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How to Determine the Aggressor in a Domestic Violence Case

This is an interesting question because it's really what the police are doing when they come out to a domestic violence scene.  They've been called out.  Usually someone calls 9-1-1 and they'll separate both of the parties involved in the altercation or argument and then they'll ask them separately what happened.

They'll look to see what injuries anybody has and then they'll determine who the aggressor was if it's a situation where both parties were arguing and fighting.  Then they will typically make an arrest of the person they determine who the aggressor is. See CALCRIM 840 – Inflicting injury of spouse.

Responding Police Officers Reviewing Injuries

A lot of times, if it's a close call, they'll call out their watch commander who is in charge and that person will have to make the determination of which person is getting arrested.  That's the unfortunate thing about domestic violence cases now in Los Angeles.

If the police come out and somebody has been hurt they're going to arrest somebody.  It's just a matter of determining who the person is that they're going to arrest.  Most of the time it's easy because somebody just attacks and punches somebody and hurts them in some way and they can easily figure it out because that person is the only one with injuries.

Other times though, different parties have injuries and the stories are murky and it's difficult to figure out.  So, probably the easiest answer to determine how someone is an aggressor in a domestic violence case is whoever won the fight.

In other words, if somebody used more force, hurt the other person worse, there's more injuries to that other party, that's usually how the police break the tie if there's any issues as to who the aggressor is.

Police Often Make Incorrect Snap Judgments

But, that can also be a defense in a domestic violence case.  In other words, if we can show that the police are wrong in who they've determined is the aggressor, then we may well have a chance to win the case  Sometimes the police make a snap judgment on the spot.

How to Determine the Aggressor in a Domestic Violence Case

A lot of these officers are not that sophisticated, don't have college educations and are just left out there to make a determination based on information that's being thrown at them in the middle of a heated argument when people are injured.

Sometimes people are drunk, so the officers have to come out there and try to figure things out.  They're not lawyers, so a lot of times I get to the prosecutors and I'm like, wait a minute.  Look what these guys have done.  They've made the wrong decision here.

They didn't ask any questions.  They didn't investigate.  They just took the wife's word, for example, about what happened when the wife's statement doesn't really make any sense.  She's claiming she was punched in the face by my 200-pound client and she doesn't have one injury on her.

How does that even make any sense?  Why don't the police follow up and ask, where did he punch you because we don't see any injury on you?  Are you sure you got punched?  Don't tell us you got punched if you didn't get punched.

So, I think this is the type of inquiry that is appropriate when they're trying to determine who the aggressor is, but unfortunately, once again the police don't always take the time to do things the right way and they end up making a bad decision.

Criminal Lawyer Reviewing Best Domestic Violence Defense

Unfortunately, sometimes criminal defendants suffer for the decision and it's up to me to write the wrong and to get the ship moving in the right direction.  That's why you hire a criminal defense attorney who is going to take their time and figure out what actually happened.

What evidence supports the defense's theory of what happened and how do you best present that evidence to the prosecutor, a judge and even a jury if necessary.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0979.