The Real Truth About Domestic Violence Cases In Los Angeles
I’ve been doing these domestic violence or spousal abuse cases for over twenty-five years. I’ve seen it from the prosecutor’s standpoint when I worked for the DA’s office in the early 1990’s. I’ve also seen it from a Judge’s standpoint when I worked for a Superior Court Judge many years ago, and of course, I’ve been a criminal defense attorney defending people charged with both misdemeanor and felony DUI’s across Los Angeles County.
Most times, the first true point here, people are going to be charged with a misdemeanor. They think they might be charged with a felony because they’ve been arrested and had to post a $50,000 bond. But what a lot of people don’t realize is, that’s standard in any case. The police are arresting somebody because they’re trying to defuse a situation and they’re trying to make sure there are no more problems and that the violence between the two individuals doesn’t escalate to a point where somehow the police are held responsible because they didn’t take action and do something about it.
So, for political reasons and policy reasons, if the police get called out to somebody’s home, apartment or house, and there’s domestic violence there, that’s not just limited to husband and wife. It could also be wife and wife, husband and husband, boyfriend and girlfriend. Even families – I’ve represented fathers who have lost it on their kids and punished them to a way-too-high level. Once the police come out and they see that someone’s been injured — that’s one of the keys — you need an injury. If there’s no injury, now they’re going to start scratching their heads.
But, if somebody’s threatening to kill somebody or there’s a weapon involved and there’s no injury, then they’re still going to arrest the person. So, they’re going to come and out and see who did what and if they determine there’s been domestic violence here, someone’s going to get arrested. They’re going to take them away. Some of the truth points that I’ve seen is, if it’s a $50,000 bond then they probably believe they have the evidence to prosecute the person. They’re going to give it to the prosecutors and let them make the final decision on exactly which charges are filed, whether it’s a felony or a misdemeanor, etc.
If on the other hand, it’s a $20,000 bond, to me those are kind of 50/50 cases. That means that the police aren’t too impressed with what’s happened. They felt like they just had to do their job and arrest somebody – maybe there are no injuries in the case. That’s one that’s a gray area that may or may not be filed. Then if the police let the person go and just give them a citation, that’s usually one that’s not going to be filed. But I rarely ever see that, because why waste their time giving a citation unless something might actually be filed. These guys don’t like to do paperwork. So, to me, if you’re going to get arrested and they’re going to put a $50,000 bail, those are usually the cases that they believe they’ve got the evidence to prosecute the person.
It is a he said/she said thing, so a lot of the truth about domestic violence cases or spousal abuse cases in Los Angeles really have to do with it being a he said/she said situation, or he said/he said or she said/she said, depending on who is involved. In order for them to prosecute it, they’re going to need some evidence in addition to what their alleged victim is saying. They don’t just take people’s word for it. Evidence can come in all types of different forms. Police always come with their camera. They’re going to take pictures of any injuries and if they’ve got the evidence that somebody caused those injuries, which starts to get them in a position to be able to prosecute the domestic violence case. So, if you have one party saying one thing, and one party is saying another and there’s no witnesses in the case, there’s going to need to be evidence.
Circumstantial evidence is okay, where they see the house broken up; they see injuries on one party; they see somebody crying, upset, disheveled then obviously something happened there and now the question becomes, can they prove that somebody did it and be able to prosecute them for it.
So, if you’re charged with a domestic violence case and you’re thinking to yourself, my significant other might be able to help me in this, and I think they’re willing to just say they don’t want me prosecuted — it’s probably too late, because it’s not them against you, it’s the People of the State of California against you. Believe it or not, in most domestic violence cases, the alleged victim changes their mind and doesn’t want the person prosecuted, so the prosecutors have already decided they don’t care about that. They’re still going to prosecute the person. They believe it’s in their interest to do justice and to protect the other party whether they want the protection or not.
So, now the next big question becomes, if I don’t want this domestic violence conviction on my record, what am I going to do? Well, hire a great attorney. Either give the attorney the authority to negotiate something less than domestic violence, or you better have a defense that you can prevail on. That’s something you’re going to have to talk to your attorney about. You need a defense that if you go to trial, the jury is going to find you not guilty, and if there’s injuries, it’s going to have to be explained why those injuries are there. Did the other spouse attack you and then you had to defend yourself and that’s how they got the injuries? Did they injure themselves? What happened?
If they have an independent witness in the case saying that you did certain things that were unlawful, we got a problem, because those independent witnesses are tough to crack, because the question becomes, what motive do they have to lie? So, we really have to look at the totality of the circumstances surrounding your case and then we can make an informed decision on what we can do.
As far as the truth and the reality related to punishments for domestic violence, there’s a whole array of things that can be given as punishment. One standard thing is the 52-week course. That’s once a week for 52 weeks you have to go to a class that teaches you how to control your temper. If your kids are involved, they’ll make you do a parenting course. There are all kinds of different parenting courses. They can also make you do an anger management course. These are all things to try and educate people on what to do when they lose their temper and not resort to violence. There are other things that can be done and that’s what these classes seem to be designed to assist with.
You’re usually also going to be put on three years of probation. If it’s a felony probation you have to report to the probation department and they’re going to keep a tight eye on you. If it’s a misdemeanor probation, which it usually is, you just can’t get in trouble or you violate your probation. There will be certain terms and conditions on the probation, like not to abuse the other party. Sometimes there will be a complete 100-yard stay away depending on what resolution your attorney worked out for you. There’s a whole different array of things.
There can also be jail time. If the prosecutors think that you’re a bad person who can’t control themselves, they’re going to try to give you a wake-up call and put you in jail for as long as they possibly can. Most people hate jail for many reasons. One, because it’s scary and dangerous. Two, because if they are taken away from their job for any period of time they could lose everything and they usually support the family that’s involved with the case. A lot of times, the alleged victim doesn’t work.
So, there are all sorts of things going on with these domestic violence cases, and as you can probably get a feel as I give you the reality about what’s going on with these cases, you’re going to need somebody who is an expert in this field – who has done the cases in the court where your case is pending, who knows the prosecutors there, who knows the judges there and who knows what it’s going to take to get you the right result. That’s one of the biggest things you need to do, is figure out with your attorney what the right result is for you. Yes, everybody wants a dismissal. I get that, but sometimes you can’t have a dismissal because you went too far and they have the evidence to prove that you did something illegal. So, in that case, we have to do damage control. We have to figure out what we can do to get you the best possible result for your case and to make sure the things that are most important to you are protected.
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