Behavior that Intentionally or Recklessly Causes Bodily Injury, or a Reasonable Fear of Imminent Serious Bodily Injury, or that Disturbs the Peace of the Other Party, Constitutes “Abuse” Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act

In August 2012, Nevarez filed a request for a restraining order under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. The family law court granted a temporary restraining order and set the matter for a hearing. Tonna filed a response, claiming that he left Nevarez alone and was ready to move on with life. Based on the evidence, the family law court found that Tonna’s conduct justified the issuance of a restraining order, despite his promise that he would never contact Nevarez again. In November 2012, the family law court issued a two-year restraining order. Tonna’s family law attorney appealed, contending that the family law court abused its discretion by issuing the restraining order.

Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the family law court may issue an order “to restrain any person for the purpose of preventing a recurrence of domestic violence and ensuring a period of separation of the persons involved” upon “reasonable proof of a past act or acts of abuse.” The Domestic Violence Prevention Act defines “abuse” as meaning any of the following: (a) intentionally or recklessly to cause or attempt to cause bodily injury; (b) sexual assault; (c) to place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another; (d) to engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to section 6320. Behavior that may be enjoined pursuant to section 6320 includes “molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, sexually assaulting, battering, harassing, telephoning, … destroying personal property, contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise, coming within a specified distance of, or disturbing the peace of the other party.”

The Court of Appeal reasoned that there was sufficient evidence to support the family law court’s finding that Tonna committed “abuse” within the meaning of section 6203 because Tonna had intentionally or recklessly caused bodily injury, caused Nevarez to reasonably fear imminent serious bodily injury, and engaged in behavior that could be enjoined by section 6320 when he grabbed Nevarez and almost pushed her down a staircase. Furthermore, Tonna continuously disturbed the peace of Nevarez by contacting her via phone and email, and by showing up to her workplace and preventing her from getting in her car. Moreover, Tonna disturbed the peace of Nevarez when he banged on her car window and repeatedly insisted that she roll down the window to speak with him in the parking lot of a concert venue. Based on the foregoing evidence, the Court of Appeal agreed with Nevarez’s family law attorney and affirmed the family law court’s order granting the restraining order under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act.

Nevarez v. Tonna (2014) 227 Cal. App. 4th 774