What Strategies Can Be Used To Defend The Clients In Domestic Violence Cases?
The first time you’re arraigned in a domestic violence case, and you have these bond conditions that say you can’t go home, you can’t have any contact with the complaining witness, you have to go to anger management and do whatever treatment probation imposes on you, the natural reaction of many domestic violence defendants is, “Well, I thought I was presumed innocent. Shouldn’t I have the right to defend myself against these accusations? Why am I being punished before I’ve been convicted? Why am I being punished based just on the accusation before there is a conviction?” These are all very legitimate questions. Our entire criminal justice system is based on the premise that an accusation does not equal guilt. You are accused of committing domestic violence. How am I supposed to prove a negative and show that I didn’t do that?
These basic premises of the criminal justice system seem to be lost in certain offenses and allegations, and domestic violence is undoubtedly one of those cases. But as we know, not everyone accused of domestic violence committed the crime of domestic violence. There are defenses that can be used to defend people folks who are falsely accused of domestic violence. The most common defense is to claim that the DV did not occur by offering a lack of evidence of an assault.
The second most common defense is self-defense. The law in Michigan is very clear that you have a right to defend yourself against an imminent assault or threat of an assault and you have the right to defend others. So, for example, if your partner or spouse is assaulting or threatening your children, you have the right to use the defense of others to defend your children against that assault or threat of an assault. The law of self-defense commonly refers to a duty to retreat. Michigan is one of the states that has recently passed statutes addressing the duty to retreat and that, in essence, if you are in your own home, you don’t have the duty to retreat before using self-defense. So, self-defense is the second most common defense used in a domestic violence case. Self-defense is most commonly used in a situation where there was a mutual altercation; both parties were assaulting one another. The defense needs to focus on you not being the aggressor, that the other side was the aggressor, and that you were defending yourself.
There are undoubtedly other defenses that can be used based on your case’s unique facts and circumstances. The amount of possible defenses unique to your case can be as varied as the factual accusations that form the basis of domestic violence are. So, first of all, you want to hire a qualified lawyer who handles domestic violence cases, and you want to give up your defenses and plead guilty to a plea bargain only after your defenses have been fully explored and investigated.
What Factors Do You Look At When You’re Working With Your Clients To Decide On Whether Or Not They Should Consider A Plea Offer Or Take Their Case To Trial?
Every case should be looked at initially from the perspective of “can it be defended, and can it be won at trial.” No one should plead guilty who is factually innocent, no matter how good a plea offer is. You should not plead guilty to get it over with or to avoid the risk of trial unless and until your defenses and your possibility of winning at trial are fully and adequately considered and investigated. The strength of a case frequently rests on whether or not there is any collaborative evidence to the accusation. Police and prosecutors going to put a lot of weight on what is heard in the 911 call. They are going to put a lot of weight on the photographs of the parties taken by the police when they respond to the 911 call and arrive at an alleged DV scene. Police and prosecutors are also going to put a lot of weight on whether there were any eyewitnesses, and what the eyewitnesses have to say. This kind of collaborative evidence will be the most significant factor in determining whether or not a case can be realistically taken to trial and won.
The other factor determining whether a case should go to trial or accept the plea offer is quite simply the credibility of the two parties. You and your lawyer have to make a professional judgment on how good of a witness the complaining witness is. With help from your lawyer, you have to take a long, hard look at yourself when determining whether you will waive your Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent and testify in your defense. You have to ask yourself the same question, “How credible am I, how believable am I, how will I do on cross-examination?” Ultimately, suppose there is no collaborative evidence. In that case, a jury’s verdict will depend almost exclusively on who is the better witness, more credible, more believable, and is the alleged victim’s testimony alone enough to satisfy them beyond a reasonable doubt standard. Only you and your lawyer can make that determination, and it’s unique to every case.
For more information on Domestic Violence Law in Michigan, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 509-0056 today.