What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is defined as any crime that is committed when the victim is a past or present intimate partner. This can be a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, even someone with whom you have only had a casual intimate relationship.
Most crimes a person faces are stand alone charges. Domestic violence charges are an added enhancement to the underlying charge; for example, assault as an act of domestic violence. However, the crime does not have to involve violence, or even any physical contact. You can be charged with domestic violence for something as minor as a strictly verbal argument if the police believe that a crime has been committed. These domestic violence cases are far more serious and you will be facing significantly higher repercussions. The right attorney can help you negotiate terms of a protection order, avoid jail time and damaging charges on your record.
History of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is one of the largest growing divisions in law enforcement offices. Many departments have added whole units dedicated to domestic violence cases. Before the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, the standard procedure would have been for police to make a visit and advise the couple to “take a walk around the block.” Now, nearly all law enforcement agencies have mandatory arrest laws, requiring police to make an arrest of the primary aggressor in the conflict.
When it comes to policing, a domestic violence offense carries its own set of rules. Despite the good intentions of the laws surrounding domestic violence cases, many folks are being arrested for very minor or questionable offenses. Police are essentially trained to throw the largest possible net in domestic violence cases, and innocent individuals caught in that net are left to attempt to untangle themselves from an unjust criminal justice system.
Most states have a mandatory arrest policy. This means that if law enforcement shows up to a dispute and determines a crime has occurred, they must arrest one or both parties. Ultimately, the goal is to separate the parties so that the violence does not escalate. Police will do their best to determine who the primary aggressor is and who the victim is. In some cases, however, these roles are not always clear. Police are not psychologists and sometimes they make the wrong assessment.
Mandatory Protection Orders
If you are charged with domestic violence, you will be faced with a mandatory protection order. These protection orders are required whenever there is an allegation of domestic violence. Mandatory protection orders state that you may not harass, molest, intimidate, or contact the victim. This may be in place even if the victim does not want the protection. In some cases, the person charged will be kept away from their children and the family home. Violating a mandatory protection order is a misdemeanor offense and carries potential jail time and up to $5,000 in fines. While these orders are mandatory and must be issued in every domestic violence case, they can often be amended to allow contact and an attorney can help in these negotiations.
What Can you Expect After Being Arrested?
Once you have been charged, there will be some conditions imposed on you. These can include pre-trial services, supervision before trial, GPS monitoring to make sure you are not contacting the victim, and alcohol or drug tests. This may all occur before you are even determined innocent or guilty.
Penalties for domestic violence can include jail time, probation, and domestic violence treatment programs. If you are convicted of a domestic violence charge, you may lose your job, your right to vote, or even the right to carry a firearm. The right attorney can help you fight these charges or negotiate a beneficial plea agreement with the court.
Do the Alleged Victims Press Charges in Domestic Violence Cases?
Domestic violence charges are initiated by the city or state prosecutor in the local jurisdiction. This means that charges will proceed even over the objection of the alleged victim in a domestic violence case. The alleged victim has a right to be consulted about the case and has a right to be present at any court appearance, but he or she does not have the right to tell the prosecutor not to proceed with the case.
This lack of control necessarily means that some cases are filed over the wishes of the defendant’s partner. Many people call the police to act as mediators of a domestic squabble, not realizing that the police are required to arrest someone in the vast majority of domestic violence calls.
It is essential to have an attorney in cases in which the alleged victim does not want to proceed with a domestic violence prosecution. These cases make prosecutions more difficult and are often defensible at trial.
What Should You Do if You Are Arrested for Domestic Violence?
The best thing to do after you are charged with domestic violence is to comply with all orders by law enforcement and to secure yourself an attorney. A good attorney can collect evidence, such as police reports, bodycam footage, eyewitness testimony, and medical reports to strengthen your case. If your rights were violated in any way during the arrest, your attorney can present this to the court. An attorney can also find any contributing circumstances to your arrest and present these to the court to your advantage. If you or a loved one has been charged with domestic violence, give us a call. We can help.