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What To Do When You’re Arguing And Neighbors Call the Police

As an Orange County criminal defense lawyer who has handled thousands of domestic violence or spousal abuse cases, I get calls daily from people who were arrested or whose significant other was arrested because neighbors heard them fighting and called the police. You do not have to be married to be charged with “spousal abuse”—it applies if you were ever in a dating relationship with the other party.

In Orange County most domestic violence or spousal abuse arrests are unwanted by either party. The concept of “pressing charges” is a myth. One does not get arrested or prosecuted based on whether the other party decides to “press charges”. What this means is that your desire that your partner NOT be arrested is largely irrelevant. In most cases the police will make an arrest if they:

  1. See any injury or
  2. Hear of any physical contact

It is important to understand that neither of these have to be significant. In fact, domestic violence is defined in California as “any harmful or offensive touching” and an injury is an injury “no matter how slight”. Furthermore, an arrest can occur even if there is no injury whatsoever.

In almost 20 years of criminal defense here in Orange County, I have seen the following offenses prosecuted as domestic violence:

  • Putting chewing gum on a cheating spouse’s forehead
  • Throwing a diaper
  • Spitting at a girlfriend
  • Bopping with a pillow

It is the physical contact itself that matters, not the severity of that contact. Officers will usually arrest the person accused of causing an injury or accused of any physical contact. Occasionally, both parties are arrested.

If the police come to your door, you have the right to the following:

Remain Silent

Most domestic violence convictions result from a criminal defendant’s own statement. The United States and California Constitutions guarantee you the right to remain silent. What this means is that you don’t have to answer questions. You don’t have to explain anything. You don’t have to give your version. I advise clients to simply say “PLEASE DON’T ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS. I WANT MY LAWYER.”

This advice pertains to both parties in a domestic dispute. When the police arrive, you are both suspects. You both have the right to remain silent. I have seen many domestic violence cases where a person was convinced they were a victim, only to find themselves arrested. Not providing a statement could have prevented many of these arrests.

Refuse Photos

In most cases you have the right to refuse to be photographed. Even if an officer ends up photographing you or your home, you should still make it clear that you do not consent to any pictures.

Emergency Protective Order

If your partner is arrested, you will be offered an “emergency protective order” that prevents him or her from contacting you or returning home for either 5 or 7 days. It is effective immediately and should be obeyed as any violation can be prosecuted. In most cases you will be asked if you want an emergency protective order and have the right to decline. In a few cases an order will be issued even if you decline.


A domestic violence arrest in Orange County is likely to be set at $10,000 if there’s no injury, $50,000 if there’s even the slightest injury or $100,000 if there’s significant injury. Please call the Law Offices of Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 before posting bail. We can tell you whether your loved one would likely be released at the first court appearance (on his own recognizance) or refer you to a reputable bondsman who will give you a discounted rate.


If a domestic violence or spousal abuse arrest occurs and children were present for the argument or even just live in the home, the case will be referred to Child Protective Services for a routine welfare check. If you have been contacted by CPS, please call our office immediately.

Domestic violence or spousal abuse arrests can have devastating consequences and destroy families. They should be handled aggressively at the earliest possible moment. If you or a loved one has been arrested for domestic violence, please call Orange County domestic violence criminal defense attorney Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.

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