Every domestic violence case involves competing stories and complex interpersonal dynamics. The police often make decisions based on incomplete information. It can be hard to think clearly about your rights if you have been arrested for domestic violence. You need an experienced lawyer to identify the relevant issues and devise an effective strategy.
The typical domestic violence case starts with a 911 call and police officers knocking on the door of a private home. Anyone present will be questioned as the police try to determine “what happened.” But their real goal will be to make an arrest regardless of the truth, since many departments have “mandatory arrest” policies in domestic violence cases.
The slightest injuries will be scrupulously documented as evidence. Sometimes the person who called 911 gets arrested and taken to jail. The arrested person is whoever the police decide was the “dominant aggressor.”
Any police reports will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s office, where a charging deputy will evaluate the case and make a decision whether to file charges in court, and for what specific crime. Hiring a lawyer early on can result in the case not being filed at all, especially if the lawyer can give the charging deputy relevant information casting doubt on the veracity of the accuser, or evidence that shows there was no crime.
Police protocols in domestic violence cases are ripe for abuse and often result in unjustified arrests and prosecutions. False accusations of domestic violence are common. The accuser may be seeking advantage in a child custody case, or a special visa reserved for crime victims. The police often disregard self-defense evidence, mutual combat scenarios, or physical fights initiated by the “victim.”
The penalties for domestic violence include possible jail or prison time. If you have been investigated, arrested or charged with a domestic violence crime you need an experienced and aggressive domestic violence lawyer now to investigate all possible defenses.
Michael Coffino has extensive experience defending domestic violence cases. His investigators look for ways to discredit the accuser’s story and support your version of events. He can help you identify facts that support your defense and devise an effective strategy.Historical Context of Domestic Violence
In the 1970s and ‘80s, the feminist movement helped bring the problem of domestic violence into public view, offering psychological and cultural explanations why victims often stayed in abusive relationships. Legislatures and police departments responded with more proactive arrest and prosecution policies. But the movement to combat domestic violence often overstepped the bounds of reason and reality.
Too often, police officers view domestic disputes as abuse by the male partner. They ignore relevant context and fail to see the accuser is manipulating the system for revenge or another improper motive.
In the classic model used by prosecutors, men use violence against women to establish power and dominance. This may be true in some cases but not others. In fact, studies show that mutual violence and female-perpetrated violence is higher than commonly believed.Elements of the Crime
To prove a violation of misdemeanor “intimate partner battery” under Penal Code section 243(e)(1), the prosecution must prove three things:
- The defendant purposely touched the alleged victim “in a harmful or offensive manner.”
- The victim is or was in an intimate relationship with the defendant, or they have children together; and
- The defendant did not act in self-defense.
The judge will instruct the jury that the slightest touching can be enough to commit a battery if it is done in a rude or angry way. Making contact with another person, including through his or her clothing, is enough. The touching does not have to cause pain or injury of any kind.
A more serious domestic violence offense is Penal Code section 273.5, which can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the seriousness of the facts and the defendant’s background. In this crime the prosecution must prove three things:
- The defendant purposely inflicted an injury on a current or former romantic partner, or someone with whom he has children;
- The injury caused a “traumatic condition,” meaning a wound, whether minor or serious; and
- The defendant did not act in self-defense.
The penalties for domestic violence are serious. You could face up to one year in county jail, or as many as four years in state prison. With a prior conviction the penalties are more severe. Anyone who receives probation in a domestic violence case must complete a 52-week batterer intervention program, pay fines and suffer other consequences.
If you or a loved one have been arrested or charged with a crime involving domestic violence it is imperative that you discuss your case with a skilled domestic violence attorney right away. Michael Coffino understands how to effectively defend clients charged with in domestic violence cases. He understands how serious these offenses can be, how best to defend you, and how to resolve your case without you going to jail. Mr. Coffino has extensive knowledge of the law and the legal system and enjoys an outstanding reputation among judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors.
For more information about how to best handle a domestic violence case, and to schedule a free consultation, contact the Law Office of Michael A. Coffino at (415) 786-9703.