Life can become complicated in seconds, especially when it comes to getting charged with a domestic violence offense. You may face restraining orders, financial repercussions, estrangement from children, and even jail time. However, there are steps you may take, and general information you should know, that may end in a reduction of penalties or even having the charges dropped.
The truth is, whether or not you will be charged with domestic violence doesn’t depend on the victim’s actions. The state prosecutor has the power to press or drop charges. Prosecutors are bound by an ethical code to drop charges against any defendant they deem as innocent.
So the question is, how do you prove your innocence?
There is no “one way” of proving innocence in any criminal case. If you are innocent, then an alibi that is supported by strong evidence could be your best bet to having charges dropped. For example, if the alleged victim claims that you were at a specific location at the specific time the incident occurred, reliable evidence that shows that you were actually at a different place at that time may be evidence supporting your innocence. Other evidence such as video that shows you did not act violently also could be used to get the charges dropped.
It is important to remember that you’re only trying to prove innocence to the court that is hearing your case. You don’t have to explain your side of the story to anyone but your lawyer and then it is your lawyer’s job to prove your case. Even if you choose not to retain a criminal defense lawyer, trying to explain your side of the story to anyone other than the state prosecutor or judge presiding over your case could be used against you.
The Role of an Alleged Victim
On rare occasions, a victim may want charges dropped against a defendant in a domestic violence case. In such instances, an alleged victim will have to inform a “witness coordinator” of the circumstances that led to your arrest, and inform the coordinator that they would like to have the charges dropped. While it is not within the alleged victim’s power to have the charges dropped, an alleged victim may help to persuade the state prosecutor to drop charges. In these types of situations, the case may resolve itself if all parties (including the alleged victim, the defendant, and the state prosecutor) agree to conditions such as the defendant agreeing to seek therapy or anger management classes in exchange for having the charges dropped.
On the other hand, you as a defendant should stay away from the alleged victim until the case has been resolved. You should not even be in contact with the alleged victim without an official mediator and your lawyer present.
The Burden of Proof
A domestic violence lawsuit is the same as any other criminal case, in that the charging party must prove that the defense is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. To put it simply, a conviction of domestic violence will not be made if there is no evidence to back it up.
An uncooperative victim, or one who recants their story, may make it difficult to prove that you were violent towards them. Likewise, if there is no outside evidence that you have acted violently (such as a lack of witness testimony, and lack of injury to the victim), a prosecutor may have no choice but to drop charges or negotiate a plea bargain.