Batterers' Intervention Program for Domestic Violence in California
If you are convicted of a domestic violence offense in California, there's a high probability that you will be required to attend domestic violence classes.
The state's Batterers' Intervention Program (BIP) is a court-ordered program designed to help those convicted of domestic violence offenses to avoid repeat instances, and it's typically imposed as part of probation instead of jail time.
The BIP is a set of 52 weekly domestic violence classes. Anyone convicted of certain domestic violence offenses must complete this program as part of their terms of probation and sentencing, defined under California Penal Code 1203.097 PC.
Offenders in the BIP program meet once a week for two hours and are required to complete a final evaluation to comply with the program's demands fully.
California domestic violence laws make it a crime to harm or threaten an intimate partner, family member, etc. The most common charges are Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC domestic battery and Penal Code 273.5 PC corporal injury on a spouse.
Most domestic violence-related convictions will result in probation, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, meaning most people convicted must complete classes.
These classes are considered both education and counseling. They are designed to focus on the causes of abusive behavior and family violence. They also highlight the impact of using violence on a victim and the changes that need to occur to prevent repeat domestic violence offenses and police intervention.
Suppose a defendant fails to complete a BIP program. In that case, they could be found violating their domestic violence probation and face jail time and fines. Let's review this topic in more detail below.
A Brief Overview of the BIP
The Batterers' Intervention Program, also called DV classes, was established in California in 1994 to educate and treat individuals convicted of domestic violence.
The program is grounded in the belief that individuals can learn to change their violent behavior patterns and adopt healthier relationship habits through structured intervention.
The primary purpose of BIP is to help participants recognize the underlying issues that contribute to their violent behavior and to develop appropriate coping strategies to address these issues.
By engaging in the program, defendants can work towards ending their violent behavior and establishing more positive relationships with their partners and family members.
Who Is Required to Enroll in Batterer's Intervention?
In California, individuals convicted of domestic violence must often enroll in the Batterers' Intervention Program (BIP) as a condition of their probation or as part of a plea agreement.
This requirement applies to those found guilty of offenses such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, or threats of violence against any of the following:
- spouse or former spouse;
- an intimate partner;
- family member;
- someone the defendant lives with or used to live with;
- someone the defendant is dating or did date at one time;
- someone with whom the defendant has had a child; or
- someone related to the defendant by kinship.
Suppose the victims of domestic violence are on the list above. In that case, California law says the offender must be placed on probation for at least three years.
The BIP requirement is a reasonably standard sentence for anyone sentenced to summary or formal probation for a domestic violence offense who is not sentenced to jail or prison.
Since most domestic violence offenses result in probation rather than jail time, this includes almost everyone convicted of DV crimes. In other words, if you aren't sentenced to jail for your conviction, you can count on being required to enroll in a BIP.
On the other hand, since the BIP requirement is extended as an alternative to a jail or prison sentence, most defendants find the BIP preferable to spending time in jail. If they fail to complete the program, they face jail time and fines.
What Does the BIP Entail?
California's BIP consists of group discussions, classes, lectures, and one-on-one counseling designed to help participants gain insight into their behavior and learn new skills for managing conflict.
During the program, participants will explore the dynamics of power and control in relationships, communication skills, anger management, the effects of domestic violence on children, etc.
The program typically lasts 52 weeks, during which participants must attend one session per week, each lasting two hours. Under California Penal Code 1203.097 PC, some of the steps in the program include the following:
- Initial intake for the offender to learn about the different types of domestic abuse and some methods to stop them;
- Some different strategies to make the defendant accountable for any violence in a relationship;
- Information on the impact about how abuse impacts children;
- Regular progress reports and a final evaluation.
Anyone attending BIP sessions must not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They must also sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting disclosure of information they learned through participation in the program.
Upon completing the BIP, the participant receives a Certificate of Completion to submit to the court as proof that they have fulfilled the requirement.
During the course, periodic progress reports will evaluate attendees' progress. If the judge feels the defendant is not making sufficient progress, the court reserves the right to extend the time required for attending the BIP.
What Are the Requirements for Defendants Attending the BIP?
If you are ordered by the court to attend DV classes, you should expect the following:
- You must complete the BIP course within 18 months of the court order.
- You must attend one two-hour session each week for the course duration.
- You are only granted three absences during the course. If you miss a class, you must make up the class. You must also show good cause why your absence was warranted.
- You must attend classes sober (i.e., free of the influence of alcohol or drugs).
In most cases, the defendant must cover the cost of attending the BIP. However, financial assistance may be available for those who cannot afford the course or are experiencing financial hardship.
What Are the Consequences of Failing to Complete the BIP?
If you drop out of the BIP or fail to complete it within the required time frame, you could face significant legal consequences, which include the following:
- Revocation of probation. The court may revoke your probation, which could lead to additional penalties or reinstatement of the original sentence.
- Imposition of additional penalties. The judge may impose other conditions upon you during probation, such as increased fines, community service, or lengthening probation.
- Extension of the program. Sometimes, the court may require you to repeat or continue the program until you complete it.
As noted, the BIP is a mandatory condition of domestic violence probation, meaning failure to complete it will result in penalties.
In cases where you fail to complete the 52-week program or miss too many classes, the program can terminate you and send a letter to the court letting them know. The judge can issue a probation violation and a bench warrant.
In other words, after you violate probation, the judge can decide there is no longer reason to “suspend” the legal penalties for your underlying crime of domestic violence. Thus, since there is no suspension, they can immediately sentence you to jail time, fines, and other related penalties.
A domestic violence conviction is a serious issue due to the long-term consequences on your professional and personal life. For this reason, you will need an experienced Los Angeles domestic violence lawyer to have the best chance of a favorable outcome.
To review the details of your case, contact our law firm by phone or through the contact form. Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, CA.