Domestic Violence Attorney
Liza Burke is an expert in Domestic Violence law matters including:
Adult Felony Criminal
Adult Misdemeanor Criminal
Domestic Violence Defense
Domestic Violence Victim
Sexual Assault Protection
Firearm Rights Restoration
Sealing and Expungement of
Other Related Legal
Adult Felony Criminal Offenses
The right combination of the wrong
factors at any given point in any person's life can lead to a criminal charge,
even a felony charge. Certain jurisdictions may charge every possible charge up
front in an effort to leverage a plea. In King County, the prosecutor's office
will often file conservatively which means that not every possible charge is
filed at the beginning of the case and the charges can be raised, or additional
charges can be added, if the person charged sets his or her case for trial.
Thorough investigation, research, effective communication and strategic approach
increase one's chances in making the best trial or negotiation decisions.
Many felonies may end up reduced
with effective advocacy. Many lower level felonies may be "expedited" if the
charge fits within the prosecutor's expedited guidelines. This means that a
felony is reduced to a gross misdemeanor. Additionally, felonies do not have to
result in jail time.
However, serious felonies require
a more intense level of strategy, skill, investigation and trial preparation.
Many more serious felonies such as arson, robbery, higher level assault and sex
offenses cannot or should not be resolved short of a trial. Trials are heard by
a jury of twelve people. Those twelve must agree unanimously before a
conviction can be imposed. The burden is on the State to satisfy each of the
twelve jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of a person's guilt. This is a high
In short, there are many avenues
and protections that can be explored before the "worst case" scenario. The
ultimate protection is the jury trial.
Adult Misdemeanor Criminal
Misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor
offenses are defined by statute. Common misdemeanors include DUI, Assault and
Domestic Violence. Some traffic offenses can actually be criminal traffic
offenses such as Hit and Run, Reckless Driving, Negligent Driving, etc. The
offenses most vigorously prosecuted are DUI and Domestic Violence. The latter
often is prosecuted by specialized prosecutors with training in domestic
violence and who focus on nothing other than domestic violence prosecution.
DUIs carry a host of penalties far beyond jail that can impact a person's
ability to accomplish the basics of daily life.
Many misdemeanor offenses may be
maneuvered into a favorable outcome. Many jurisdictions have prosecutors who are
interested in resolution of a case for budgetary and time resource reasons. Many
jurisdictions have ways of resolving misdemeanors that do not result in
Of course, not all jurisdictions
offer favorable processes for resolution or prosecutors who are ready to offer a
deal. The good news is that a private attorney has vastly more time and
resources to devote to preparing a case than the general city attorney will
have. While at first the notion of the government charging a person with a
crime is daunting, hard work, persistence and knowledgeable representation
levels that playing field.
Domestic Violence Defense
Today's domestic violence justice
system response can cause the head to spin it is fast, formidable and, at
times, unfair. A swift and sure domestic violence response system is certainly
excellent for victims of domestic violence, but it can also provide excellent
ground for false accusations of domestic violence to take route and destroy
lives, careers and families.
An allegation of domestic violence
alone will usually trigger an arrest and jail for whomever the police determine
is the "primary aggressor." That determination is often made by a single law
enforcement officer who does not have sufficient information to dig below the
surface of a situation. An officer will often make an arrest decision based
only on relative physical size, emotional demeanor and a comparison of
injuries. Once the officer picks the primary aggressor, that person is headed
to jail and stays there until bail is set. Just one or two days in jail are
enough to cause stigma, job loss, emotional chaos, estrangements from children
and other negative life impacts. And this is only the beginning of the domestic
Once arrested for DV, it is almost
certain a no contact order will issue. No contact orders are frequently violated
either inadvertently or intentionally. No contact order violations usually
result in additional charges being filed. Additional charges reduce the
leverage that may have existed on the original charge. It is a very common
human inclination or honest mistake to violate a no contact order. A first
approach may be to seek recall or modification of the no contact order. This, in
itself, is a piece of work, but should be discussed and explored. Failing that,
it is critical to get educated quickly on how to avoid common pitfalls that
exist in almost every case involving a no contact order.
There are domestic violence courts
and calendars, such as those in Seattle Municipal Court and King County District
Court, that are structured primarily to ensure victim safety and offender
accountability. While the accused retains the right to a jury trial and proof
beyond a reasonable doubt, courts attempt to ensure that domestic violence cases
proceed quickly so that victims do not recant, reunite with the accused or in
some other way opt out of participating in prosecution. Expediting the
pretrial stage can serve that purpose but it can also affect a defendant's
ability to fully investigate and prepare the most effective defense for trial.
Expedited case processing timelines can also affect the ability to prepare the
best negotiating positions. It is critical to work with an attorney who
understands how to expand or work within these timelines effectively.
During the domestic violence case,
pressures from the alleged victim, children, family members or forced separate
housing situations exist. These pressures require managing in a way that might
not otherwise exist if criminal charges didn't exist. Many steps outside of the
courtroom while a domestic violence case is pending can affect how a person is
treated by the court and the prosecutor during and at the conclusion of a case.
Most people, once they understand the domestic violence enforcement system, are
able to take care of business and their cases effectively. The domestic
violence prosecution system is a challenge that should not be underestimated,
but it can also be successfully handled.
Victim Defendant Representation
Many women and men who are accused
of domestic violence are actually victims of domestic violence. They either were
acting in self-defense, set up entirely, or the victim of ongoing abuse that
prompted a violent act in response. Unfortunately, our domestic violence
response system is not perfect and tends to make arrest and investigatory
decisions based upon superficial factors. These factors might include who
called 911 first, who was more upset, who had the greater apparent physical
injury. Sometimes gender bias plays a role. Many abusers know how to work the
domestic violence response system to their advantage.
Representation in these
circumstances requires an intense multifaceted approach that will include many
of the steps taken in any domestic violence defense but will also include
gathering information from other sources. The first step for a victim defendant
should be attempting to educate and persuade the prosecutor as to the true facts
of the situation. Many good prosecutors will pay close attention to evidence
that the defendant is actually victim.
In the civil domestic violence
protection order context, the same level of work is involved but on an expedited
basis because of the different timelines applicable to these proceedings. In the
civil domestic violence protection order context, it is the judge or
commissioner who must be convinced that the petitioner is actually the abuser.
Fortunately, the law does recognize that there are circumstances where the
petitioner is actually the abuser and authorizes the court to realign the
parties and make the original petitioner the respondent and the restrained party
under a protection order.
Domestic Violence Victim
A victim of domestic violence is
not represented by the prosecutor or by the prosecutor's victim's advocate. If
a victim of domestic violence does not wish for prosecution to proceed, the
prosecutor does not have to follow the victim's wishes. If a victim of domestic
violence does not want a no contact order, the prosecutor does not have to
follow the victim's wishes. The victim's advocate may not advocate for a
victim's desires in all circumstances.
The prosecutor represents that
city or county that is bringing the charges. The prosecutor's interests are in
offender accountability, victim and community safety. In many instances, the
prosecutor will have concerns or interests that a victim may not have regarding
victim safety or offender accountability. This does not mean that the
prosecutor will not listen to a victim. However, a victim may feel that to be
truly heard or to have his/her wishes acted upon may take the assistance of
someone who works within the domestic violence system and talks to domestic
violence prosecutors every day.
In some circumstances the
prosecutor and victim advocate may proceed exactly how a victim would like for
them to proceed, but the victim does not feel adequately protected by the steps
taken by the prosecutor. For example, there may be time limits to the length of
the no contact order sought by the prosecutor. In these circumstances, the
victim may wish to seek a civil domestic violence protection order and seek a
longer term of protection. In those proceedings, the defendant may appear and
contest the issuance of the order and a victim may wish to have counsel speaking
and advocating for his or her interests.
Sometimes a victim simply wants
their own independent advisor regarding the legal proceedings surrounding him or
her. Again, the prosecutor and victim's advocate serve a role that is not the
same as having an advisor and advocate that has 100% loyalty to only to the
victim and his or her wishes and needs.