What Should You Do When Domestic Violence Charges are Filed Against You?
Domestic violence charges can be very scary because typically what happens is the person is arrested. They have to post a $50,000 bail. Usually, the other spouse now has control of the home. If there are kids involved, a lot of times you’re prevented from seeing your kids. It really throws your world in an uproar. So, as far as what you should do, I think first, don’t cause any more problems with the person that’s claiming that you committed domestic violence against them because it’s just going to get you deeper into trouble, and I think you need to get a strategy meeting with a criminal defense attorney who knows how to deal with domestic violence cases and is familiar with the jurisdiction where your case is pending.
In other words, there’s a lot of cases in that particular courthouse where your case is going to go to because then they’ll know the ropes over there, so to speak. They’ll know the players – the prosecutors, the judges – and they’ll know how these types of cases are dealt with. It’s kind of a dicey area dealing with the other person who has accused you of domestic violence because depending on how that person feels about you now – if they’re still angry with you, obviously they can still do and say some things – they can get you in further trouble, either through the police or through the prosecutors or even the judge in the case.
So, if you have to get advice from your attorney on. You don’t want to just start winging it yourself and hope things work out. People think certain things when it comes to domestic violence cases in Los Angeles and how they should proceed, step-by-step. But, if you think that and you haven’t got any basis for it – you haven’t spoken to an attorney. You haven’t had a domestic violence case filed against you before in Los Angeles, then you’re really operating in a dangerous fashion.
I’ll give you a perfect example. People think it’s a husband and wife scenario, and the husband has struck the wife. $50,000 bail and now has to appear in one of the courts in Los Angeles County. So, the husband finds out the wife feels bad that he was arrested and obviously doesn’t want to lose her meal ticket so-to-speak, because he probably supports the family, and now want to take everything back. So, a logical person would think, okay well it’s her against me. If she wants to take it back that’s it. I get to get out of it and I can move on with my life and be more careful. No, that’s not right because it’s not her against you, it’s the People of the State of California against you.
Domestic violence is a very politically-charged issue, so the prosecutors are used to that – that the alleged victim tries to change their story and they’re not going to allow it to happen. They’re going to call the police in and say, hey you talked to Sally Jo over there and she had marks on her and she was crying and she said that this happened and that happened, and look at her now, she’s trying to change her story. Did you believe her at the time that she told you? Of course, I did. I saw the marks. She was crying. They’re going to play the 9-1-1 tape where Sally Jo is screaming and yelling, so that’s not going to work. That does not work. It’s as simple as that. Whether people like it or not, that doesn’t solve the problem.
So, it’s still important to tell your attorney that your wife is now on our side. She’ll do whatever she can to help. That’s good information to have and the attorney can figure out – based on the courthouse and the way things work there, and just their common sense and experience – what, if anything, the fact that the alleged victim is no longer at odds with the defendant, what can be done to use that to try to help – whether the alleged victim goes and talks to the prosecutor or detective. That’s something that the attorney can discuss with the defendant.
Process-wise, you have to get into an attorney and let the attorney guide you through it. But another issue that comes up is, am I allowed to contact the other party? Because how can you try to work anything out if you can’t contact them? The answer to that is, if they get a restraining order and it’s served on you, you can’t contact them. If the judge issues a protective order and the criminal judge orders you not to contact that person, then you can’t do it. Otherwise, you’re going to violate the order and you’ll be looking at more criminal charges and more problems. But, if there’s no restraining order and there’s no protective order in place, then technically yes you can contact the other party, but you would only want to do that if they were amenable to that. Because if they’re still mad at you, you contacting them is just going to trigger more problems for you.
So, the process is, get to an attorney. Let them guide you through it. Once you get arrested, you post the bail and get out, then you’ll appear in court. Your attorney will appear with you at the arraignment and at that time, the judge is going to issue a protective order for you to stay away from the other party while the case is pending. They do that because they don’t want any more trouble. But if the other party shows up – whether it’s your husband, wife, significant other – and says I don’t want a full stay-away, then the prosecutors can talk to them and decide whether or not they’re going to agree to that, and if they do then they can say yeah, we’re going to issue a protective order. You can’t do anything bad to the person, but we will let you guys get within a hundred yards of each other as long as you can remain peaceful and not have any more issues. Then the case is going to proceed ahead and it’s either going to be resolved by way of some negotiated plea or it’s going to go to trial and a jury will find the person guilty or not guilty.
There are circumstances where one spouse or party has lied and you can show the prosecutors that, and if it’s done sufficiently, then the prosecutors can dismiss the case if they decide to do that. It’s just hard to convince the prosecutors to dismiss a domestic violence case in Los Angeles once they file it.