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Domestic Violence Criminal Defense Lawyer

Domestic violence and family violence are crimes where the sheer volume of the complaints filed by District Attorneys has grown significantly over the years since the "OJ" trial. A significant amount of money is being poured into programs designed to reduce domestic violence.

The term domestic violence, or DV, varies by definition from state to state but is commonly used to describe a coercive behavior in which an individual will attempt to control another through threats, physical violence, assault and/or abuse. Some examples of domestic violence abuse and family violence may include physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, emotional abuse or psychological abuse of one family member or intimate partner by another. In most states, domestic violence and family violence include assault, battery, sexual assault, sexual battery, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, or murder of one household member by another household member.

Domestic violence can be handled in civil court, family court or a criminal court - Where the state prosecutes the perpetrator of domestic violence abuse. Domestic violence or family violence is a crime in all states, but the laws related to domestic violence or family violence can vary from state to state. Further, the consequences of the individual who has been accused or found guilty of domestic violence can also vary from state to state.

In California, typically, the case will begin with a call to the local police department. Either an alleged victim or a neighbor or a witness will call 911 and a patrol unit will arrive. If the responding officer has not been trained in DV cases, a specially trained unit will often be called.

Every Department has its own policies, but generally, if either party has any kind of marks on their face or body or the other is willing to testify that his or her spouse used any kind of physical force against the other, the officer can make an arrest or just write a report and allow the prosecuting attorney make the decision as to whether to file a criminal complaint. Domestic violence can be either a misdemeanor or a felony. Domestic violence with great bodily harm is a felony and a strike.

The problems with the charge of misdemeanor domestic violence or felony domestic violence are numerous:

  1. Law enforcement, prosecutors and judges can be overzealous in their pursuit. I once had a case where the husband and wife got in an argument at a store over Christmas shopping. They screamed at each other, and the husband took a cab home. An onlooker called the police who followed the wife home and interviewed the wife. The wife confirmed that her husband was mildly bipolar but had never exhibited any violence toward her or her two children. When the husband arrived in the cab, he was arrested and booked and issued a restraining order to stay away from the family home. The case was later dropped based upon statements and testimony from the wife attesting to the fact that the entire incident was blown out of proportion.

  2. Wives, husbands, and significant others lie using the accusation as a tool. I once represented a young man who was on felony probation. He and his pretty but hot-tempered wife became engaged in an argument at a bar. Once home, he decided to avoid the conflict and went back to the bar alone. The wife in the meantime called the police and told the officer that her husband had beaten her – a total lie. She later recanted and admitted under oath that she lied to the police officer – which the police officer disputed. DO NOT TREAT THE CASE LIGHTLY

Too often, the accused will not hire a lawyer or rely on a public defender thinking all is well and they will only be required to take classes for several months and will not be required to spend time in jail. The problem is that things are not as simple as that. For one thing, the defendant will probably be placed on three years of probation, the terms of which are that you violate no law and give up all your constitutional rights to search and seizure. If a police officer wants to search everything you own, you are required to allow it.
Domestic violence can also have significant impacts on a person's future. Domestic violence with great bodily harm is a strike and could add months or years on minor violations committed in the future. It can also have a drastic effect on an individual's child custody and visitation rights when accused and found guilty of domestic violence or family violence. California Family Code Section 3044 states there is a rebuttal presumption that it is not in the best interest of the child for the court to award sole legal or physical custody or joint legal or physical custody to a person who has perpetrated domestic violence or family violence within the previous 5 years unless there is a showing that it is in the best interest of the child by a showing of a preponderance of the evidence. Many employers now have a policy against violence in the workplace. A misdemeanor domestic violence conviction is part of your criminal record and one which you probably would not want to have your potential employer know about.

The Bottom Line on Domestic Violence Situations

  1. The best choice is situational avoidance. If you see that the situation is developing into something really ugly, leaving the house or apartment before things get out of hand is often the best choice. That does not necessarily mean leaving the scene, however. Often law enforcement will see leaving the scene and not returning as running and an admission of guilt. Sometimes, just sitting at the curb when the police arrive is a good choice.

  2. Treat officers with respect. Don't "Badmouth" your significant other, remain calm and be cooperative.

  3. Always be the first to offer to leave. Offering to spend the night at a hotel or a friend's house can often solve the problem.

  4. If you or someone you know has been charged with domestic violence, it is very important to contact experienced domestic violence or a criminal defense lawyer. Oftentimes, these cases are defensible and an aggressive defense lawyer capable of going to trial can be successful in dismissing the charge or getting it reduced to an infraction.

  5. The penalties for a felony or misdemeanor domestic violence or family violence conviction can be serious and life-changing and a domestic violence attorney or criminal defense lawyer, who handles domestic violence or family violence cases can help explain some of the defenses that may be available to you. Even in cases where a person has been arrested for domestic violence or family violence, he/she may not have actually committed a crime.

Contacting a domestic violence attorney or criminal defense lawyer who handles domestic violence cases as soon as possible is one of the first steps to take to properly defend you in a domestic violence or family violence case.