Domestic Violence Charges 101: Everything You Need to Know

Domestic violence laws are in place to reduce the prevalence of violence against spouses, partners, and family members. But if you're currently facing a domestic violence charge that's unfounded or otherwise unfair, you'll be facing an uphill battle. What should the average person know about domestic violence charges? And how can you defend against them?

Your First Move: Talk to a Lawyer

Before anything else, your first move should be talking to a lawyer with experience in dealing with domestic violence charges. Laws related to domestic violence can be complex and vary from area to area. On top of that, even a slight misstep in your strategy could lead to devastating legal consequences. The best course of action is to have a legal expert at your side at every step of the process, both to help you understand that process and to give you advice for how to navigate it.

Depending on the severity of the incident, accusations of domestic violence could lead directly to your arrest. If this is the case, it's even more important to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

The Nature of Domestic Violence Charges

Domestic violence can include a wide range of actions and behaviors, including “physical, sexual, emotional, economic, and psychological actions or threats of actions.” These actions can be committed against any family member, typically including spouses, former spouses, partners, parents, foster parents, children, extended family members, and even romantic partners of family members.

Domestic violence charges function differently in different areas. Each state has its own set of laws related to domestic violence, so it's impossible to make universal claims about how these types of cases go. In many areas, a domestic violence charge will only move forward if the accuser decides to file charges or if the State gains control of the case.

As you might imagine, domestic violence cases are often difficult to navigate for both the prosecution and the defense. Instances of violence, or threats of violence in the home usually rely on anecdotal and witness evidence, and the situation often boils down to “he said/she said” dynamics. If your partner accuses you of abusing them, how can you possibly disprove that? If you claim you've never abused your partner, how can you get people to believe you?

Domestic violence charges are also complicated by the fact that they can lead to the discovery and process of other charges. For example, let's say the police are called to your home in response to a domestic violence incident. By the time they get there, the incident has settled down, but the police look around your house and discover illegal materials in your living room. Now you have a totally unrelated set of charges to deal with.

How to Defend Against a Domestic Violence Charge

If you want to maximize your chances of successfully defending against a domestic violence charge, do the following:

  •       Stay silent. It's in your best interest to stay silent, especially in your interactions with police. You may want to give your side of the story, which is perfectly appropriate, but it's better to do so with a lawyer present. Additionally, it's important to refrain from talking about this or past instances on social media or in any public space. Any public information you disclose could be used against you.
  •       Talk to a lawyer. As we've already mentioned, it's important to work with a lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer is going to help you better understand the charges against you, develop a strategy for dealing with those charges, and hopefully guide you to the best possible outcome given the circumstances.
  •       Gather any evidence you can. Think about any evidence that might exculpate you from this crime or at least weaken the story of your accuser. You may have trouble understanding what types of evidence may serve these purposes, but your lawyer can help you in this regard. In any case, gather any evidence you can, including sent and received messages, receipts to demonstrate your whereabouts, or even camera footage and audio recordings.
  •       Demonstrate self-defense. Depending on the circumstances of the incident, you may be able to demonstrate that your actions were motivated by self-defense. Your ability to do this will depend on the evidence available.
  •       Prove falsehoods/exaggerations. You can also defend yourself by showing that the story of your accuser contains falsehoods or exaggerations. Are there any facts or pieces of evidence that could show your accuser is lying?
  •       Showcase insufficient evidence. If all else fails, your lawyer may work with you to try and prove that there's insufficient evidence in this case.

Domestic violence charges are very serious, and it's important to take them seriously. But if you keep your wits about you and follow the advice of a good lawyer, you'll be much more likely to get a favorable outcome.

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