When the Neighbors Call the Police on You and Your Spouse

The saying good fences make good neighbors was not coined in a vacuum. All types of arguments emerge between neighbors, even sometimes issues arising out of your relationship with your significant other. We have represented many clients in need of legal representation after being arrested because a neighbor heard them fighting and called the police. We have helped many people arrested for spousal abuse under these circumstances (spousal abuse is the term whether you are married or not), and can help you as well.

What Happens if a Neighbor Calls the Police?

In most cases, you or your spouse or both of you will be taken into custody for spousal abuse. Most of the time, someone is arrested for domestic violence in San Diego, the arrest is unwanted by both parties. There is no such thing as the idea of “pressing charges” – whether or not to make an arrest once on the scene is completely up to the police. In most cases, the police will make an arrest if they see any signs of injury or are informed of any physical contact.

The Laws

California Penal Code Section 273.5(a) makes it illegal to inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant if that injury results in a traumatic condition. Section 273.5(b) extends the protections of the law from just spouses to former spouses, former or current cohabitants, and the defendant’s fiancé. Penal Code 243(e)(1) is a common battery charges in San Diego, and is a misdemeanor charge when somebody inflicts force upon an intimate partner. A third possible charge that arises out of a domestic dispute is Criminal Threats under California Penal Code Section 422. Criminal threats can be a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the nature and severity of the behavior.

Physical Contact and/or Injury Will Trigger Arrest

“Any harmful or offensive touching” is considered domestic violence in California, and any minor injury suffices to trigger an arrest. Even without an injury the police can choose to arrest. We have seen people arrested for spitting, tossing a diaper or pillow, and even throwing a dirty diaper. It is not the magnitude of the physical contact that is important to the police; it is whether there is any contact at all. In some cases, where both parties engaged in throwing or hitting or any other behavior that involved physical contact, then the police will arrest both parties.

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

When a neighbor calls the police, it means both parties are usually surprised to hear the knocking at the door. In many cases, the fight has ended before the police even arrive, and all is well. Upon opening your door and finding out the police are responding to a neighbor’s call, exercise your right to remain silent. The majority of domestic violence convictions stem from statements made by the defendant. The US Constitution and the California state constitution guarantees you this right; take advantage of it. That means no matter what your partner says to the police, and whether they ask you or not, do not engage. You do not have to give your “version” of events or explain yourself. You should simply request your attorney, and politely say you will exercise your right to silence until then.

Both parties should exercise the right to remain silent once the police arrive. Even if you think you were the victim in the incident, you should exercise your rights and consult an attorney first. Remember that when the police first arrive at your home, you are both suspects. If you speak with the police, you risk being arrested and charged. It is not at all rare for someone who is sure they are the victim to find themselves handcuffed and charged with domestic violence after telling their side of the story to the police.

Resist Photographs

In most cases, you are allowed by law to refuse to be photographed. If an officer does take photographs of you or of your home, make sure that you clearly state you do not consent to any photographs.

Emergency Protective Order

When one partner is arrested as the result of a domestic violence call, the other partner will be offered an “emergency protective order” which prevents any contact from the arrested partner, and prevents them from returning home, for either five days or seven days. It becomes effective upon signature, and any violation of an emergency protection order can be prosecuted. In most cases, the non-arrested spouse will be offered an emergency protective order, which can be accepted or declined. In some extreme cases, the Emergency Protective Order will issue even if you decline.


A person who is arrested for domestic violence in San Diego can expect bail to be set at $10,000 if there is no injury and at $50,000 if there is even the smallest injury. Significant injuries can lead to bail of $100,000. An experienced San Diego criminal lawyer can help you determine the best course of action going forward, and if necessary refer you to a reputable bondsman.

Child Protective Services

If an arrest is made by the police for domestic violence, and there are any children who live in the home, whether they were present at the time or not, the case will be referred to Child Protective Services (CPS) for a routine welfare check of the minor(s). If you have already been contacted by CPS, it is imperative you contact a lawyer before dealing with them.   

If you or your spouse or loved one was arrested for domestic violence, you need to speak to an experienced San Diego domestic violence defense attorney right away. If you would like to discuss the best way to handle the charges being brought, call or email Alex Ozols, owner of the Ozols Law Firm, for a free consultation.