Domestic Violence Charges – What happens when I go to Court
An arrest and receipt of a Domestic Violence charge ignites a stressful, overwhelming situation. Often the individual charged cannot immediately return home and must find alternate housing. The criminal charge may be accompanied by a Preliminary Protective Order which creates additional court dates and provide additional restrictions between the parties involved in the incident. An experienced Domestic Violence Attorney will understand how to defend against a prosecution of domestic violence in Virginia. Consultation with a defense attorney will provide invaluable information about court, potential penalties and consequences of a Domestic Violence charge.
How is someone charged with Domestic Violence?
A domestic violence prosecution begins with the arrest of an individual following a police response and investigation. Once placed under arrest, an in individual is brought before a magistrate. A prosecutor may be consulted by the police about their investigation and may direct charges to issue. In some situations, the police may advise a citizen of their right to go to a magistrate to swear out an affidavit regarding an alleged incident and allow the magistrate to decide whether a domestic violence charge can be brought.
When investigating an alleged incident involving domestic violence, the police will want to speak with any witnesses. If injuries are claimed, they will want to view the injuries and obtain photographs documenting the injuries. In serious cases, the police may direct or assist alleged victims in seeking out medical treatment to address those injuries.
Once before a Magistrate, the Magistrate will review the information provided by the police about the incident and determine whether the individual charged should be held in jail or released on bond. Upon serving an individual with a domestic violence charge, a magistrate will provide the initial court date which is also referred to as an arraignment.
I have to appear at an arraignment. What should I expect?
An arraignment is the court’s opportunity to advise someone that they have been charged with a crime and as a result, that individual has the right to have an attorney represent them in the proceeding. In some jurisdictions, the Court will also use that opportunity to schedule the next court date if it is not already done.
Contact a domestic violence attorney upon receipt of your charge to understand fully the court process and what will happen at each stage of your case.
Who will testify in a Domestic Violence case?
If a domestic violence case goes to trial, there are a number of people who could potentially testify. The alleged victim will be called to explain what happened and provide any evidence of the incident. The police officer could be asked to testify regarding their investigation, any evidence gathered and any statements made by the defendant. If there were any other witnesses to the alleged incident, those individuals could be asked to testify as well.
In providing testimony, any witnesses called to testify by the prosecutor will be asked questions by the prosecutor. The defendant’s attorney will also be entitled to ask the witnesses questions.
Likewise, the defense attorney may call witnesses on behalf of the defense. Careful consideration should be given to whether a defendant should testify. An individual charged with a crime cannot be compelled to testify. This is their constitutional right. However, a defendant may choose to testify. Speaking with an experienced domestic violence attorney will help explain all possible options and the risks and benefits of testifying and what witnesses and evidence are necessary and important to prepare.
Knowing the Court and the Prosecutor
Our system of justice involves the participation of individuals – prosecutors, judges, attorneys and officers. Working with an attorney who is familiar with the individuals who will be a part of the case will provide valuable insight and understanding of how a case will be handled. Understanding the variances of different courts and different judges and prosecutors in their approach and resolution of domestic violence cases is also important. Knowing who is involved and how they handle cases allows a defendant to prepare for all possible outcomes and to be ready to present the best defense.
What does a Defense Attorney do in a Domestic Violence Case?
Every case is unique. The individual witnesses, the facts of the case, the background of the parties are just some of the factors to consider when assessing a case. At some point, every defendant will be faced with choices – go forward with a trial or attempt to reach a plea agreement. Understanding the choices available and the risks and benefits of those choices is critical to making the best possible decision in every case.
A defense attorney will want to obtain as much detailed information as possible about the alleged incident, the individuals involved and specific issues about the case and people involved. Understanding the goals of the defendant charged and the impact a domestic violence charge could have on that individual’s future, employment and family situation are vital.
Often, medical, mental health and substance abuse issues may be present. A defense attorney may help coordinate the collection of medical records or help to set-up evaluations which will assist the defendant in addressing issues which may have contributed to their circumstances. Addressing medical, mental health and substance abuse issues proactively can be invaluable should the defendant be in a position where a court is considering punishment. Obtaining records and written verification of efforts that someone undertakes to show they are taking responsibility for their actions can often help to address potential penalties.
Reviewing the evidence and seeking out evidence and witnesses in support of the defendant’s position is also a crucial step.
Preparing for the possibility of a trial to defendant against a domestic violence charge occurs simultaneously with preparing for the possibility of the court imposing a penalty. A skilled defense attorney will be looking at all possibilities to best position the defendant for the best result possible.
I have been charged with Domestic Violence. What should I do?
If you have been charged with domestic violence, call Leary Law to learn how you can prepare your defense and what steps you can do to position yourself for the best result possible.