This is the third in this blog series covering domestic violence in Placer County. The first post outlined the Placer County Domestic Violence Court and covered the most common domestic violence charges. The second post covered victim and witness participation issues. This post outlines the things you should do if you are involved in a domestic dispute, as well as common defenses to domestic violence charges.
When law enforcement officers respond to a domestic dispute, they often make assumptions about who they believe to be the aggressor and and who they believe to be the victim. Unfortunately, this can cause them to be biased in their investigation, and can lead to evidence and testimony that is hard to challenge later on. If you are involved in a domestic dispute, there are several things you can do to protect yourself.
Do not reply to an officer’s questions and make sure you tell them you wish to speak to your attorney. This is imperative even if you did nothing wrong because the officer may not perceive things the way you do.
Call an Attorney
Contact an attorney as soon as possible, while the details of the incident are still fresh in your mind. Domestic violence charges can carry stiff penalties, which can cause you to lose your job or have other long-reaching ramifications. A competent attorney will likely get an investigator involved immediately to discover the evidence that will support your case or refute the prosecutor’s case.
Photograph Your Injuries
Often an officer investigating a domestic dispute will only photograph the injuries of a person they perceive to be the victim—and not bother photographing the injuries of the other party involved. By taking photographs of your injuries while they are still fresh, you can help protect yourself. Our law firm has specialized cameras and lighting equipment to photograph injuries in cases such as these.
Save Electronic Evidence
Electronic evidence such as text messages or videos may be helpful in telling your side of the story. Voicemail recordings can serve as important evidence of the events leading up to and following a domestic dispute. Additionally, cell phone records and the data about the location, date, and time of sent and received calls or texts may be helpful to your case. Because these messages can be time sensitive (some data from cell phone towers are purged after 30 days), it is important your attorney makes sure this evidence is preserved.
Common Domestic Violence Defenses
In California, you may use reasonably necessary force to protect yourself from the imminent use of force upon you if you did not start the fight. However, if you are the first to threaten to use force, you generally do not have the right to use force in your own defense.
Defense of Others
If you believe that a person has a right to use force to protect his or herself, then you may also use reasonable force to protect them. This often arises in domestic disputes when one person uses force to protect the child against an attacking family member.
Attacking the Credibility of the Alleged Victim
The prior conduct of the alleged victim may be admissible to refute his or her testimony. For example, if an alleged victim previously falsified a report of domestic violence, it will most likely be admissible. Or, if the alleged victim has a history of being a liar, you are permitted to offer evidence of this dishonest character trait.
If you have been involved in a domestic dispute, you need an attorney who can get you the best outcome. Call me today at (530) 823-5400 to speak confidentially about your case.