LEGAL DEFENSES TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Why You Need An Attorney

If you are being charged with a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence offense you need to consult with a criminal defense attorney. Both misdemeanors and felonies have the potential for jail time, protective orders, gun prohibitions, counseling, and DV probation terms.  Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, but require an aggressive defense as they carry a potential jail sentence of up to 1 year. Felonies are the most serious crimes which carry a potential county jail or state prison sentence.   It is essential that you understand the seriousness of the charges, the consequences, and the possible defenses to the charges.

Innocent People Need Attorneys Too

Many people arrested for domestic violence think that they can explain to the prosecutor that they are innocent and the case will get dismissed.  Saying you “didn’t do it” usually won’t get the charges dropped even if there is no physical evidence of abuse.  To prevent a wrongful conviction, you should immediately contact a good criminal defense attorney who will attack the false allegations being made against you.  A person should never believe that because he or she is innocent and has nothing to hide there is no need to get legal representation.  A person falsely accused of committing a crime faces the same challenges as a guilty criminal defendant and has the same need for competent legal representation.

Expungement

Even if you are convicted of domestic violence, you can still get your case expunged.  All misdemeanors and most felonies can be expunged.    An expungement allows you to lawfully answer that you have never been convicted of a crime.  To be eligible, you must have successfully completed probation, paid all your fines and fees, and completed the terms of your probation.  It is important that you present the best case to the judge hearing your request for a dismissal if you want the judge to grant the dismissal. When you hire our law firm, we will help you with your expungement so that your criminal record and history our as clean as possible.

Victim doesn’t want charges filed

In almost all domestic violence cases, the accuser doesn’t want charges filed.  Unfortunately, once the case gets sent to the prosecutor for review it is out of the accuser’s hands.  Although the prosecutor will take into consideration whether the accuser wants to pursue the case, the charging decision is still made based on the facts of the case, elements of the crime, and not the request of the accuser.  Most prosecutors expect that the victim will not want to file charges against the alleged abuser due to “battered woman’s syndrome.” 

Accusers statement used to get the case dismissed

In some cases, where there are no injuries, no prior calls for service, no physical contact, and the accuser doesn’t want to pursue the case and tells the DA that there have never been prior acts of violence, the DA will strongly consider those facts in deciding to not file the case.  This means that even in cases where there is an arrest the prosecutor can still choose to not file charges if the facts are right.  Hiring the right domestic violence attorney is critical because they will help to present these facts to the prosecutor.              

Right to Self-Defense or Defense of Another

In many domestic violence cases, the person arrested was only trying to protect themselves from being hit or protecting the alleged victim from hurting themselves.  The main legal defense to a domestic violence case is self-defense.  The law allows you to use reasonable force to protect yourself from being hit by another or allows you to use reasonable force to restrain another person from harming themselves or from driving drunk.  The law allows you to stand your ground to protect yourself.        

Self Defense Jury instruction

A defendant is not guilty of a domestic violence battery if they used force against another in lawful self-defense or defense of another.  The defendant acted in lawful self-defense or defense of another if (1) the defendant reasonably believed that they or someone else was in imminent danger of suffering bodily injury, (2) the defendant reasonably believed that the immediate use of force was necessary to defend against that danger, and (3) the defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend against that danger.  A defendant is not required to retreat. He or she is entitled to stand his or her ground and defend himself or herself.  The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in lawful self-defense or defense of another. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty. 

You didn’t “willfully” Injure the Accuser

Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose.  If there is sufficient evidence that an alleged victim’s injuries were caused by an accident, the court has a duty to instruct on accident. (People v. Gonzales (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 382, 390 [88 Cal.Rptr.2d 111].)  This means that if the person was injured because of an accident and not a “willful” intent to injure you have a solid legal defense. 

Accident Jury Instruction

A person is not guilty of a domestic violence battery if he/ she acted or failed to act without the intent required for that crime, but acted instead accidentally. You may not find the defendant guilty of domestic battery unless you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he/she acted with the required intent.

You are Falsely accused 

Unfortunately, false accusations in domestic violence cases are common.  Often, false accusations are made out of anger, jealousy, revenge, in child custody or family law cases, or because the accuser is mentally ill or on drugs or medications.  It’s important in false allegation cases to conduct your own investigation including interviewing any witnesses or neighbors, obtain the accusers mental health records including medications, and a full workup on the accuser’s personal history including any previous false allegation cases.                 

Witness Credibility Attacked at Trial

The jury is asked to judge the credibility or believability of the witnesses at trial. In deciding whether testimony is true and accurate, the jury is asked to use their common sense and experience. The testimony of each witness must be judged by the same standard. The jury is asked to set aside any bias or prejudice they may have, including any based on the witness’s gender, race, religion, or national origin.  The jury may believe all, part, or none of any witness’s testimony. The jury is asked to consider the testimony of each witness and decide how much of it is to be believed.  In evaluating a witness’s testimony, the jury may consider anything that reasonably tends to prove or disprove the truth or accuracy of that testimony.  If the jury decides that a witness deliberately lied about something significant in this case, they should consider not believing anything that witness says.  If you can show that the witness is lying, the jury can disregard all of that witness’s testimony. 

Evaluating Conflicting Evidence At Trial

If the jury determines that there is a conflict in the evidence, they must decide what evidence, if any, to believe. The jury is told to not simply count the number of witnesses who agree or disagree on a point and accept the testimony of the greater number of witnesses. On the other hand, they are not to disregard the testimony of the greater number of witnesses, or any witness, without a reason or because of prejudice or a desire to favor one side or the other. What is important is whether the testimony or any other evidence convinces each juror, not just the number of witnesses who testify about a certain point.

Reasonable Doubt at trial

The fact that a criminal charge has been filed against the defendant is not evidence that the charge is true. Jurors are told that they must not be biased against the defendant just because they have been arrested, charged with a crime, or brought to trial.  A defendant in a criminal case is presumed to be innocent. This presumption requires that the People prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves each juror with an abiding conviction that the charge is true. The evidence need not eliminate all possible doubt because everything in life is open to some possible or imaginary doubt.  In deciding whether the People have proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury must impartially compare and consider all the evidence that was received throughout the entire trial. Unless the evidence proves the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they are entitled to an acquittal and the jury must find them not guilty.

Two Reasonable Interpretations of Evidence at Trial

Before the jury may rely on circumstantial evidence to conclude that a fact necessary to find the defendant guilty has been proved, the jury must be convinced that the People have proved each fact essential to that conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.  Also, before the jury may rely on circumstantial evidence to find the defendant guilty, they must be convinced that the only reasonable conclusion supported by the circumstantial evidence is that the defendant is guilty. If the jury can draw two or more reasonable conclusions from the circumstantial evidence, and one of those reasonable conclusions points to innocence and another to guilt, the jury must accept the one that points to innocence. However, when considering circumstantial evidence, the jury must accept only reasonable conclusions and reject any that are unreasonable.

You don’t have to plead guilty, contact our office today for a free same day consultation

We have successfully represented many individuals accused of domestic violence charges.  Even in tough cases, we are almost always able to get a better resolution in a case then if you handled it yourself, had the public defender, or other private attorney.  Our experienced and aggressive negotiating efforts usually result in dismissed or reduced charges and lesser punishment including less jail days, shorter classes, and smaller fines. Call out office today at (916) 939-3900 or (530) 621-1800 for a free consultation.