Defining Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is physical or sexual violence that is perpetrated by a spouse, roommate, person who has a child with the victim, boyfriend, date, person who lives in the same household or has some other type of relationship that falls under the criminal domestic violence statute. Sometimes it is domestic violence between people who have a former relationship, such as an ex-spouse, ex-boyfriend or people who used to live together.

Domestic violence includes physical attacks, including pushing, shoving, throwing objects at someone, hitting someone with an object, punching, slapping, choking, raping or sexually assaulting the victim. Domestic violence crimes generally comprise acts that are otherwise considered assault, battery or sex crimes.

False Allegations

Domestic violence is taken very seriously. However, making these accusations in a false manner is common. A false allegation of this nature may be due to a bitter breakup or because someone wants to come out ahead in a divorce or child custody case. It is vital that someone who is facing false allegations get immediate legal assistance in order to quickly build a defense against the accusations. The case usually starts with a hearing for a temporary order of protection. A criminal defense lawyer can represent the defendant at this hearing in order to prevent an order being issued that is based on false allegations.

Arrests for Domestic Violence

Due to the heightened awareness of domestic violence, many law enforcement agencies take calls regarding domestic violence very seriously. Law enforcement may be sent to the defendant’s location immediately. He or she may be quickly arrested with little or no investigation. Even when the victim has no signs of injuries and no credible evidence is available, such an arrest may occur. There may be no witnesses that can substantiate the victim’s claims. Instead, law enforcement often solely relies on the word of the victim.

Processing of Domestic Violence Cases

Due to the swiftness of arresting someone for domestic violence accusations, it can be difficult for a defendant to protect his or her rights. Some jurisdictions have mandatory jail stays for people accused of domestic violence. Many jurisdictions allow for immediate protection orders, which can force an alleged abuser out of a shared home. Once the case has been referred to the prosecutor, he or she has the decision to move forward with the charges or dismiss the case. Even if the victim refuses to cooperate, the prosecutor may still move forward if he or she believes that he or she can still make the case without the victim’s assistance. He or she may have other evidence, such as pictures of the victim’s injuries, witness statements, a 911 call recording or other credible evidence that may not necessitate the victim’s assistance.
Felony or Misdemeanor Charges

The prosecutor often has the choice of filing a case as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor crimes usually have a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and payment of a fine. Many jurisdictions require alleged abusers to participate in a domestic violence intervention program or anger management classes. Defendants may also be subject to having to complete community service, pay a fine and abide by a protection order.

Felony convictions carry many of the same punishments as misdemeanor charges. However, the penalties tend to be stiffer. Prison sentences may be longer. More community service hours may be ordered. Fines may be higher.