If you are a victim of domestic violence, deciding to tell your story and press charges against someone you love can be difficult. Pressing charges involves reliving the trauma of abuse and often results in ending relationships with those who hurt you. Although you may not want to go forward with prosecution, pressing charges can give you a voice and allow you to regain power in your relationships. Having assisted hundreds of victims of domestic violence, Jennifer Horwatiz Law understands how traumatic prosecuting an abuser can be and approaches all of her clients with compassion and empathy. If you have doubts about prosecuting a domestic violence case, talk to Jennifer about your rights as a victim and what to expect if you press charges.
What Happens When a Victim Reports Domestic Violence?
When law enforcement gets involved in domestic violence, the accused will often be taken to jail. If you need medical attention, law enforcement and first responders will make sure you receive the care you need. After the arrest, the case will probably be turned over to the state prosecutor, who will determine whether to pursue criminal charges. The prosecutor will likely ask you to cooperate with the criminal prosecution.
What Happens if You Cooperate in a Criminal Prosecution?
As a victim of domestic violence, you are entitled to protection from the accused should you decide to cooperate with law enforcement and prosecution. The state prosecutor will want to hear your side of your story and ask you questions about what happened. You may have someone you trust present with you during this interview. This person may be a lawyer of your choosing, or you may be assigned a victim’s assistant to be present with you.
You may also be asked to testify against the accused and tell your story at trial. As a victim, you are entitled to be informed of any and all court proceedings involving your case. If you testify, the accused will not be allowed to come near you or otherwise threaten you. You may also be reimbursed for expenses associated with testifying at trial.
Other Rights of a Victim in a Domestic Violence Case
As a victim of domestic violence, you may participate in criminal proceedings against the accused. You may also seek a civil order of protection, which prevents the accused from contacting you. To obtain a domestic violence order of protection, you must file a petition with the court and participate in a hearing. At the hearing, both the accused and the accuser will appear in court and provide facts regarding the allegations. Both parties may be represented by an attorney and may have to testify or answer questions for the court.
The purpose of the hearing is to allow the court to hear your side of the story and decide whether to issue a protective order. You will have a chance to testify and explain the trauma you experienced at the hands of the accused. Once you tell your side of the story, the court will likely enter an order preventing contact and/or imposing limitations on the accused for one year.
The court may issue many types of relief, including preventing acts of violence; prohibiting someone accused of domestic violence from being in a specified location or within a certain distance of a specified location, including a shared residence, workplace, or school; limiting contact between the accused and an accuser; and requiring the accused to surrender firearms and weapons.
What Happens Outside of Court?
Participating in a criminal prosecution has consequences outside of the courtroom. As a victim of domestic violence, you have rights in other aspects of your life. For instance, your landlord must promptly make any repairs to your home that impact your security, such as fixing any broken windows or doors or changing locks upon your request. Additionally, your employer cannot prevent you from taking time off work to attend court appearances and cannot dock your pay. If you have children who are also affected by domestic violence, their school must also make sure they are protected from the accused.
Why Should I Press Charges?
Pressing charges against an abuser may be a scary thought. You will likely have to relive the trauma of abuse when testifying in front of a courtroom full of people. You will be asked to tell your story over and over again, and the accused will likely try to discredit you on the witness stand. But despite how hard it can be, pressing charges is one of the most important steps to ending the cycle of abuse. Not only will the accused face criminal consequences for his or her actions, but he or she may also be required to participate in a domestic violence interdiction course aimed at preventing behaviors classified as domestic violence.
In addition, testifying in court can be incredibly empowering, giving you a voice and allowing you to stand up for yourself. Once you press charges, you are no longer a victim. You also have the ability to impact the accused’s punishment should he or she be found guilty. In addition to describing the events, you will have the opportunity to give a victim’s impact statement to the court. Through your statement, you can explain the impact the abuse had on your life financially, medically, socially, and psychologically.
Consult with a Seattle Area Domestic Violence Attorney for Victim Rights
If you are at a crossroads and must decide whether to proceed with charges in a domestic violence case, discuss your options with Jennifer Horwitz. Jennifer has over 25 years of experience representing clients in domestic violence cases and can tell you what to expect every step of the way. Contact Jennifer Horwitz Law to discuss your case with a compassionate and caring attorney who is always on your side.