Fighting Domestic Violence Charges

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Former New York Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas made the news recently when he and his wife were charged for domestic violence stemming from an incident at their home in March.  Recently, the charges were dismissed after the couple signed a consent order resolving the case.

If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, you face some serious charges. While some cases have merit, oftentimes accusers bring false domestic violence charges in order to gain an advantage in divorce or custody proceedings.  If you have been so charged, it’s critical to prepare a strong defense in the following ways:

  • Ask for a continuance.  Since a domestic violence hearing is usually held within 10 days after the complaint is filed, ask the court to continue the hearing date so you have time to hire an attorney and properly prepare your defense.
  • Show that the act does not constitute domestic violence.  A domestic violence charge must be based on an act like assault, stalking, or criminal sexual contact, amongst others.  If your charge is based on conduct that doesn’t fit any of the enumerated acts, the judge will probably dismiss the case.
  • Show lack of jurisdiction. The people involved in the case have to be in the categories of persons referred to in the statute ? spouse, former spouse, former household member, those who have a child together, and those in a dating relationship.  If your situation doesn’t fall into any of these categories, the court may dismiss the case.
  • Prepare defenses. If you were defending against the “victim’s” force directed at you, your actions might prove justified under self-defense.  Alternatively, you could prove that your actions amounted to minor conduct that is too trivial (de minimis) to be a criminal offense, like minor harassment.
  • Conduct discovery. Although domestic violence laws don’t contain specific provisions for discovery, you may be able to convince the judge to allow it.  Obtain medical records, witness lists, photos, police reports, and written statements.
  • Find inconsistent statements to impeach.  Since domestic violence cases often come down to “he said, she said” credibility determinations, sift through the discovery to find inconsistent statements made by the accuser.  Your word will be more likely believable then.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Family Law | Tagged child custody, criminal defense, domestic violence, family law