Domestic violence (DV) is a crime such as stalking, assault, battery or harassment committed against a family member or someone living in your home. Some states have separate statutes for domestic violence, while others group these laws with other assault statutes. If the state can prove that the crime victim is a household or family member, charges are typically enhanced, but in some cases people are falsely accused. In this article, you will learn about possible defenses to domestic violence charges.
Those charged with DV can defend themselves in two ways: they can show that the prosecutor has not proven his or her case beyond reasonable doubt, or they can submit a defense that negates their liability. Read on for an explanation of these defenses.
In a criminal case, a prosecutor must prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the defendant intentionally committed every act that the crime includes. For DV, these elements must be proven:
- The victim is a member of a class protected under domestic violence statutes. For instance, New Jersey protects current and former household members and spouses who are 18+ or emancipated minors, people with whom the suspect has a child, or a person whom the perpetrator has dated.
- The harassment or assault actually occurred. A defendant can try to demonstrate that a victim has made up claims of violence; this defense won't work if physical evidence corroborates the victim's story.
- The defendant committed the act. Sometimes, defendants agree that the victim was injured, but someone else committed the assault. If it's the victim's word against the suspect's, a prosecutor can lose unless they can provide more evidence pointing to the defendant's guilt.
- The prosecutor has proven other elements of the crime. In states offering enhanced punishment for DV crimes, prosecutors must prove all crime elements. For instance, it must be proven that the victim and the perpetrator had a spousal relationship, and it must be proven that the victim was assaulted. In some states, a spouse with a prior history of spousal abuse can face felony charges for domestic violence, and other states enhance charges if a weapon is used during the assault.
Claims of Self-Defense Against Domestic Violence Charges
Defendants in DV cases can assert that their actions were in self-defense, and that the victim is in fact the aggressor. These situations are commonly seen by EMTs, paramedics and other first responders, and in some states police must decide who the aggressor was before making an arrest. Even in these states, defendants can show that their actions were justifiable because of the victim's aggressive conduct.
Hiring an Attorney
If you are facing domestic violence charges, you should call a criminal defense attorney right away. A lawyer can evaluate the prosecutor's case, and they can help you find the best defense to the charges. Never talk to investigators or prosecutors unless you have first spoken with your own legal counsel. For more information, visit Bare Law Firm.