Feeling angry, scared, or confused after being charged with domestic violence is understandable. After all, you face serious penalties, including confinement and/or a fine. Not to mention, your reputation may be at risk or already ruined. You might think that going to your accuser and asking them to recant their story could result in a more favorable outcome. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Talking to your accuser might do more harm than good. Even if the individual changes their report, the prosecutor could still decide to pursue charges. Contact with your accuser might also be seen as witness intimidation, leading to additional criminal charges. If you have been accused of domestic violence, consult a criminal defense lawyer about how to proceed with your case.
An Overview of Domestic Violence Charges in California
Domestic violence is a serious crime in California. It occurs when one person in a family or household commits or threatens to commit an act of physical, sexual, or financial abuse against another family or household member. It can also include stalking, harassing, or disturbing a person’s peace.
The law applies to the following family and household members:
- Current or former spouses,
- Current or former dating partners,
- Current or former cohabitants,
- Parents who have a child together, and
- Close relatives.
The Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction
The penalties imposed for domestic violence can be serious. Various acts can be considered an offense. Depending on factors such as the severity of the crime and the extent of the injury inflicted on the alleged victim, charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies.
Regardless of the level of charge, a conviction can result in jail or prison time and/or fines. Additionally, the court can order participation in a batterer’s intervention program and the payment of victim restitution.
Those found guilty of domestic violence may also suffer other consequences. For instance, they might lose their firearm rights under state and federal law. They may also have trouble getting a job, as an employer might decide not to hire someone with a conviction on their criminal record.
Why Talking to Your Accuser Might Not Help Your Case
Believing that your domestic violence charge resulted from a misunderstanding or false allegations, you might be tempted to speak with your accuser. You might think that, in talking to them, you could get the charges dropped and avoid the serious penalties associated with a conviction. Unfortunately, it is unlikely any good will come of contacting your accuser.
If you believe that talking to your accuser will result in dropped charges, know that many prosecuting agencies have “no drop” policies concerning domestic violence cases. Thus, even if the victim does not wish to press charges, the prosecutor may still decide to proceed if they feel enough evidence exists to pursue a conviction. This is to protect domestic violence victims from being coerced into changing their stories out of fear of their abuser.
You might be subject to a protective order as part of a domestic violence matter. Among other court-imposed restrictions, you may be prohibited from contacting your accuser. If you reach out to them in any way, you may be in violation of the protective order and face additional charges and penalties.
Also, talking to your accuser could be considered witness intimidation. Under California law, taking any action that would dissuade or interfere with a witness’s involvement in a criminal case is illegal.
Seek Advice from a Lawyer When Charged with Domestic Violence
As noted, domestic violence charges are serious, and certain actions you take can negatively impact your case. An attorney can give you the advice and guidance you need to make informed and strategic decisions about how to proceed. They can explain not only the charges and potential penalties but also things you may want to avoid doing. At the same time, they will listen to your side of the story and help develop a defense to ensure that your voice is heard.