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Do I Need an Attorney if I’m Charged With Domestic Violence in California?

tingey-injury-law-firm-veNb0DDegzE-unsplash-300x200Facing a domestic violence charge in California can be a deeply unsettling and even frightening experience. The immediate whirlwind of legal complexities and the potential for life-altering consequences might leave you overwhelmed and uncertain about the future. Even so, perhaps in your mind, this is just a misunderstanding of an argument with your significant other that got out of hand. Or maybe you’ve been charged only with misdemeanor domestic battery, a seemingly minor offense that rarely results in jail time for first-time offenders. You might even feel like this could all “go away” if you just “explain yourself” to the judge. Should you really bother with hiring an attorney to help you navigate this situation?

Unless you are willing to risk serious consequences for your future, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” Without legal help, even the most “minor” of domestic violence offenses can result in major short-term and long-term ramifications that can complicate your life for many years to come. Let’s go into a bit more detail about how California law treats domestic violence and why having a domestic violence defense attorney can help minimize the risks to your future.

California’s Stance on Domestic Violence

California has a robust set of laws aimed at protecting victims of domestic violence, making it one of the strictest states in handling such cases with an array of stringent measures designed to offer immediate safety and support. The moment an accusation is made, the legal system sets into motion. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in unfair consequences for the falsely accused, including the following:

  • Restraining Orders: The courts may be quick to issue emergency protective orders that can last up to a week, preventing the accused from contacting the alleged victim and potentially from returning home.
  • Mandatory Arrests: In many cases, law enforcement officers are required by law to arrest someone if they believe there is probable cause that domestic violence has occurred, often based on preliminary evidence or witness statements. (Sometimes, they misinterpret the evidence and even arrest the wrong person.)
  • Zero Tolerance Prosecution: Prosecutors are often encouraged to pursue charges even if the alleged victim withdraws their complaint or refuses to testify.

For the accused, the impact is immediate and multifaceted. Beyond the obvious legal battles, the social stigma attached to such accusations can damage reputations, strain relationships, and even jeopardize employment opportunities. This pro-victim bias, while crucial for safeguarding those at risk, can sometimes lead to the presumption of guilt for the accused, placing an undue burden on individuals who may be innocent. In many cases, the only way to mitigate this damage is with the help of a skilled attorney.

Long-Term Ramifications

While the immediate consequences of a domestic violence charge can significantly disrupt your life at that moment, the long-term ramifications can impact your future in ways you may not even realize. These may include:

  • Employment Impact: Arrests and protective orders can lead to job loss, particularly in fields requiring background checks or strict moral clauses.
  • Housing Difficulties: Individuals with criminal records can face challenges finding housing, and restraining orders may force the accused out of their own home.
  • Child Custody Issues: Domestic violence allegations can affect existing or future custody arrangements, potentially resulting in limited visitation rights or even loss of custody.
  • Permanent Record: Even if the charges are ultimately dismissed, an arrest record remains, potentially tarnishing one’s reputation and influencing future opportunities.

How an Experienced Defense Attorney Can Help

Considering the potential disruption you could face simply by being accused of domestic violence–innocent or not–your best hope of protecting your rights as a defendant is by working with a criminal defense attorney who has specific experience with California domestic violence cases. Let’s look at just a few of the advantages.

Challenging Unfairly Oppressive Restraining Orders

Protective orders related to domestic violence allegations can significantly restrict your freedom, limiting contact with your loved ones and possibly resulting in being barred from your home. An experienced attorney can argue for modifying or dismissing unjust restraining orders, advocating for your rights while ensuring the court’s concerns are adequately addressed.

Navigating Plea Agreements

In cases where evidence against the accused is substantial, a plea deal may offer a more favorable outcome than facing uncertain odds at trial. A skilled lawyer can negotiate terms that mitigate harsher penalties, particularly with more severe felony charges–possibly exchanging prison time with rehabilitation programs or community service or negotiating a reduction from felony charges to misdemeanors, thereby lessening the long-term effects on your life.

Implementing Effective Defense Strategies

Every domestic violence case is unique, with its own set of circumstances and challenges. A dedicated defense attorney will meticulously examine the details of your case, identifying inconsistencies or biases in the accuser’s story, challenging improperly obtained evidence, and bringing forth witnesses to support your defense. They employ a range of strategies tailored to your situation, aiming to discredit unfounded accusations and highlight your character and reliability.

The Bottom Line

While you always have the legal right to represent yourself in court, it’s not advisable to do so when you’re facing domestic violence charges in California. Given how focused the law is on protecting victims proactively, it is very easy to find oneself under arrest and even barred from one’s own home before charges are even filed. The stakes are simply too high, and the legal system too complex to risk facing such charges without proper legal help. If you are facing domestic violence charges in the Los Angeles area, we offer compassionate, skilled legal representation that provides hope and a pathway through uncertainty, striving to secure the best possible outcome for your case. Call our offices to schedule a consultation.

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