Domestic Violence Defense

Understanding the nature of your legal problem is critical to avoiding mistakes early in your case. Please review the Quick Info for Domestic Violence Charges page which includes the Who, What, When, Where and How.

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Understanding 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 violence process.

What happens when you’re arrested

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.

The Court System

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.