If you are facing family violence charges because of a misunderstanding or argument, it can feel like your family and your life are falling apart in front of your eyes. It is important to know that you have options, and that some of the many common defenses to domestic violence allegations save you from a criminal conviction.
Building a strong defense to domestic violence charges depends on quickly and carefully reviewing the details in your case to identify the weak points in the prosecutor’s case against you. Every case is different, especially in Connecticut, where domestic violence is not its own crime but a designation of “family violence” attached to a variety of other criminal charges. One or more of these defenses may apply to your case, or there may be other defenses based on the specific crimes involved.
The police rarely show up in time to see an assault happen or witness the whole argument. More often they are putting the pieces together based on witness interviews after the fact. Sometimes, this means they end up charging the victim of domestic violence, instead of the abuser. This is especially common when the truth in your case goes against common assumptions about gender roles or your physical appearance (such as when a smaller woman is the abuser and the larger man is the victim).
When you acted the way you did to prevent physical injury to yourself or someone else, you may be able to prove you acted in self-defense, and avoid a domestic violence conviction. If your spouse, partner, child, or roommate has a history of violence themselves, your domestic violence defense attorney can use that history to show you were acting in self-defense.
In other cases, the police may be acting based on the report of one spouse or co-parent against the other. Sometimes, the person filing the complaint (the complainant) has his or her own reasons for doing so. Making false police reports of domestic violence allegations may be a tactic to gain the upper hand in a pending divorce or child custody battle. This is especially true because Connecticut law requires a judge to enter a criminal protective order any time there are family violence charges. This protective order can go into effect as early as the next day. It can remove you from the family home, and can even cut off contact with your children. Making a false police report is illegal, but that doesn’t stop every parent looking for an advantage in court.
Sometimes, neither party are the ones dialing 9-1-1. Neighbors can misinterpret an argument or even a loud physical activity, like moving furniture, and call the police. When that happens, an accidental injury resulting bruises, cuts, or black eyes may be seen as “evidence” of domestic violence. In these cases, the best defense for domestic violence charges may be the alleged victim’s testimony themselves, or a medical expert who can say how the injury likely occurred.
Perhaps the most common domestic violence defense is simply missing proof. Remember that every criminal case must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Just because your partner or spouse said something happened doesn’t make it true. When the prosecutor’s case depends on the testimony of one “star” witness -- the alleged victim -- your criminal defense lawyer can prepare for a common defense by showing inconsistencies in the story and making your version of events seem more credible to the jury.
Every family violence criminal charge involves a police investigation, and sometimes police do things incorrectly. They may forget to read you your Miranda rights before questioning you, or come into your house without consent. The forensic laboratory may mishandle blood or DNA evidence. These technical details may not seem like a big deal, but they can be an effective defense to assault and domestic violence charges.
Even if the prosecutor has a strong case against you, you don’t have to accept a plea agreement that leaves you with a criminal history. Connecticut’s Family Violence Education Program allows eligible first-time offenders to complete a “diversionary” program including court supervision and domestic violence classes and avoid having a conviction on their record. If you are worried you don’t have a defense to family violence charges against you, talk to your family violence defense attorney to see if you meet the FVEP eligibility criteria.
At the Lebedevitch Law Firm, based in Fairfield, Connecticut, criminal defense attorney Stephen Lebedevitch knows how domestic violence arrests can spiral out of control. He will help you develop and argue the best domestic violence defense for your case, and advise you about any diversionary programs or non-trial options that may be appropriate, so that you can make the best decision for your future. Contact us for a free consultation to talk to Stephen and get started developing your family violence defense today.