being proactive can minimize the long-term impacts of these allegations. Some tips that may help:

  • Access Counseling and Support Services. Seeking counseling and other forms of mental health treatment can provide emotional and psychological assistance for teenagers facing domestic violence accusations, helping them address the underlying issues that contributed to the incident and helping to prevent a recurrence.
  • Build a Support Network: Establishing a strong, non-judgmental support network of family, friends, and community members can provide emotional and practical assistance to your teen. This support can be instrumental in helping them cope with the challenges of the situation and prevent further incidents.
  • Learn Conflict Resolution and Communication Skills: Developing effective conflict resolution and communication skills can help teenagers learn to deal with volatile emotions more constructively. Programs and courses focused on these skills can be found in local community organizations, schools, and counseling centers.

Getting Help from a Skilled Los Angeles Domestic Violence Attorney

Of course, one of the most important ways to reduce the risks to your child’s future is by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney to help them navigate the legal challenges ahead. A skilled attorney can:

  • Develop a clear strategy for combating false accusations;
  • Negotiate with prosecutors and the judge to have the teen tried as a juvenile rather than an adult;
  • Negotiate for reduced or dismissed charges, where applicable;
  • Contest unfair protective orders; and
  • Represent your teen in court to obtain the best possible outcome.

Mistakes happen, and teens make bad choices. That doesn’t mean a domestic violence accusation has to hang over your teen for the rest of their life. For compassionate legal representation, call our offices today.



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