Domestic violence charges are no joke. If you are facing accusations of violently harming a former or current intimate partner, the consequences can be serious.

While legal penalties can be steep in the form of fines, jail time and having a criminal record, they can be even harsher depending on your profession. If, for example, your job requires medical or technical licensing, you may also be at risk of losing your license. For this reason, you should respond to the situation as soon as possible. To better understand your charges, consider these four examples of domestic violence, according to the state of California.

1. Physically hurting someone

If a current or former partner accuses you of either intentionally or recklessly causing them physical harm, the law considers this a domestic violence charge.

2. Sexually assaulting someone

Another act that falls under this kind of abuse is sexual assault. Under California law, it is illegal to force a partner to engage in sexual activity against his or her will.

3. Scaring someone or disturbing someone’s peace

Physical harm is not the only kind that the law recognizes as domestic violence. Words and behaviors matter, too. Threats, harassment and stalking are also common forms of abuse.

4. Destroying property

Additionally, physical violence does not need to be against your actual partner. The law also considers the destruction of a his or her belongings to be a type of domestic violence.

By taking the time to thoroughly understand the charges you are facing and responding quickly, you may be able to save yourself significant legal trouble down the road.