Domestic violence is treated as a serious offence everywhere in the States. It is estimated that 10 million men and women are the victims of a form of domestic violence every year. The criminal justice system doesn’t take domestic violence charges lightly – which is the right thing to do.
However, domestic violence can be a very difficult thing to handle the criminal justice system. In such cases, all circumstances must be evaluated and more often than not, a one-off fight that has escalated can turn out to have serious long-term consequences if the case is not handled properly.
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What Classifies as Domestic Violence?
To start with, domestic violence doesn’t only refer to family members or spouses. The law allows for unwed partners to be included as held accountable for domestic violence.
According to the criminal justice system, a person is committing an act of domestic violence on the following occasions:
- Physical and/or verbal assault
- Violating an order or protection or a restraining order
- Sexual assault of a minor
- Child abuse
- Sexual or physical battery
- Elder abuse
The penalties for domestic violence vary depending on the situation. In less severe cases, if convicted, the person can get a suspended prison sentence and can be put through a rehabilitation program. However, for more serious cases, jail time can easily find its way onto the table.
But whatever the case is, being convicted of domestic violence charges certainly means that the individual will experience long-term consequences such as difficulty finding a job due to their criminal record, losing the right to own a gun and decreasing the chances for custody over children.
What Makes Domestic Violence Cases Difficult?
It was not long ago when a case went public of a mother killed her child and then took her own life, claiming that the criminal justice failed to protect her from the abuse they both were exposed to from the father. Losing the custody battle and insisting that the father of the child had a history of abuse toward them, the mother took desperate measures, blaming the justice system in a note she left to the judges.
The mother has previously reported the abuse, but the charges were dropped due to the lack of evidence and claiming that the story was not credible and cannot be supported by witnesses.
While the entire truth will probably never surface, there have been many cases when victims of domestic violence have reported the abuse yet charges were dropped due to the lack of evidence. Some of them even turned into murders, when the offender didn’t know where to stop and crossed the line which no person ever should.
Still, this is only one side of the story. There have been even more cases when alleged victims are reporting domestic abuse that never happened. Scorned ex-partners with mental problems have done this on numerous occasions as an act of revenge. If convicted, the person might have to live with the consequences even though they haven’t done anything wrong.
Additionally, a lot of the domestic violence charges that are pressed are often dropped within a few hours. Impulsive behavior from both sides is a thing which is often seen is such instances – a moment of rage, jealousy or a simple misunderstanding can cause for things to escalate to a degree which doesn’t seem reasonable once a person calms down.
All of these factors contribute to the pressure on the criminal justice system in regards to domestic violence charges.
Prosecuting someone on the basis of a claim sometimes is not enough. This is due to the notion “innocent until proven guilty”. Prosecutors know that domestic violence charges can sometimes be fictional and purely acts of revenge.
The criminal justice system is relying on evidence and witness statements. A lot of domestic violence offenders were prosecuted successfully when the victim was able to demonstrate signs of the abuse, such as recordings of conversations and verbal attacks, text messages, bruises and similar.
If a case is lacking such evidence, the prosecution needs to rely on witnesses. Sometimes, the only witness is the victim themselves and is always addressed by taking a careful approach. Prosecutors and defence attorneys do thorough interviews in order to determine the credibility of the claims of the victims. If a victim is refusing to talk or there are a lot of holes in the story, charges might be dropped. Additional witnesses can be called in, such as neighbours who might have heard shouting to account for the victim.
How To Deal With Domestic Violence Charges?
As mentioned previously, most of the reported cases of domestic violence happen as an impulsive reaction to the situation. A person who has domestic violence charges pressed against them might not have any history of violence. They might have just let the situation slip out of control and lost their temper.
A common mistake that a lot of people who are accused of domestic violence make is trying to talk to the victim themselves. This can hurt their defence case to a great degree and it can even be the thing that gets them convicted.
In situations like this, it is best to have a domestic violence attorney on your side to defend you. An experienced attorney will not only fight your case in court but they will also advise you what actions you need to take in the meantime to minimize the damage and even get the charges dropped if it was a one-off occasion. In instances when it is your word against theirs, it is important to build a strong case since the laws are made to protect the victims. Having the charges dismissed is possible, yet it is crucial for your case to be examined by a professional who will be able to devise the best defence strategy in court.