If someone recently accused you of committing an act of domestic violence, you should not remain in contact with them or try to argue with them. Doing so can only make your situation worse. Instead, you should reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you in your case.
Domestic violence charges are different from domestic violence convictions. To prove that you are guilty of a domestic violence offense, a state prosecutor has to establish their legal burden beyond a reasonable doubt. This is often a very hard standard to meet, and prosecutors must introduce ample evidence to support their case to secure a conviction against the accused individual.
However, criminal charges for a domestic violence offense are still extremely serious, and you should always take them seriously. One of the best ways to combat a domestic violence charge is to seek an experienced domestic violence defense attorney in your area to represent you as quickly as possible.
Your lawyer can first meet with you to discuss the pending allegations against you and develop a plan of action for defending you against your criminal charge. Your lawyer can then represent you at all criminal court proceedings—or a sentencing hearing if you ultimately sustain a conviction on the charge. Your attorney will work hard to help you obtain the best possible result in your domestic violence case, which may include a “not guilty” finding in court.
- What Is Domestic Violence?
- Who Has the Legal Burden of Proof in a Criminal Domestic Violence Matter?
- What Are the Potential Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction?
- Potential Collateral Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction
- What Are Some Common Defenses of a Domestic Violence Charge?
- Possible Outcomes of Your Domestic Violence Case
- Call a Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Legal Matter Today
What Is Domestic Violence?
Under domestic violence law, it is a crime to threaten with harm—or to actually harm—a former or current intimate partner, dating partner, co-parent, cohabitant, or spouse. Depending on the circumstances, protected individuals may also include children, parents, and other relatives.
If one or more of these individuals accuse you of domestic violence, you should seek legal help right away. Waiting to retain legal counsel or taking no action in your case will not make your criminal charge go away. Rather, delaying the inevitable can only make your situation worse.
As soon as you retain legal counsel to represent you in your domestic violence matter, your lawyer can enter a formal appearance in the case on your behalf, work to protect your legal and constitutional rights and advocate for you while your case is pending in the criminal court system.
Who Has the Legal Burden of Proof in a Criminal Domestic Violence Matter?
In a criminal domestic violence matter, the state prosecutor handling your charge has the sole legal burden of proof. The individual facing the domestic violence charge—or the criminal defendant—does not need to prove anything in the case or even testify on the witness stand in court. This is because criminal defendants have a legal and constitutional right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The state prosecutor has to satisfy their legal burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, they must introduce evidence in their case that you committed one or more acts of domestic violence against the alleged victim. The prosecutor can call witnesses to the stand at trial and introduce documentary evidence supporting their version of events.
To combat the state prosecutor’s case, your lawyer can introduce one or more legal defenses on your behalf. Although the criminal defendant does not need to prove anything in the case, they may introduce a defense that may negate one or more legal elements of the state prosecutor’s burden of proof.
If the prosecutor fails to prove any element of their domestic violence case beyond a reasonable doubt, the entire case may be subject to dismissal by the court. In that instance, the state prosecutor will have to drop the charges, and you will be free to go. You will not be subject to any legal penalties for a criminal conviction, but the charge alone can still affect your life.
a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles will review the circumstances of your domestic violence incident with you and determine if you are eligible to raise a legal defense to your charge. If you are, your lawyer can introduce that defense at your criminal court trial and work to obtain a complete dismissal of your domestic violence case.
What Are the Potential Penalties for a Domestic Violence Conviction?
When a state prosecutor can prove that you committed a domestic violence offense beyond a reasonable doubt, a sentencing judge can impose various penalties at a sentencing hearing, which takes place in open court.
Potential penalties for a domestic violence conviction include payment of monetary fines, payment of restitution to the alleged victim in the case, imposition of a temporary restraining order or protective order, required jail time, required participation in a domestic violence class, loss of physical custody over children, loss of gun possession rights, and a criminal conviction on your record, which the public can view. Moreover, if you are not a citizen of the United States, you may face various immigration consequences.
Obviously, the best way to avoid legal penalties for domestic violence is to avoid a criminal conviction in the first place. However, if that is not possible and you ultimately receive a conviction for your domestic violence charge, a criminal defense attorney can still play an important role in assisting with your defense. Your lawyer can represent you at your sentencing hearing, argue for a fair penalty on your behalf, and work to obtain the best possible result in your case.
Potential Collateral Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction
In addition to the various legal penalties for a domestic violence conviction, individuals may also face numerous collateral consequences. These consequences may affect every part of their life.
For example, a convicted domestic violence offender may have difficulty gaining admission to a college, university, or other educational institution of choice. Schools and admissions committees frequently perform criminal background checks on prospective applicants. If they uncover domestic violence or other serious conviction on the person’s record, they are more likely to deny admission to the individual.
While most employers in California cannot perform criminal background checks as part of the routine hiring process, they can still consider your criminal history as it applies to a specific job offer.
Those with domestic violence convictions might lose their jobs as:
- Childcare workers
- Healthcare workers
- Senior living assistants
If you work in a field that requires care and contact with vulnerable populations, a domestic violence conviction can effectively end that career path.
A domestic violence conviction might prevent you from having contact with your children. This is especially true if one or more of your children are the subject of the domestic violence petition. A conviction of domestic violence against a spouse can also have significant effects on a divorce case, eliminating your right to spousal support and other financial consequences.
Moreover, in response to a domestic violence charge, a court may enter a temporary or final protective order against you, preventing you from contacting the victim, your children, or others by any means for a specified period. A protective order can affect your freedom and life in many ways, including preventing you from owning or possessing a firearm.
It is best to avoid a conviction whenever possible. However, if you ultimately sustain a conviction for a domestic violence crime, a knowledgeable domestic violence attorney can represent you at your criminal sentencing hearing and work to lessen or eliminate the collateral consequences that you face due to your conviction.
What Are Some Common Defenses of a Domestic Violence Charge?
A skilled criminal defense attorney can help you raise one or more legal defenses to your pending domestic violence charge. Since every domestic violence case is different, the potential defenses that an individual might argue in response to a charge will vary from case the case.
Some of the most common defenses to domestic violence charges include:
- That the alleged domestic violence incident was accidental
- That the alleged victim’s injuries did not result from the incident in question
- That the alleged victim made false domestic violence accusations, often out of retaliation—such as in a child custody battle
- That during the alleged incident of domestic violence, the accused individual was defending someone else or acting in their own defense
If a criminal defense lawyer can successfully argue one or more of these legal defenses on your behalf, the state prosecutor might not satisfy their legal burden in the case. As a result, your domestic violence charge and your entire criminal case may be subject to a complete dismissal.
Possible Outcomes of Your Domestic Violence Case
Domestic violence is not a criminal charge, per se, in the State of California. Rather, it refers to an incident involving certain alleged victims that involves assault, battery, or another similar criminal charge. If your domestic violence case goes to trial, a judge or jury will decide whether you are guilty or innocent of the charge.
Most criminal cases are jury trials, though some misdemeanor criminal trials might be bench trials. At a bench trial, the presiding judge will decide the outcome of your case, while at a jury trial, a jury of your peers will decide—based on the available evidence that the parties present—whether to find you guilty and convict you of the domestic violence charge.
During a trial, the lawyers’ opening statements and closing arguments are not evidence in the case. However, jurors may consider live testimony from the witness stand, along with documents and other evidence that the presiding judge admits into evidence when reaching their verdict. When it comes to witnessing testimony, opposing counsel has a duty to make objections at various times, after which the presiding judge will rule on the objection and the admissibility of the evidence in question.
After the trial, the judge will instruct the jurors on the law they must apply when resolving the case. Jurors must then use the law, combined with the evidence presented and admitted in court when deciding whether the accused individual is guilty or innocent of the charge.
As an alternative to trial, however, your lawyer might reach a favorable plea deal with the state prosecutor handling your claim. As part of a plea deal, the accused individual typically pleads guilty to a charge in exchange for some concession by the state prosecutor.
For example, the prosecutor might agree to reduce your criminal charge in exchange for a guilty plea. Alternatively, the prosecutor might offer you a term of supervised probation in exchange for your guilty plea. You must then successfully complete your probationary term for the conviction to come off your record.
In some instances, plea deals with prosecutors are beneficial, while at other times, they are less beneficial. A prosecutor typically only puts a plea deal on the table if they are insecure about their ability to sustain a criminal conviction against you at trial. Moreover, if you have a strong legal defense to your criminal charge, you might be better off taking your case to trial and attempting to secure a not guilty verdict.
A criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you should accept a plea deal from the state prosecutor or present your case at trial.
Call a Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Legal Matter Today
If you are currently pending a criminal charge for domestic violence, you should take swift action in your case and retain a qualified criminal defense attorney to represent you. Waiting too long to seek legal representation for your criminal charge can have devastating consequences.
Showing up to your court hearing or trial without a lawyer present is even worse since a judge does not have to postpone your case and give you additional time to seek a qualified lawyer. Rather, the judge might even make you go forward with your case at that time. A criminal defense attorney also needs time to prepare your case well in advance of the trial date by speaking with witnesses to the occurrence, gathering evidence, and preparing your testimony for presentation at the courtroom trial.
A knowledgeable Criminal Defense law firm in Los Angeles Strategies helps you during every stage of the proceedings and works to secure a favorable result on your behalf.