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Defending Domestic Violence Cases in DC

When facing domestic violence charges, it is hard enough to deal with the stigma and upheaval that comes with the accusations.  Defending yourself from these charges should not be something you have to do alone.  Working with a competent DC domestic violence lawyer can alleviate that stress. Not only will the attorney have an understanding of domestic violence policies, they will also have the necessary experience in defending domestic violence cases in DC.

Evidence

In many domestic violence offenses, the evidence can sometimes be simple. An allegation is made by an accuser who is the complainant and that is the extent of evidence in these cases. Sometimes there might be physical evidence such as injuries or cuts to the accuser or the person charged. A domestic offense does not need independent corroboration; a prosecutor does not necessarily need to call additional eyewitnesses who saw an alleged crime. Prosecutors do not need to have physical evidence to prove a case. The evidence can be very different depending on the accusation. If the individual is accused of threatening or stalking, the evidence and the defenses might be different from an accusation of assault. It is important to understand the specific allegations and develop the best defense to challenge those allegations.

Common Defenses

The defenses used in domestic violence cases depend on the accusations. If one were defending domestic violence cases in DC, they could include self-defense. In threat cases, there could be different defenses such as a lack of any reasonable fear of harm on the part of the complainant. Each kind of domestic violence offense could have different defenses. It is not uncommon in a domestic violence allegation to challenge the credibility or the recollections of an accuser to challenge the accuser’s motivations to figure out what motivations may exist for an accuser to make false accusations.

In many domestic violence cases, the defense is not that an allegation is a lie or an intentional fabrication by a complainant. The allegation might be a bad recollection of the events on the part of the complainant, especially when alcohol or drugs are involved. The complainant’s version of events may simply not have the level of credibility necessary or the level of reliability necessary to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt, the person charged committed some kind of crime.

Self-defense

When defending cases of domestic violence in DC or other kinds of assault, to establish a self-defense argument, the most important thing to remember is that self-defense is an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense means it is not the person’s obligation to prove they acted in self-defense. It is the obligation of the prosecutors to prove that the person did not act in self-defense.

Once the person raises the possibility that they acted out of self-defense, the prosecutors must disprove that by showing that the person did not act out of fear of an imminent injury. A prosecutor could also prove that even if a person did act out of a fear of imminent injury, they used more force than necessary to neutralize the imminent fear. If the prosecutor can prove that the person had an imminent fear of injury, that prosecutor can potentially prove that the person used more force than necessary to neutralize the harm.

Defense of Others

Under DC law, the same standards apply for defense of others as apply to self-defense. Once a defense of others defense is made, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person did not act in defense of others. The standards are similar to a self-defense argument. The prosecutor must prove that the person did not act out of fear that another person faced imminent harm. If the person on trial feared that another person faced imminent harm, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person used more force than necessary to neutralize that harm. For example, a person reacts to seeing a man about to slap his girlfriend in the face and responds by stabbing the man. If a prosecutor can prove that was more force than necessary to neutralize that imminent harm, the prosecutor can show that the person did not act in self-defense or act out of defense of others.

Role of a Lawyer

When a person faces domestic violence charges, the person should understand that this case can be very different in Washington DC compared to Maryland or Virginia. The procedures are different, the prosecutors are different, the possible penalties can be different. A lawyer with an understanding of unique local policies and procedures will be capable of defending domestic violence charges in DC and can help minimize the possible penalties a person faces.

These cases can be complicated; even misdemeanor domestic violence cases are difficult to defend. Having a lawyer who understands the local rules and procedures gives the person the greatest chance to raise a proper defense, negotiate effectively, and obtain the best possible result in their case.

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