Domestic violence cases can sometimes be challenging for prosecutors to prove. These cases might lack enough evidence or have recalcitrant witnesses. Many of the situations that lead to domestic violence cases happen in private and have no other witnesses other than the accused person and the alleged victim. Often, the two people involved will provide different stories about what happened. Juries are left to decide which person is telling the story in a way that is closer to what happened. If you have been charged with domestic violence, the criminal defense attorney at DiCindio Law can help you to understand how the prosecutor might try to prove the allegations against you. Here is what you need to know about domestic violence charges, the evidence that a prosecutor might use in your case, and the types of defenses that might be available.
How domestic violence differs from regular assault charges
There is no separate crime of domestic violence in Pennsylvania. Instead, domestic violence is used as a sentence enhancer for various types of crimes, including assault, harassment, stalking, and others. When an officer is called to the scene of a regular assault, the officer will decide whether or not to make arrests. In domestic violence cases, however, the officers must make arrests and cannot decline from doing so when they believe that domestic violence is likely to have occurred.
While some people have the mistaken belief that alleged victims of domestic violence can drop the charges against them, they do not have the authority to do so. The prosecutor is the sole person who can decide to dismiss domestic violence charges. Prosecutors may sometimes pursue cases even when the victims do not want them to move forward. Here are some of the types of evidence that a prosecutor might use to try to secure a conviction for a domestic violence crime against you.
Juries are more likely to believe objective facts than the testimony of people who might be biased. This means that a prosecutor will try to present as much physical evidence as possible to try to secure a conviction. Some examples of physical evidence that might be presented in a domestic violence case include photographs of any injuries, damaged or destroyed property, and medical reports. While this type of evidence might be more trustworthy, defense lawyers can present alternative explanations for any physical evidence that might be presented.
If third parties heard or saw an incident that led to domestic violence charges, the prosecutor may call them to testify. The alleged victim and the responding officers may also be called as witnesses. The officers might testify about the observations that they made after they arrived and the behavior of both the defendant and the alleged victim. Bystanders who saw or heard the incident might also be called to testify. Defense lawyers can cross-examine any witnesses that are called by the prosecution to challenge the observations that they made.
The alleged victim
The alleged victim in a domestic violence case is important. He or she may be asked to attend important hearings, including the preliminary hearing and a jury trial. The prosecutor might call the victim to testify against the defendant. However, in some cases, the victim might refuse to testify. Spouses enjoy a privilege against being called to testify against each other in certain circumstances. However, there is an exception to this rule in cases involving domestic violence perpetrated by one spouse against the other. Some alleged victims of domestic violence might still hesitate to testify. In those cases, the prosecutor might opt to rely on other evidence instead of calling the alleged victims to the stand.
In many domestic violence cases, the responding police officers are key witnesses. Police officers may be asked to testify about what they observed, including any injuries, property damage, and the behavior of both parties.
What are some defenses to domestic violence charges?
While a prosecutor might present evidence and testimony to try to secure a conviction for a domestic violence offense, defendants can raise defenses to their charges. Some defenses might result in dismissals or not guilty verdicts while others might help you to secure a reduced sentence. Here are some of the defenses that might be available, depending on the circumstances of your case.
Lack of knowledge
Some domestic violence cases involve witnesses who believed that they were in danger of physical harm and can lead to convictions even if no physical contact occurred. In these cases, the defendant might not realize that their actions caused the alleged victim to be fearful. A defense lawyer might be able to show that the defendant had a lack of knowledge or that other reasonable people in the victim’s situation would not have experienced fear.
Some people are charged with domestic violence when they were acting in defense of themselves. For example, if an officer is called to a home and sees that one person has visible injuries, the other person might be arrested even if the alleged victim was the initial aggressor. When you cause physical harm to someone else when you are trying to defend your life, it is not a crime. For example, if your spouse threatened you with a gun during an argument and you punched him or her to prevent him or her from shooting you, you would have a good argument for self-defense.
There may be other defenses that your attorney might raise to defend against your charges. The defenses that might be available will depend on what happened in your case.
Get help from DiCindio Law
It can be scary to be charged with an act of domestic violence. If you are convicted as charged, you may face serious consequences. Getting help from an experienced defense lawyer is important. Contact DiCindio Law today to schedule a consultation by calling us at 610.430.3535.
The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes to the law that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments or the most complete legal issues for all cases These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended solely for informational purposes.