Someone has accused me of domestic violence - now what?
Many people from all walks of life find themselves facing accusations of domestic violence at one time or another. A majority of the people I represent on these types of offenses have no prior criminal history and are successful members of their communities, who have close relationships in their lives. A domestic violence allegation can come from a frustrated call to the police that the caller later regrets, a report of actual domestic violence or a fabricated or exaggerated allegation that is driven by legal or emotional forces outside of the reported incident.
If someone has called the police and reported that you have committed an act of domestic violence, you can expect that a detective will likely try to contact you for an interview. Consult an attorney before speaking to anyone in law enforcement, even if you think your statement will help explain your side of the story. You should not speak to law enforcement until an attorney has had a chance to analyze the other evidence in the case, because your statement will be used as evidence in the case. If you give a statement that is inconsistent with the evidence in photos, the 911 call or that of a disinterested third-party witness, your statement could be used to assist in your prosecution.
After a report is made to the police and fully investigated, it is referred to the appropriate prosecutor’s office for a prosecutor to review and decide what, if any, charges should be filed. Once charges are filed, a summons will be sent for you to appear in court, or you may be arrested and booked into custody until the first court hearing, depending on the severity of the alleged offense.
Here are some steps to consider taking after you know a report of domestic violence has been made to law enforcement:
1) Separate Yourself From the Person Who Called the Police:
If you live with the person who made the report, you should consider making arrangements for one of you to move out. This will provide a “cooling off” period after the allegation and make it less likely another allegation will follow on its heels, an event which will make the first allegation a harder one to defend. In addition, if the case is filed in court, a no contact order will likely be imposed, forcing you to stay away from the person who made the accusation.
2) Consult an Attorney Before Speaking with Law Enforcement:
Do not just give law enforcement statements that could be used against you without seeking legal advice.
3) Consider Hiring an Attorney Before the Case is Charged:
An attorney may be able to present information to the prosecutor considering whether charges should be filed and either head off charges entirely or prevail on the prosecutor to file less serious charges. An attorney may also be able to negotiate the opportunity to turn yourself in to be booked and released from custody, rather than arrested on the charges in front of your neighbors or at work.
4) Don’t Discuss the Incident with Anyone Except Your Attorney:
It is important that you not discuss the incident with anyone because your conversations are not confidential. Sometimes, a domestic violence allegation arises in a relationship that is already stressed. There may be a question about whether you should attend couples’ counseling after the report to 911. Discussing the case with anyone, including a counselor, may set up a situation where the person you discussed the incident with, is now a witness in the case. Thus, you may want to delay any counseling appointment until you can consult with an attorney. Also, do not discuss the case with the person who called 911, as you do not want that person to be in a position to suggest you tried to influence what they would say in the case, which could amount to a separate crime of witness tampering.
5) Tell Other Attorneys Representing You About The Report to the Police:
Many people are in the middle of an immigration case, divorce or child custody dispute when a domestic violence allegation arises. Make sure you alert your counsel on that matter to the report of domestic violence.
6) Seek Treatment if Treatment is Needed:
Sometimes a domestic violence allegation arises because some other untreated issue is now in the drivers’ seat in your life. Take a hard, honest look at this and if there is an untreated alcohol, substance abuse, mental health or anger management issue that needs to be addressed in your life, this may be your chance to address it. If you do not already have a treatment provider, this is another reason to bring counsel on board who can help you find an appropriate treatment provider.’
7) Consult Your Employee Handbook or Union Representative:
Every job has different rules about what employees must disclose. Some employees only have to disclose if they have been convicted of a crime. Others require that an arrest be disclosed. Do not simply tell your boss or human resources about the incident. Educate yourself on whether you have an obligation to tell your workplace about the report to 911 or your arrest. If you do conclude that you have an obligation to disclose your arrest to your workplace, consult an attorney who can help you strategize about how to alert your work and protect yourself in the criminal case.
DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of Domestic Violence Cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.