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Figuring Out Who is the Aggressor In a Domestic Violence Case

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Oct 15, 2019

First you have to know why it's important to know who the aggressor is because when the police come out to the scene because someone called 9-1-1 for a domestic violence or spousal abuse case, they're going to be talking to everybody there.  If it's just the husband and wife / boyfriend and girlfriend, they're going to separate the parties and start asking questions about what happened.

Police Policy to Arrest Most Violent Aggressor

What they're really trying to determine is who the aggressor was, because whoever the aggressor was per police policy is going to get arrested, taken to jail, there's going to be a bail put on them and then they're just going to let the prosecutors — who are lawyers — decide whether or not any criminal case will be filed against that particular person.

So, it's important that you understand this concept of who the aggressor is.  I would say in a nutshell, the aggressor is whoever's the most violent in an illegal way.  Meaning, in a way that would permit them to be arrested and prosecuted for domestic violence.  That's what they're looking at.

This concept of an aggressor, when you think about someone being aggressive and violent, that is part of it, but the other part of it is, you're being aggressive and violent in an unlawful manner, meaning in a manner that's going to be able to show that you were unreasonable in a domestic dispute.

You hit the other party when they didn't need to be hit.  I mean, if somebody attacks you and you defend yourself, as long as you use reasonable force in defending yourself, you have a good argument that you didn't do anything wrong.

Unreasonable Aggression in a Domestic Violence Dispute

But, once you go too far — somebody pushes you and you punch them in the face — that's unreasonable.  You're not going to be determined to be the aggressor in that scenario.  Obviously, if you cause a fight you would be the aggressor.  But, there's other ways that you can be determined to be the aggressor.

Domestic Violence Aggressor in Los Angeles

In other words, in a mutual combat situation nobody really should be charged with a crime — especially not domestic violence — which is a very serious crime.  But, if you go too far in that mutual combat scenario, you put yourself in the position to be prosecuted for a serious domestic violence charge.

So, in determining who the aggressor is, they're going to look at who inflicts the most damage — who is the most violent when it comes to a domestic violence-type situation.  So, it's really a very subjective call on the part of the police.

A lot of times what I see happening with the police is, the regular police officers can't figure out who the aggressor, so they have to get a watch commander out there who's a superior officer to make a decision and sometimes these guys decide wrong.

In other words, they think somebody's the aggressor but they don't have all of the information.  They weren't there.  They didn't see exactly what happened so they make a mistake in determining who the aggressor is and now somebody gets arrested and they really shouldn't be arrested.

That's where you're obviously going to need a good domestic violence attorney to get your version of the events out there to the prosecutors because a lot of times that puts the prosecutors in a bad position when somebody is unlawfully arrested.  They really can't tell.  I'll tell you another thing.

When the police come out, there's been violence, people are hurt — both parties are hurt — and they can't figure out who the aggressor was, a lot of times they'll just arrest both people.  In other words, what they're trying to do in this whole aggressor-determination is to stop the violence and make sure that nobody gets hurt because.

They're really looking out for themselves and say, I'm not going to leave somebody here who is going to cause some problems and get us in trouble because we didn't do what we were supposed to do in relation to this matter.  They're going to arrest the person that they think caused the most trouble, was the most violent and was unlawful under the circumstances of a particular case.

Los Angeles Domestic Violence Attorney

So, if you've got a domestic violence case in Los Angeles and you're trying to figure out this whole concept of an aggressor means, you really need to sit down with an attorney and give the attorney both sides of the equation.  In other words, what happened in the case?  Let's here from both parties as to exactly what happened because then we can start to piece down and figure out why a particular person was arrested versus the other person.

The thing you have to start with in the beginning is the premise that when the police come out, there's been violence, somebody's hurt, somebody's going to get arrested and all they're doing is figuring out which party is more responsible for what happened; which party did something unlawful?  Which party was the aggressor under the particular circumstances of the case?

Hedding Law Firm
16000 Ventura Blvd #1208
Encino, CA 91436
(213) 542-0979

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.