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Domestic Violence Charges: 15 Things Everyone Should Know

Posted by Vitaly Sigal | Mar 03, 2017 | 0 Comments

As a criminal defense attorney, I have handled countless cases involving domestic violence. These cases can often be complex and require the skill and the knowhow and that only an experienced criminal defense attorney has. Below are some of the more common issues that arise in these type of cases. Please note that this is far from an exhaustive list and there is no substitute to having a criminal lawyer review your specific case.

  1. If The Police Are Called Someone Will Probably Be Arrested

If the police come to the scene of a domestic violence call, they will probably arrest one of the parties for domestic violence. This is true if the other party wanted the arrest or not. Many times, someone will call the police during a domestic argument for reasons other than to have a spouse or significant other arrested. They are then in shock when their spouse/significant other is taken into custody. The police are not in the business of resolving disputes, they are in the business of arresting people. As a criminal defense attorney that has handled domestic violence cases for over twenty years, this is something that most people don't know and find out the hard way.

  1. Even If You Don't Want Your Partner To Be Arrested The Police Will Do It Anyway

This is similar to what I discuss above but it bears repeating. Once the police are contacted by anyone, even someone that has nothing to do with the domestic dispute, it is entirely within their own discretion to decide if they want to make an arrest. It is the policy of most police departments that it is better to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to domestic violence and they would rather arrest an innocent person than taking a chance that a domestic violence situation would escalate.

  1. The “Victim” Of The Domestic Violence Is Left To Help The Arrested Person

This is a scenario that plays itself often for criminal defense lawyers who handle domestic violence cases. Most of the calls that I get for people in jail for domestic violence come from what the police have labeled as the victims. These are spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends and partners of the Defendant who must now help the Defendant get out of the situation. It is quite common and normal for a person, labeled by the police as a victim to hire a criminal defense lawyer for their significant other for a domestic violence case.

  1. The Police Will Set A Bail Amount To Get The Person Out Of Jail

Initially, the police will set a bail amount for the person facing domestic violence charges to post bail and get out of jail. Depending on the individual situation it may or not be a good idea to file a bail when someone is arrested for domestic violence. At the very least the first call should be to a criminal defense attorney who handles domestic violence cases and not to a bail agent.

A criminal lawyer can advise the client on what the best steps to take next are in a domestic violence case that may include bailing the person out or it may not. Only after consulting a criminal defense attorney will you be able to make the best decision for your loved one who is facing domestic violence charges.

  1. If You Call A Bail Agent Before You Call A Lawyer, You Will Pay More

Bail agents are in the business of getting people out jail. They charge a fee for this service and are often very aggressive in their sales techniques. They will also try to charge as much money as they can for their services.

Most criminal defense lawyers work with several bail agencies will get their clients a much better rate by shopping around for them. As a criminal lawyer who has handled numerous domestic violence cases, I am often able to get favorable terms for my domestic violence clients. This will always include paying a lower premium to the bail agent but may sometimes include working out very low monthly payments. Sometimes I can find a bail for a person without even needing a down payment to the bail agent. These are not promises but as an experienced criminal defense lawyer, I have been able to do these things in the past for clients facing domestic violence charges.

  1. The Prosecutor Will Decide What If Any Charges To File Prior To The First Court Hearing

As I stated above, the police would rather arrest a person who is innocent than take that a domestic violence incident would escalate. For this reason, many people who do not deserve to be in jail, end up there anyway. As a criminal defense lawyer, I have seen this scenario play out countless times.

The problem with this method is that the prosecutors don't always get things right. They generally rely on the information given to them by the police. That is why it is crucial to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Only an attorney will be able to speak to the police and prosecutors, the general public does not have access to these individuals.

The time between the arrest and the court filing is an opportunity for an attorney to contact the prosecutor, as well as the police and provide information from the perspective of the accused. I have found this to be an effective approach to handling domestic violence cases. Quite simply, an attorney can speak with the people who make the decisions regarding the domestic violence charges and get them to either not file the charges or file lesser charges. We have been able to accomplish this for many of our clients in the past.

  1. The Judge Will Decide Whether To Issue A Stay Away Order. This Is A Crucial Part Of The Case

Commonly referred to as a restraining order, the actual legal term in a criminal case is protective order. This protective order gets granted regularly by the court and the decision to do so is made by the judge in a domestic violence case at the first hearing.

There are two types of protective orders that can be issued in a domestic violence case. One is an order that the Defendant must only have peaceful contact with the named victim in the case. The second is an order that says the Defendant must stay 100 yards away from the named victim. This is commonly referred to as a “stay away” or a “level 2” order.

It is the stay away order that creates problems not just for the Defendant but for the victim and all other members of the family. In a common scenario, where the victim and the Defendant live together and may also have kids, requiring the Defendant to stay away from his own home creates an impossible situation. In order to comply, the Defendant would have to move out of his house and the victim would be left alone to deal with the household duties. For a couple that has children, this can be impossible. Even for couples who do not have children, the financial burden and the ordeal of forced separation can be devastating.

That is why it is crucial that steps are taken before the first hearing to present the best argument possible to avoid a stay away order. Judges tend to side with issuing the stay away order so it is in everyone's best interest that a qualified criminal defense attorney with experience handling domestic violence cases be there to ensure the Defendant and his family present the best argument against the stay away order.

  1. The Judge Has The Final Say Regarding Bail

In a criminal domestic violence case as well as any other criminal case, the judge will have the final say when it comes to bail. Prior to coming before a judge, the bail is set by the police. It is common practice for the police to set the standard bail for all arrests. The police use what is called a bail schedule and will set the amount to be paid based on that schedule.

Once a case is before the judge, the court will also rely on the bail schedule as a tool but it does not have to follow it. That means that the judge will take into account several factors that are presented to the court. It will be up to a criminal defense attorney to present an argument to the court on the Defendant's behalf. It is quite common for our clients to be released without having to pay any money towards bail.

That is why I write above that your first call should be to a criminal defense attorney rather than a bail agent. The standard bail for a domestic violence case in Los Angeles is $50,000 and a bail agent will take ten percent for his fees as a standard rate. That means a Defendant's family would have saved $5,000 if they would have hired an attorney and waited 48 hours rather than pay for bail.

This scenario plays itself out all the time and while every case is unique and no one can guarantee this outcome, if a person has a loved one that is charged with domestic violence, they should at the very least consult with a criminal defense attorney prior to taking any action on their behalf.

  1. It is Very Common For the Person Who is Listed As The Victim In The Case To Hire An Attorney For The Defendant

As a criminal defense attorney I encounter this a lot. It is quite common that the person whom  the police are saying is the victim of the abuse is actually the one that know has the job of helping the Defendant. It is usually a spouse or a significant other of the Defendant. It makes perfect sense when you think about it, if someone's spouse is in trouble who else is going to get them out of the situation?

It is important however to consult with only an experienced criminal defense attorney because only an experienced attorney will know how to properly handle this situation. If the attorney-client relationship is handled improperly it can create problems not only for the Defendant but also the hiring spouse. That is why it is crucial to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney

  1. The Case Will Proceed Even If The Victim Comes To Court And Asks That Charges Be Dropped

As a criminal attorney, this is a very common scenario that occurs in domestic violence cases. The victim, usually a spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend of the Defendant, will come to court and state that he or she doesn't want to proceed with the case. This is referred to as a recanting witness situation. The prosecutor won't listen and will still move forward with the case. Once the police get involved it is up to them and the prosecutor's office to make decisions regarding charges. The victim's input is rarely considered.

Despite this, an experienced criminal lawyer will be able to utilize the recanting witness scenario to the advantage of his client. It's a situation that needs to be handled very delicately because its important to avoid improperly advising someone in a way that can get everyone involved in a bigger mess than they are already in. That is why it important to hire a criminal attorney who has experience handling these matters.

  1. There Will Be Several Important Pretrial Hearings After The Arraignment

For a case to be handled properly, a criminal defense attorney needs the proper time to do so. Most people want to get this bad situation behind them and move on with their lives. That is understandable, but a quick solution may not always be the best solution to the case. Pretrial hearings are an opportunity to discuss the case with the involved parties and to also obtain additional documentation and evidence that may exist in the case.

  1. Pleading Guilty At The First Hearing Is Usually A Bad Idea

Having been a criminal defense attorney for nearly twenty years, I often get calls from people who pled guilty to charges and now they regret their decision. This scenario arises a lot in domestic violence cases. Often when a person is charged with domestic violence they are offered a quick plea deal. This is sometimes seen as a good idea at the time but can be a big mistake that has consequences for the rest of a person's life. Some of those consequences are discussed elsewhere in this article.

  1. The Victim May Be Ordered To Appear Sometimes Even To Pretrial Hearings

This is yet another complication and inconvenience that is created by the police and prosecutors in relation to a domestic violence case. Usually telling them that you have work or family commitments will not have any effect and they will insist that you show up no matter what. This inconvenience can sometimes be resolved however through the defendant's attorney.

  1. There Is A Way To Avoid Immigration Consequences And Possible Deportation If The Case Is Handled Properly

When a person charged with domestic violence is not a United States citizen, they stakes of the case become that much greater. Even if the person is here legally and has a green card, they can still be deported from the United States for a domestic violence conviction. There are however alternatives to pleading guilty to a deportable offense even if a person is charged with one.

I have a background in working with deportation cases and as a result, I have been able to avoid these harsh consequences. They key is be able to think outside the box and be creative in the approach to domestic violence cases. If a person, who is not a US citizen is charged with a domestic violence case, it is crucial that he consult with an attorney who has experience dealing with these types of cases and also has an understanding of United States immigration laws.

  1. An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Find A Creative Solution To The Problem

Every case is unique and every client has their own individual needs and wants when it comes to how a criminal case is handled. One case may lend itself to going to trial and obtaining a not guilty verdict. While others may need to be resolved in a plea deal. Some clients may lose their job or their professional license if they are convicted while others may not have this problem. Likewise, some clients may have immigration issues that will lead to much harsher consequences than someone who is a United States Citizen.

A criminal defense attorney who has experience handling domestic violence cases will be able to recognize each individual situation. Once that situation is recognized, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to come up with a strategy as to how to handle the case to fit the facts and the needs of the client.

For a free, no obligation consultation and case review contact SIGAL LAW GROUP  at (818) 325-0570.

About the Author

Vitaly Sigal

Vitaly Sigal Sigal Law Group Owner 355 S. Grand Ave, Suite 2450 Los Angeles, CA 90071 (213) 620-0212 Vitaly Sigal has extensive trial experience and is not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. From straightforward to complex litigation, Mr. Sigal handles every case with the same i...


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