When you are convicted because of domestic violence, your entire life undergoes a full 180-degree turn. Your reputation might be ruined and it will be on your criminal record permanently. However, it’s not yet over until it’s proven that you are indeed guilty. You still must stand in court and defend yourself. Fortunately, you can enlist the help of a criminal defense attorney to help you.
What is domestic violence?
It’s a criminal offense where a person uses violence to assault and inflict bodily harm to their partner. However, in most cases, even non-physical harm is also considered domestic violence. The following are considered domestic violence:
- Physical abuse. Causing physical harm to your partner like punching, kicking, slapping
- Sexual abuse. Includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, coerced into having an abortion, etc.
- Psychological abuse. Threatening, blackmailing, stalking, and controlling the other person’s social life falls under here.
- Emotional abuse. This talks about humiliation, criticism, and constant insults. Usually, emotional abuse happens along with other types of abuse.
- Financial abuse. Perhaps the least obvious of them, financial abuse pertains to someone preventing the other person from studying or getting a job.
Anyone can experience domestic violence: no gender identity, sexual orientation, religious belief, socioeconomic class, age, or racial identity is exempted.
In some cases, innocent people are accused of domestic violence for the gains of the other party. It may be due to child custody if the parents are undergoing a divorce, self-defense as the complainant is also an abuser, or due out of anger towards you.
In California, domestic violence charges are treated as more severe if the complainant is someone you are dating, cohabitant, fiance, or spouse. This is because of the state’s domestic violence laws. Also, you might not want to call the police if you want a resolution to your and your spouse’s verbal argument because chances are either one of you will be arrested instead.
Aside from the imprisonment sentence, a minimum jail time, payment of victim’s compensation, loss of custody and gun rights, and deportation (for non-US citizens) are some of the other consequences of conviction due to domestic violence. Alternatively, instead of going to jail, there are also instances where the defendant is sentenced to one of the two:
- Summary probation. It applies when the case is considered a misdemeanor. It’s when a defendant should report in court and comply with the terms presented such as community service, payment of fines, etc.
- Felony probation. It applies to cases considered felonies. It’s when the defendant is under the supervision and surveillance of a probation officer. Some of the conditions to be met by the defendant are that the probation officer must receive a report regularly, and victims must be paid their compensations.
However, violations to the terms set by the probation have possible penalties including:
- A warning from the court;
- Changes in the terms of the probation to be more strict; or
- The defendant will be ordered to jail.
What to do when you are charged with domestic violence?
There are do’s and don’t when there are allegations against you. Any action you do can be a huge factor as to how your case will go. Here are some of the things you should and shouldn’t do:
- Don’t try to explain. You’ve heard the line “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in court.” That is called the Miranda warning or Miranda rights in some jurisdictions. It’s used in all crimes, including domestic violence cases. All statements and testimonies you do must be done through your lawyer. This also includes explaining yourself on social media. Defending yourself to your boss or your circle of friends online can also be used against you. Anything you posted on Facebook or that direct message you sent to your friend on Twitter may be considered as evidence against you.
- Don’t attempt to resist arrest. Trying to avoid arrest (e.g. by fleeing to another place, escaping, etc.) will most likely give you an additional case and jail time depending on how it goes.
- Don’t contact the complainant. Keeping in contact and trying to patch things up with the victim privately or through a connection often equates to an even huge problem for you, the defendant. Keep your distance away from the accuser as you may break any terms of any restraining order filed against you.
- Properly document your side. Instead of doing the things above, you might want to consult your lawyer if documenting the events in your perspective is necessary, which most likely is. Document anything that might be helpful: contact information of witnesses, injuries inflicted if the complainant is also violent towards you, photos of anything that can be used as evidence. However, always remember to follow the terms of the restraining order filed.
- Follow the Personal Protection Order. In a domestic violence case, a personal protection order (PPO) may be filed against you. This restraining order restricts you from coming into contact with the complainant, your children, or your relatives. Violation of the terms may result in arrest and additional jail time.
- Lawyer up. Of course, this is the most essential thing to do. You’ll have to contact your lawyer to help you in defending yourself in court. Your reputation may be at stake when you let things work out on their own. Contacting a criminal defense lawyer may help you in the process of expungement. It’s where employers are not allowed to see your convictions during the employment process.
Need help in defending yourself and proving your innocence? The Chastaine Law Office offers you Northern California’s premier criminal defense attorneys. Contact us and get a free consultation.