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Domestic abuse is a severe and pervasive problem in the United States. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 32.9% of women and 27.3% of men in California have been targets of intimate partner violence, sexual intimate partner violence, or intimate partner stalking at some point in their lives. Domestic violence, which includes intimate partner violence, is a criminal offense that may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in California. If you face the possibility of being charged in a domestic abuse case, you must trust a domestic violence defense lawyer to protect your reputation and rights.
Allegations of domestic abuse can damage your reputations, and rumors that imply that you’ve struck your partner or a family member can spread quickly, straining your relationships with those who are closest to you. Not all hope is lost in these cases, however. Domestic violence cases are notoriously challenging to prove in court. The prosecution has a considerable burden on their hands when they choose to pursue charges against you, meaning there may be several opportunities for your attorney to highlight weaknesses in their case.
What Counts as Domestic Abuse in California?
Domestic violence includes abusing or threatening to abuse a person with whom the perpetrator shares an intimate relationship. Domestic partners may include dating partners, spouses, ex-spouses, people who live together or used to live together, and people who share children, whether by blood or marriage. Under California’s domestic violence law, the following actions may constitute abuse:
- Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone
- Sexually assaulting someone
- Instilling fear in a person that they or someone they know will be hurt
- Harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone
- Disturbing someone’s peace
- Destroying someone’s personal property
Additionally, domestic violence may include nonphysical actions like verbal and emotional abuse. Presenting evidence of any of these types of abuse can prove to be a serious challenge for prosecutors.
Why It’s Challenging to Convict Domestic Violence Defendants
In the majority of cases, domestic violence occurs in the privacy of the home. Often, there are no witnesses to corroborate or invalidate the victim’s account. In these situations, the two parties tell different versions of the event. By piecing together the story, jurors may get an idea of what really took place.
In some cases, domestic violence victims may not wish to testify against their abusers. In others, victims who do come forward are not believed. In these “he said, she said” scenarios, photographs of injuries and electronic communications are the strongest types of evidence. Emails, text messages, and other forms of communication can provide an intimate look into the couple’s relationship and provide the context jurors need to come to informed conclusions about a case.
Types of Evidence Used to Prove Domestic Violence
Physical Evidence in a Domestic Violence Case
If you’re facing a domestic violence charge, the prosecution will try to admit as much physical evidence of your actions as possible to weaken your defense. Juries respond more strongly to physical evidence because they find it easier to believe objective evidence. Juries give physical evidence more weight than personal testimony from either the victim or the defendant, who may have a biased perception of events.
Witnesses are those who hear or view incidents first-hand. There are generally three types of witnesses to a domestic violence incident. They may include:
- Bystanders (such as neighbors)
- Police officers responding to the incident
Victims’ stories are often the single source of evidence in a domestic violence case, which makes it a considerable task to persuade a jury to convict a defendant. Victims are ordered to appear in court through a subpoena like other witnesses and must comply. They may be fined for failure to provide testimony against their abusers; however, California law protects domestic violence victims who refuse to testify.
Unlike other witnesses, domestic violence victims do not face possible jail time for refusing to testify against their abusers in California. Therefore, prosecutors may not intimidate victims by threatening confinement or incarceration for failure to testify against defendants.
Who Is a Bystander in a Criminal Case?
In a criminal case, bystanders are those who observed what happened but did not become involved in the event. In a domestic violence case, a bystander could be a neighbor walking by the house and seeing what is unfolding through a window. A bystander could also be a family member who is home at the time of the incident. Bystanders must follow the same general rules as witnesses of any other crime. The investigating police officers will record their names and contact information. Either the prosecution’s or defendant’s attorney may contact bystanders to testify at trial by issuing them a subpoena. A subpoena for a bystander is a court order to appear and testify. Those who fail to do so may face charges of contempt of court, which may lead to incarceration and fines.
How Can Police Officers be Witnesses?
Police officers can also serve as witnesses to domestic violence, and often, they’re the only other witnesses besides victims. Officers who respond to a domestic violence call usually testify to give their own opinions of any physical evidence the prosecution admits, such as photographs of injuries or property damage.
Police officers may also disclose victim statements made to them, which is typically the most damaging evidence to a defendant’s case. Whether or not these statements can be used against you depends on whether or not the victim testified at a preliminary hearing.
To learn more about what kind of evidence may be used against you in court, consult an experienced domestic violence defense attorney.
Count on Attorney Dod to Fight Domestic Violence Charges in San Diego
Your lawyer will use all of his resources to gather all the evidence against you and create a defense strategy that will have the greatest chance at success in court. The goal is to avoid a conviction that may affect your rights.
Attorney Dod of Dod Law has more than 16 years of experience defending domestic violence and related charges in San Diego. He has worked on more than 6,500 criminal defense cases, and he has a 10.0 “Superb” Avvo rating. Call 619-814-5110 for a free consultation or complete our contact form.