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Apr 01, 2020

How Can a Domestic Violence Lawyer Defend Me Against False Accusations of Domestic Violence?

If you’ve been wrongly arrested for domestic violence, you’re likely asking yourself, “How can a domestic violence lawyer defend me against false accusations of domestic violence?” The short answer is that an experienced Oakland domestic violence attorney understands the law, the hallmarks of false accusations, and the strategies to employ to defend against them.

Underlying Biases

There’s no doubt that domestic violence must be stopped, and that it’s important to hold those that abuse their partners accountable for their actions. In an effort to protect victims, however, underlying biases can fuel mistreatment of those who have been falsely accused of domestic violence.

For example, the default stance of Alameda County police officers and district attorneys is to believe that the person lodging a complaint of domestic violence is telling the truth. In one sense, this is understandable, since it’s important that victims of domestic violence believe that justice is on their side. If victims are viewed with suspicion by law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges, then fewer victims will come forward and receive protection from dangerous situations. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence is that the existing system makes it relatively easy for someone to make a false accusation – and to be believed.

A similar underlying bias exists within the law itself. Domestic battery – a violation of California Penal Code section 243(e)(1) – can occur when one person uses willful and unlawful force or violence against another person. There doesn’t need to be evidence of an injury; simply the use of force can result in domestic battery charges. Pushing someone away can be construed as domestic battery, as can pulling someone’s hair or grabbing someone’s arm. But, because domestic battery doesn’t require evidence of an injury, one person can accuse another even if the accused never laid a hand on the accuser.

The law also allows for ample leeway in the relationship between the accuser and the accused. Let’s say that Jesse is accused of domestic violence. Under California law, Jesse’s accuser is an “intimate partner,” defined as his:

  • Spouse or ex-spouse
  • Fiancé or fiancée
  • Former fiancé or fiancée
  • Child’s other parent
  • Live-in partner
  • Girlfriend or former girlfriend
  • Boyfriend or former boyfriend

It’s easy to see how any number of people could falsely accuse Jesse of domestic violence in Alameda County.

Motivation for False Accusations of Domestic Violence

Maybe long-simmering resentment infuses a relationship. Perhaps an argument ignites pent-up anger. It could be that hurt feelings create a thirst for revenge. Whatever the underlying dynamics, there are numerous of scenarios in which Jesse could be falsely accused of domestic violence.

Scenario 1: Tessa learned that Jesse is having an affair with Katie, Tessa’s hurt and angry, and wants to punish Jesse for stepping out on her. She calls the police and says that Jesse grabbed her during an argument.

Scenario 2: Jesse tells Katie that he will divorce Tessa and marry Katie, but then never follows through. Katie calls the police and lodges a domestic violence complaint. This causes Tessa to learn of the affair and Jesse to suffer the consequences.

Scenario 3: Tessa has had enough of Jesse’s philandering and decides she wants to file for divorce. She believes that accusing Jesse of domestic violence paves the way for her to get a larger share of their assets and sole custody of their daughter.

Scenario 4: Jesse tells Tessa that he’s in love with Katie and wants a divorce. Tessa calls 911 and accuses Jesse of domestic violence to get even.

The basis for false accusations of domestic violence can be completely irrational or the result of cold calculations. Either way, the consequences can be devastating.

Punishments for Domestic Violence Convictions

California has a number of laws that fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. The two most common are corporal injury and domestic battery. Corporal injury is charged when the accuser exhibits a physical injury. Domestic battery is charged when the accuser doesn’t exhibit a physical injury. In Alameda County and the rest of California, corporal injury is a felony. If Tessa falsely accuses Jesse and Jesse is convicted of corporal injury, Jesse can face a jail sentence of up to one year, or a prison sentence of two, three, or four years. He may also have to pay a fine of up to $6,000. If Jesse is convicted of domestic battery, he can be sentenced to up to a year in county jail and be forced to pay a fine of up to $2,000. Even if Jesse gets probation, he may be required to complete a treatment program for perpetrators of domestic violence.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A false accusation that results in a conviction can have far-ranging implications. A criminal conviction could mean that Jesse loses his job. It may make it more difficult to find employment in the future. Jesse is likely subjected to a restraining order, which may mean that he can’t access his home or possessions. He may lose the right to see his children. If Tessa moves forward with a divorce, it might mean permanently losing custody of his children.

Corporal injury and domestic battery are just two of about a dozen crimes that can be labeled “domestic violence.” Others include making criminal threats, stalking, and revenge porn. False accusations can lead to wrongful convictions, which is why you need an Oakland domestic violence lawyer to defend you.

Protecting Yourself Against False Accusations

There are times when false accusations of domestic violence seem to spontaneously appear. Often, though, there are clues that you and your partner may be on a collision course. For example, your partner may exhibit behavior that seems unstable. They might be emotionally volatile and quick to anger. They could be extremely jealous, suspicious of every interaction you have. They may lash out and – without basis – accuse you of wrongdoing. They could even threaten to call the police.

If you see warning signs that you may be at risk for a false accusation of domestic violence, it’s in your best interest to be proactive. One step you can take is to consult an Alameda County domestic violence attorney who can help guide you through what is a potential minefield.

There are other actions you can take that can help protect you against false accusations of domestic violence. For example, you can document your partner’s behavior and threats. Note the date and time of each incident, along with what was said and done and who else was present. It’s not uncommon for an abuser to report that their victim is guilty of domestic violence, so if you are the victim of abuse, gather evidence of your abuser’s behavior and any injuries you suffer.

It’s also important to break your silence. Tell your friends and relatives about your partner’s behavior and threats. That can lay the groundwork for their ongoing trust and support if you are falsely accused of domestic violence. They need not intervene; instead, they are witnesses to your contemporaneous accounts of your partner’s behavior.

Finally, it’s important to protect your electronic devices. Change your passwords and don’t share them with your partner. It’s conceivable that they can, for example, create and send threatening text messages from your cell phone to theirs, and then use those text messages as “proof” of threats and as a rationale for their fear.

Your Alameda County Domestic Violence Attorney’s Role

If you’ve been falsely accused of domestic violence, the first thing you should do is retain an Oakland domestic violence lawyer. A seasoned Alameda County domestic violence attorney understands what actions to take in order to avoid a conviction and obtain a dismissal.

Once you have an Oakland domestic violence attorney, their next step is to work with you in gathering the information they need to mount your defense. If your partner exhibited emotionally volatile behavior, for example, your attorney wants to understand the circumstances. This is where your log comes in handy. If your partner has a different ulterior motive – such as jealousy or greed – your attorney needs to have that information. You want to share everything – voicemails, text messages, and emails – with your attorney. Whatever light you can shine on your partner’s motivation for falsely accusing you of domestic violence is helpful to your case.

Your Alameda County domestic violence attorney is also in the position to provide valuable advice. For example, you may be subject to a restraining order. Your attorney will advise that you resist the temptation to violate that restraining order in any way. It isn’t unusual for the person who falsely accuses you to try and draw you into a situation where you violate the restraining order – such as having the opportunity to see your children. Doing so compounds your legal jeopardy. However, it’s important to document every time your accuser does ask to meet, as this can be used as evidence that your partner doesn’t fear you.

The specific defense strategy that your attorney uses depends upon the circumstances of your case. They could use evidence to assert that your partner fabricated accusations of domestic violence. If your partner claims that they were injured, your attorney may argue that the injury arose from an incident unrelated to you. They could question the responding officer’s report and the assumptions that the officer made at the scene. In the absence of exculpatory evidence, your attorney may assert that the prosecutor doesn’t have a case, and that it’s simply a matter of “he said, she said.”

The bottom line is that your Oakland domestic violence attorney’s job is to craft a defense that clearly demonstrates that you were falsely accused. Your lawyer uses their knowledge of the law and their experience in dealing with prosecutors to present your side of the story in a way that makes it clear that you were falsely accused. This experience with prosecutors is why you need a criminal defense attorney rather than a family law attorney. Even if you are going through a divorce or custody battle, domestic violence is a criminal charge, and you need a criminal defense attorney by your side.

Silver Law Firm is a criminal defense firm that has deep experience representing those who are falsely accused of domestic violence. Call today for a free, no obligation case evaluation.

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