Criminal man being interviewed in interrogation

Expert Witnesses You May See in a Domestic Violence Case

Expert witnesses are used in all types of civil and criminal cases. From psychologists to forensic experts, the courtroom can turn into a stage for professionals during a domestic violence case. Get acquainted with the potential expert witnesses you might encounter and the roles they play in shaping the case’s outcome in this introduction to expert witnesses by an experienced Washington domestic violence defense attorney

What Is an Expert Witness?

Expert witnesses have special training, education, skills, knowledge, and experience in specific areas. They educate the judge and jurors regarding issues related to a case that might be difficult for the average person to understand. They explain technical, scientific, and specialized information to help the court understand the evidence. 

Expert witnesses can add credibility to a case because they provide information from a professional viewpoint, instead of someone with a vested interest in the trial’s outcome. For example, expert witnesses might explain how mistakes made in processing DNA evidence could have tainted the results or resulted in a false positive.

In addition to assisting in presenting evidence, an expert witness may help with the sentencing phase of a criminal case. For instance, the defendant might have a mental illness or other mitigating factor that could justify alternative sentencing options. An expert witness can explain how these factors impacted the defendant’s behavior. Sometimes, an expert witness could recommend rehabilitation or treatment instead of incarceration. 

What Types of Expert Witnesses Are Used in Domestic Violence Cases?

There are many different types of expert witnesses. The facts and circumstances of the domestic violence case determine whether expert witnesses would be helpful for the defense. Examples of expert witnesses in domestic violence cases include, but are not limited to:

  • Forensic experts examine the crime scene and evidence in the case. They review the evidence the prosecution has and the methods used for gathering and testing the evidence.
  • Psychologists can testify to the defendant’s mental state after examining them and reviewing their medical history. In some cases, the defendant might have a mental disorder that could prevent them from understanding their actions.
  • Experts in intimate partner violence can testify about the dynamics of an abusive relationship. They can help jurors and judges understand misconceptions and biases about domestic violence that could impact their perceptions of the evidence presented during the trial. 
  • Medical experts help the jurors and judges understand how physical injuries could occur and if there are alternative things that could have resulted in the victim’s injuries.

The prosecution and/or the defense may use expert witnesses to build their case. Whether expert witnesses could help your defense of domestic violence charges depends on your case. 

Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is strongly recommended. Your criminal history and the specific domestic violence charges against you determine the possible sentence you could receive for a conviction. Misdemeanor domestic violence charges could result in up to one year in jail and thousands of dollars in files. Felony domestic violence charges could result in years in prison. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Washington Criminal Defense Attorney 

Domestic violence charges can have substantial collateral consequences for the alleged offender. Schedule a consult with Jennifer if you are accused of domestic violence. A strong defense is essential to protect your rights.

Criminal Defense Attorney sitting with client

Ask the Attorney: What if I Was Charged for Something That I Didn’t Realize Was Illegal?

Ignorance isn’t always bliss, especially with the law. The courts could hold you accountable for your actions regardless of your knowledge of the law. Find out what legal defenses are available if you’re charged with a crime you didn’t know was illegal and how to navigate such unexpected legal waters from an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney

Can I Be Arrested if I Didn’t Know Something Was Illegal in Washington?

You could be arrested, tried, and convicted of a crime even if you did not know that something was illegal. It depends on the criminal charges against you and the legal elements the state must prove to obtain a conviction. 

For example, it is difficult to argue that you did not know theft or murder was against the law. However, you might not be aware that it is illegal to go out in public with a cold. Revised Code of Washington §70.54.050 makes it a misdemeanor to willfully expose someone to any infectious or contagious disease in any public place. While the police do not generally arrest people for being in public with a cold, it is technically against the law.

Lack of Intent and Mistake of Fact as a Defense to Criminal Charges in Washington 

Criminal intent is a legal element of many crimes in Washington. That means the prosecutor must prove that you acted with intent. The type of intent may vary depending on the criminal charges. For example, the prosecutor might need to prove that you acted purposefully or knowingly. This level of criminal intent could be more challenging to prove than acting recklessly or negligently. If the prosecutor cannot prove the intent required by law, you are not guilty of the crime.

A defense attorney may argue diminished capacity as a defense. Diminished capacity means a person is incapable of the mental state required to form the intent to commit a crime. For example, a child might not have the maturity to form intent to commit a crime. Likewise, a person with a mental illness or cognitive impairment might not have the capacity to form the required level of intent to commit a crime. 

Mistake of fact is not based on ignorance of the law. Instead, the defense argues that you were reasonably and honestly mistaken about key facts of a situation. For example, you honestly believed that you had permission to be on someone’s property. The property owner gave you permission to camp on the property whenever you desired.

Therefore, you reasonably believe you could camp on the property. However, the land was sold without your knowledge. The new owner did not post any trespassing signs or any other warnings to trespassers. Your attorney may argue you were not trespassing as you had a reasonable belief you had permission to be on the property. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

You could face jail time and other penalties for a criminal conviction, even if you did not understand the law. The best way to protect your rights and freedom is to work with an experienced Washington criminal defense attorney. Schedule a consult with Jennifer today to review your case.