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Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence cases are treated differently than every other type of case in the criminal courthouse. They are unique in that the victim and the defendant not only know each other, but there either is, or once was, a loving relationship. A large majority of the victims in these cases were angry or frightened enough to call the police, but later decline to cooperate in the prosecution of their loved one. The District Attorney is very strict with these cases, which is understandable.

Since it is true that in a great many of these cases prosecutors have uncooperative witnesses or victims, they have to push the cases by any means available. They investigate thoroughly to see if they can prove the case with other witnesses besides the victim. They see if the event can be heard unfolding on the recording of the 911 call. They look to see if the defendant confessed with sufficient detail to justify moving forward with the case. Defense lawyers look at all the same criteria.

A good defense lawyer will not suggest or encourage a victim to decline to cooperate with the District Attorney. Rather, if a victim reaches out to the attorney, the attorney will deduce what the victim genuinely wants, without the attorney suggesting or encouraging anything. People arrested for Domestic Violence can complicate their already precarious legal situations further by reaching out to the victim and encouraging, or worse, threatening the victim to drop the charge against them. If this is shown to judge’s satisfaction, that judge can order the case to proceed with the victim’s written statement only and not require that the victim appear personally in court to testify. Significantly, a victim of any criminal case, including domestic violence, cannot drop the charges. That is a TV term and doesn’t exist in real life. Once the police and the courts get involved, it is the government against the defendant, not the victim against the defendant.

Civil cases can be dropped at any time. They are truly the plaintiff against the defendant, as in the case of a homeowner against a contractor for doing shoddy work. That case can be dropped by the plaintiff. The same does not hold true in criminal court. In many Domestic Violence cases, negotiations take place between the Defense lawyer and the District Attorney and an agreement is reached. Often where someone has no previous arrests, a noncriminal result can be obtained in exchange for attending a domestic violence program or by getting evaluated for the appropriateness of such a program. In addition, people with previous arrest histories may be able to obtain conditional pleas. This is where a person pleads guilty to the charge, then fulfills conditions placed upon him by the District Attorney, and is later permitted to cancel the guilty plea and obtain a reduction and a much more favorable result.

Orders of Protection are strictly enforced by the District Attorney. They cannot know the extended history of the relationship between the defendant and the victim, and their highest interest is to prevent any re-occurrence of an incident. Orders of Protection can be negotiated and can be modified to be less strict. They can be changed to allow two people to be together under strict conditions. This is a high priority for many defendants since they may not have anywhere to go or may not be able to afford to pay for two households. Oftentimes, the District Attorney will require enrollment in a Domestic Violence program as well as seek the consent of the victim before consenting themselves to modification of the Order of Protection.

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