I’ve Been Charged With Domestic Violence. Now What?
The Police have been to your house. Your significant other just accused you of hurting them. You’ve been arrested, probably for the first time in your life. Now what do you do?
We get it. This is a scary time for you. You don’t know what to do. You’re hurt, angry, afraid or just sure you didn’t do it. You have questions. We have answers.
At Triple L Law, we know because we’ve helped countless clients through DV cases. We handle more domestic violence allegations that any other type of case. And we’re not afraid to fight. We know these types of cases frequently need a trial and we know that there are always different sides to the story. We are here to fight for you. We are here to answer your questions. Questions such as:
They lied about what happened, why did I get arrested? Why did the police believe them over me?
Domestic Violence allegations almost always involve one person’s word against another. These are frequently called he said/she said cases and they are always messy. Lots of people think that if there is no physical evidence (such as no bruising or marks) then the police won’t arrest you or you won’t get prosecuted. WRONG. Domestic Violence cases very rarely involve any physical evidence (less than 20% of our DV cases involve marks or bruising or any other physical evidence) and yet they are almost always charged and prosecuted fully.
Most jurisdictions have a mandatory arrest policy where the police will determine who they think the victim is and one person will definitely be charged. Conflicting stories will not stop someone from being charged and, while there still exists a presumption among some officers that women are the victims, our experience is that usually the first person to call 911 and talk to the police, regardless of gender, is determined to be the victim. Once the police determine who they think the victim is, nothing will change their mind.
Telling the police your side of the story will rarely result in you not being arrested and will frequently be used against you. Triple L Law PC always advises you to consult with an attorney before speaking with the police, regardless of how innocent you think you are.
They told the police they didn’t want to press charges. They are just going to drop the case, right?
No. We get asked this question more than any other and that is just not how it works. In a little over half of the cases we see, the named victim wants nothing to do with the prosecution of the case. Many victims insist on the scene that they don’t want any charges yet their wishes are ignored. Once a person is arrested and charged, it’s going to take a lot of work before that case goes away, regardless of the victim’s witnesses.
A victim does not bring charges against a Defendant. Rather, the State of Colorado or the “People” bring charges against a Defendant. This means that a named victim cannot drop a case, no matter what they tell you or what the Police tell you. A named victim can certainly make their feelings known to the District Attorney (DA or prosecutor), who represents the People, and sometimes that results in a better offer to the defendant. But, you’d better believe that will not result in the District Attorney just dropping the case.
A typical plea offer for a Domestic Violence case typically involves probation, domestic violence classes (about 48 weeks) and a Domestic Violence conviction. This means the loss of your gun rights and a permanent conviction for DV that cannot usually be sealed later. Jail or prison might be on the table depending on any injuries, level of charges, and criminal history.
If one doesn’t want to accept this plea arrangement, the only solution is to set the case for trial and be prepared to fight. Sometimes DAs do dismiss cases when victims refuse to cooperate, but this only comes after months of being willing to fight at trial and proving that to the DA. Many times, we have to actually go to trial to prove your innocence. DAs will frequently try to force victims who insist they do not want to testify, to testify against their wishes. If your attorney isn’t willing to go to trial, DV cases will frequently go poorly for you. Pick an attorney who knows how to try cases and isn’t afraid to do so!
We were both drunk. Does that matter?
Not as much as you think. You may both have been drunk. You may both have put your hands on each other. You may both have said all sorts of terrible things. But once a case is charged with you as the Defendant, the State will paint you purely as the bad guy. They won’t care what else happened or the context they don’t understand. Quite simply, one person will be the victim and the other the aggressor.
In real life, we all know that isn’t the way things work. It’s your trial attorney’s’ job to show a jury what really happened. Only a real trial attorney has the skills and experience to reveal the facts and tell your story to the jury. A jury then might understand what actually happened. But, that is going to take an attorney willing to take your case to trial and skilled enough to pull it off.
Triple L Law has tried over 140 jury trials, many of them Domestic Violence cases, all over the State of Colorado and the United States. Why trust someone who doesn’t have that experience?
They didn’t read me my rights. Will they dismiss the case?
Nope. They usually don’t have to read you your rights. Miranda rights, the ones you’ve seen read on TV, only apply when you’re in custody (usually at least in handcuffs but not always) and when you’re being interrogated (questioned by the police). That is it. So, if the officer is just talking to you at the scene or you volunteer some info, there was no need for Miranda.
Even if you should have been Mirandized but the Police failed to do so, the remedy is to suppress the statement you gave, not to dismiss the case. The DA can still use all of the other evidence that was gathered against you.
Get an attorney who has experience reading tens of thousands of police reports to determine if your rights were violated and who can fight to protect you. And stop talking to the police without your attorney!
Can’t I just plead guilty and get probation? Why does it matter?
Sure, you can plead guilty. The DA will be happy to accept your plea and will usually promise you that they won’t consider jail if you do. What they won’t tell you is almost no one gets jail on a first-time misdemeanor DV, very few people get jail on a second time misdemeanor, and even most felony first time DV cases don’t result in prison. They also won’t tell you that DV cases have lower conviction rates for prosecutors than almost any other type of case, except for sex crimes. Quite simply, DV cases (the vast majority of which are misdemeanors) are tough cases for prosecutors to win.
Despite this, most DV cases (like most cases overall) plead guilty early on. Why is this? Because people think they are in a terrible situation and just want to get it over with. People have busy lives and fighting a case in court takes time and money. A lot of time and a fair amount of money. Your record and your freedoms are well worth it. People lose sight of that but a DV conviction has lots and lots of affects, outside of the probation usually received. A DV conviction means you will never own a gun again. It means you will always, for the rest of your life, be a convicted domestic violence offender. It is rare that these types of crimes can be sealed or expunged later. They affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, chaperone your kids field trips, and visit foreign countries, to name just a few consequences. DV convictions can affect a future divorce or child custody fight.
It may seem easy to simply plead guilty and get the case over early. But, the consequences stay with you throughout your life. Spend the time and money to fight now, with an experienced trial attorney on your side, and save yourself a lifetime of headaches.
I was defending myself. Now what?
Self-defense is a legitimate defense to most assault charges. Guess when you get to assert it? At trial, in front of a jury. The DA isn’t going to believe you that you were defending yourself, and neither will the judge. The only people you get to argue self-defense to is the jury at trial. A good attorney knows when to use self-defense and when not. A good trial attorney knows how to present a self-defense case to a jury and stop the DA from trying to keep that defense out.
Will I go to jail if I’m arrested?
Yes. Absolutely. Once you are arrested for Domestic Violence, you must go to jail and you must see a judge to be advised on the Mandatory Protection Order. Usually, you spend a night in jail before seeing the judge. If you’re unlucky enough to get arrested on a Friday, you usually won’t see the Judge until Monday. They key is making sure you don’t spend any more days in jail after that first one.
Domestic Violence Charges are a lot more serious than people realize. They can follow you the rest of your life and take away lots of rights you never thought about like the right to own a gun or the ability to travel abroad to some countries. Call the experienced lawyers at Triple L Law to protect yourself.