In the days before the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson brought discussions of domestic violence to the forefront, both law enforcement and the justice system regarded domestic violence as a hands-off, private family matter. Now, in California, prosecutors take domestic violence very seriously and are fervent in their attempts to convict the accused of this crime and do everything to protect the victim. However, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant committed this crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Once a domestic violence call is received, and police are dispatched, the case begins. When the police arrive at the scene, they’ll typically separate the parties to get each party’s statement. In California, most law enforcement agencies mandate that each call of domestic violence results in the arrest of one of the parties.
While police are at the scene, they look for indications of injuries and inconsistencies in statements. The police will photograph any injuries or damaged property. If the aggressor is charged with domestic violence, these photos and statements about the injuries may serve as evidence during a trial. The recorded 911 calls made by the victim are often used as evidence by the prosecutor. During the discovery process, the defense has access to these recordings as well.
A domestic violence case is typically assigned to a detective that is part of the family violence unit of a law enforcement agency. As part of their investigation, the detective may interview the suspect and victim, secure medical records, interview witnesses, and obtain any other evidence. The detective compiles a report and files it with the prosecutor, who will then decide whether or not to charge the aggressor. If the prosecutor decides to move forward, they will determine the appropriate level of charges at that time.
The defense has a right to conduct its own investigation of an alleged domestic violence crime. For example, there may be evidence that the defendant was actually the victim, not the perpetrator, of a domestic violence offense. That may be evidenced by injuries that didn’t reveal themselves until a few days after the incident.
Sometimes the defense can show that the defendant was acting in self-defense as evidenced by victim statements at the time of the incident or by the fact that both parties were physically fighting each other. This additional evidence may be a consideration for the detective or the prosecutor when they make their reporting and filing decisions.
Remember, when a domestic violence case goes to trial in California, it is the prosecutor’s burden to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To meet this threshold, the prosecutor often heavily relies on the alleged victim’s testimony before a jury about what occurred during the incident.
Oftentimes, by the time the case goes to trial, the alleged victim has a change of heart and doesn’t want to testify in court. That forces the prosecutor to subpoena the alleged victim, who then is obligated to appear in court unless they want to face a bench warrant. In the past, when an alleged victim didn’t want to testify, the California judicial system allowed prosecutors to present the alleged victim’s statements to the police. Since then, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that this type of hearsay violated the right of a defendant to face their accuser.
If you or someone you know is facing a domestic violence charge in Southern California, the next best step is to consult with a domestic violence defense attorney at DRE Law. DRE attorneys have deep experience in defending these types of cases, which are often complex because they deal with relationships. In addition, you’ll have the backing of an entire team to support you through this trying time and to ensure you get the best outcome possible for your case.