Domestic violence charges have increased substantially over the years. While violence against anyone is a crime, California law creates a separate set of offenses, usually enforced and investigated by special domestic violence units, which concern acts of physical violence, threatened violence, or abuse between people who are involved in domestic relationships. Typically, this includes spouses, former spouses, family members, parents, and cohabitants.
Depending on the circumstances involved, domestic violence can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, and they can result in serious penalties, including jail time. Unfortunately, even if the accusations are false, mere allegations can disrupt your life and tarnish your reputation.
At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we understand the complexities and underlying emotional issues that accompany domestic violence charges in California. Over the years, our award-winning attorneys have successfully defended many clients charged with a wide range of domestic violence offenses, including corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant (PC 273.5), domestic battery (PC 243(e)(1)), criminal threats, violations of protective orders, and more.
False Accusations & Defenses
One of the most difficult aspects of domestic violence charges is that they often boil down to “he said, she said” matters. Unfortunately, this means that people are often falsely accused of domestic violence, and because times have changed from the days when police used to respond to domestic calls and simply tell disputing parties to “settle down,” arrests are often made on these false accusations. Even if an alleged victim decides to “drop” their allegations, local prosecutors can still levy charges.
How to Prove Innocence in a Domestic Violence Case
Fortunately, the criminal justice system provides all individuals accused of crimes with the right to presumption of innocence – the right to be treated innocent until proven guilty. You have the right to present your side of the story in order to challenge the prosecution’s version of the facts, which may be influenced by the false accusation itself. Depending on the facts involved, there may be available defenses, including:
- False accusations were made with motive by the accuser. This can happen in cases where people in the domestic relationship have the intent to discredit the other spouse in order to benefit a divorce case or gain custody of children.
- Prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, so a valid defense can consist of attacking elements of the government’s case to ensure they stand up to this burden of proof. Can it be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there were verifiable injuries/threats and that the defendant was the one who caused them? Is there any physical or circumstantial evidence to support the prosecutor’s case? If a prosecutor cannot provide an argument that passes muster to the burden of proof, this defense strategy can be successful.
- Another common defense strategy is that any visible marks or injuries observed by responding officers were committed as an act of self-defense. First responders who assess the situation, speak to involved parties, and talk to any witnesses may bolster this defense strategy, and defendants can pursue the defense with evidence that their actions were justifiable.
- In some cases, an effective defense strategy to false domestic violence accusation is referred to as a de minimis defense, which means the offense, potentially a heated war of words, does not amount to the elements of a criminal domestic violence offense.
Defense strategies are always based on the unique circumstances of a case, which is why our legal team takes the time to listen to your story, collect and investigate the evidence involved, and craft plans that aim to produce the best results possible.
If you have been wrongly accused of domestic violence in Los Angeles or any of the surrounding communities of California, contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP for a free consultation.