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Common Defenses Against Domestic Violence Charges and When They Apply

Domestic violence is a serious matter here in California. The laws are strict, tolerance is low to nonexistent, and the overwhelming response is such that being accused of it can dramatically alter your life, even if you’re not guilty. If you got into a mild altercation with your spouse that somehow got construed to be domestic violence, your private disagreement could be instantly ranked alongside major felonies like assault or murder.DV-defense-los-angeles-options

Suffice it to say that when you’re accused of this crime, choosing the right defense strategy may be critical to your future, which is why you need a seasoned criminal defense attorney to help you map out a plan of action while representing your interests in court. Let’s take a look at some of the most common and effective defenses against charges of domestic violence, and under what circumstances it’s appropriate to use them.

False Accusation

If your significant other has simply falsely accused you, you’re not the first. In fact, Ms. JD observes that here in the U.S., roughly 1.5 million restraining orders are issued each year resulting from false domestic violence accusations. According to statistics reported by Dopplr, nearly 700,000 domestic violence convictions stem from false accusations each year, and that doesn’t speak to the fact that up to 90 percent of domestic violence allegations end up being recanted.

Strategies for This Defense

Successfully overcoming a false claim of domestic violence involves several approaches, often used in combination:

• Showing motive—Presenting evidence to show that your partner had extenuating reasons for wanting to accuse you falsely
• Revealing inconsistencies—Providing evidence that casts doubt on the other party’s claims, or revealing inconsistencies in testimony
• Convincing the accuser to withdraw the accusation—Once the animosity has a chance to cool, sometimes your significant other can be convinced to drop the charges.

When Is This Defense Generally Applied?

• When you obviously had no motive to commit the crime
• When you have no prior history of violence
• When your partner has provable reasons for accusing you falsely
• When you have an alibi that others can confirm
• When a misunderstood action was taken for aggression


Another common strategy is to claim self-defense—to argue that your partner made the first strike and that your physical response was an attempt to defend against that action. Self-defense may also be used as a claim if your significant other was threatening your children in some way. If you can provide convincing evidence to support this claim, your charges may be dropped.

Strategies for This Defense

Claiming self-defense generally involves any/all of the following strategies:

• Showing motive—Providing evidence that your partner had a desire to strike you
• Showing a history of violence—If your partner has previously struck you or has prior domestic violence charges, this fact can bolster your case
• Showing an imminent threat to you or to children present
• Calling witnesses—If anyone saw the altercation and noticed who struck first, these people can testify on your behalf

When Is This Defense Generally Applied?

• When your partner has a history of aggression
• When witnesses observed what happened
• When you made a demonstrable effort to keep the peace

NOTE: Regarding this last point, if you participated actively in a loud verbal disagreement or made any sudden moves that could be construed as an intent to strike your partner, the self-defense strategy might not be the best one. Even if your partner struck first, any active participation on your part could be construed as a provocation, weakening the self-defense claim.

Lack of Evidence

Despite the stigma and high emotions surrounding a domestic violence charge, remember that the law protects the innocent until proven guilty. If your accuser and the prosecutor can’t provide sufficient evidence that you committed this act, the charges may be dropped. Your attorney can use this truth to your advantage if evidence is sparse or circumstantial.

Strategies for This Defense

Claiming a lack of evidence essentially involves casting doubt on any evidence the prosecutor puts forward, or pointing out how little evidence supports the claim.

When Is This Defense Generally Applied?

• When your partner’s testimony is the only viable evidence introduced
• When no physical evidence or medical records exist to back up the claim (If no bruising or injury occurred, domestic violence is more difficult to prove)

Mutual Consent

This argument contends that for whatever reason, your partner consented to a mutual physical act that was later construed as unwanted aggression. Due to the sometimes embarrassing and intimate nature of this type of claim, this defense strategy is used more rarely than others; but in certain situations it may be the most viable option.

Strategies for This Defense

When claiming mutual consent, you’ll need to disclose evidence that your partner expressed a specific desire for a type of physical contact that could be considered violent, and you’ll need to explain why. (You can understand why this strategy is rarely used.)

When Is This Defense Generally Applied?

• In the absence of other possible defenses
• When you can provide evidence to support it

Every domestic violence case is different, and your attorney may have other options for mounting an effective defense. For example, if procedural or constitutional errors occurred during your arrest (e.g., failing to read your rights, illegal search and seizure), your attorney may be able to use these arguments to have your charges dropped. Whatever the case, however, you should never face a domestic violence charge alone. As always, our team is here to help. Call our offices today.


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