Defending Against Domestic Violence
Defending against an accusation of domestic violence as an attorney in Tacoma can be a difficult and trying process. Preparing a defense requires a careful review of all of the facts and circumstances, and a presentation of the accused’s point of view in a calm and reasoned manner. Prosecutions for domestic violence often rely on statements from arresting officers, medical records, expert testimony, and the testimony of the alleged victim. Because many cases have no eyewitnesses other than the alleged victim and the defendant, the assistance of an attorney who specializes in domestic violence to review the circumstantial evidence, assess the credibility of the parties, and challenge the plausibility and conduct of the police is critically important.
Some domestic violence cases begin with false accusations, although the total percentage of cases that begin this way is probably impossible to determine. This may include not only false accusations from an alleged victim, but also accusations from others who might seek to get the accused in trouble, or even bystanders who misinterpret something they witness as domestic violence. In any of these cases, police may err on the side of caution, at least from their perspective, and make an arrest. If a prosecutor believes domestic violence has occurred, the case may proceed even without the cooperation of the alleged victim.
In cases of deliberate false accusations, the case may depend on the credibility of the defendant and the alleged victim. A history of false statements by the accuser, a lack of a prior arrest or conviction record on the part of the defendant, or a lack of evidence of physical injury can support a defense against false domestic violence accusations.
If an accusation has resulted from a mistake or misunderstanding, similar evidence may support the defendant. Additionally, the alleged victim may agree not to prosecute the case, or to support the defendant’s case in court.
Justified Use of Force and Self-Defense
Washington’s criminal code allows a defense to assault charges in certain instances. The use of force is justified, according to state law, when it is used to defend oneself or another from an imminent offense against their person. The use of force must not be more than is reasonable and necessary to prevent, or attempt to prevent, the threatened offense.
The criminal code states that these acts are not unlawful, meaning a defendant does not have to prove self-defense or justified force. Rather, the prosecution must prove force was not justified. Still, evidence of the alleged victim’s attempted offense against the defendant or another person is very helpful.
An accidental injury may, in some cases, lead to a domestic violence accusation. As with false accusations, physical evidence and the credibility of the parties and witnesses are critically important. Any domestic violence charge requires proof by the prosecution of a criminal mental state, ranging from intent to cause harm to criminal negligence. An accident, by definition, occurs without criminal intent or criminal negligence. A defendant can present evidence of a lack of a criminal mental state through evidence of a good relationship with the alleged victim, a lack of prior accusations or charges, or the alleged victim’s refusal to testify against the defendant.
If you have been charged with a domestic violence-related criminal offense in Tacoma, I am an experienced domestic violence defense attorney and can help. For more than 15 years, I have protected the rights of defendants in criminal cases throughout Washington. Contact us today online or at (253) 201-0406 for a free consultation.