I was just arrested for a domestic violence charge, what steps can I take now to give me the best chance of winning my case?
At VIB Law, we recommend that our clients do three things immediately to help give them the best chance at getting your domestic violence charge dismissed:
- Document any injuries you may have received – Be sure to document any injuries you received from your encounter with the complaining witness. Take pictures of any minor injuries or see a doctor if you were injured more seriously. This type of evidence is critical to preserve if you want to show that you acted in self-defense.
- Gather Defense Evidence – You should gather any emails, text messages or voice messages that might help your case. Start thinking about potential defense witnesses you may need to have interviewed by our investigator. These could include characters witnesses or people who have seen violent or erratic behavior from your partner. Gather their contact information for a later interview.
- Retain an attorney who is an expert in domestic violence BEFORE your first court date and take a proactive approach – Many defense attorneys will advise taking a “wait-and-see” approach to handling these type of cases. In fact, some attorneys will even tell you to wait until your first court date to think about hiring a lawyer. This is exactly the wrong way to defend a domestic violence case. The most critical window for defense work is often the first few days following an arrest, and prior to formal charges being filed by the DA’s office.
If you are arrested for a domestic violence charge, the police agency will send a copy of the police report to the DA’s office for their review. By getting to work immediately, often we can locate favorable defense evidence and witnesses, and get a “head start” towards defeating the charges. If charges have not been filed yet, we can sometimes intervene with the DA’s office on your behalf.
VIB Law partner, Cameron Bowman is a former Deputy District Attorney who spent several years trying cases while on the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s domestic violence unit. Since that time he has continued to specialize in domestic violence cases. This combination of experience makes him uniquely qualified to handle these types of cases.
But the victim in my case wants to “drop charges.” Can’t he or she just come to court and explain to the Judge what happened?
No. Once an arrest has been made, the decision about prosecution is no longer in the hands of the complaining witness. Prosecutors will not drop or reduce domestic violence charges even if the alleged victim requests them to do so or refuses to testify in court.
Unfortunately, some criminal defense attorneys even repeat this common myth and will tell clients to just have their spouses come to court and “explain what happened.” This is legal nonsense. Once charges have been filed, only the DA’s office (Or in some cases the Judge) can dismiss your case. This is why it is important to hire an experienced domestic violence attorney to make sure the and Judge hear your side of the case.