How to Fight False Allegations of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence in the United States is a real problem. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
This type of crime constitutes 15% of all violent crime that happens in the country every year. However, false allegations of domestic violence are unfortunately also common.
Approximately 700,000 false allegations lead to charges each year in the U.S., and the court system hands out 1.5 million restraining orders that turn out to be based on false or trivial accusations.
The law surrounding domestic violence ultimately favors the victim. And for actual occurrences, rightly so. But in cases where the alleged victim claims violence or abuse that didn't happen, it's a much stickier situation.
If you've been wrongfully accused of domestic violence, it's best to seek professional legal help right away. Keep reading for more information on how to navigate these muddy waters.
What is Domestic Violence?
The definition of domestic violence varies state by state, but generally speaking, it defines any action that causes or attempts to cause bodily harm toward a person who the attacker has an intimate relationship with.
In most states, the physical attack doesn't even need to take place. If the victim experiences severe emotional distress or fears imminent danger to themselves or their family members, domestic violence charges can be laid.
To be more specific, domestic violence constitutes any actual or threatened violence toward a spouse, co-parent, co-habitant, ex-partners or family members.
Domestic violence cases are common in the United States, and it's comforting for the victim to know they can get help if a situation turns violent. But, the flip side of the system reveals an ugly underbelly.
False Allegations of Domestic Violence
False allegations. Any allegation of domestic abuse is taken extremely serious by the court, and for good reason. But the system breaks down a bit when it comes to the rights of falsely accused abusers.
First of all, it's hard to prove innocence. Especially because a physical attack doesn't even need to take place for a domestic violence suit to be won by the victim. Threats and emotional abuse are considered to be just as serious.
Why would someone make a false allegation? It happens often in divorce proceedings and is often used as a way to win a custody battle. Other reasons might include revenge, fighting over assets or mental health issues.
Regardless of the reason, a domestic violence accusation is serious. And a case won by the victim can not only ruin the reputation of the accused, but it can keep them from seeing their children and can also result in a criminal record.
In most cases, the first step in a domestic violence case is a restraining order, also known as an order of protection. This happens before the case has even been to court.
It makes sense. A court proceeding can be long and drawn out process and if the victim is truly in danger, a restraining order during the process might be necessary for their safety.
However, when children are involved, it gets much more complicated. A restraining order, even if the charges are dismissed or withdrawn, can give a lot of power to the victim in a custody hearing.
As soon as a domestic violence accusation is brought up, it's highly recommended to hire a criminal defense lawyer. It's a messy and emotional situation that cannot be effectively solved on its own.
There's a grey area in the law when it comes to domestic violence crimes. They are known in the legal world as a "wobbler", meaning they can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on severity.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the accused can face up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1000, and the sentencing gets more severe from there.
If you are charged with a felony, there is no real limit to possible jail time, plus a fine of up to $10,000. Either way, the case will be on your record and it's likely you'll have a hard time finding work and rebuilding your reputation.
For these reasons alone, an experienced lawyer is necessary. Whatever you end up paying for professional legal representation will be worth it in the long run, especially in the case of false allegations.
It's extremely hard to prove innocence in a domestic violence case, especially because no physical attack ever needed to take place. If the victim claims to have felt threatened, that could be enough for the judge to convict.
How to Defend Yourself
Hiring a lawyer is only the first step. Even the best lawyer around will require evidence. In many false allegation cases, the victim's story will start to crumble under pressure.
And if a defense lawyer can prove holes in the accuser's story, that can be enough to minimize sentencing or even get the judge to drop the case. However, in more serious cases, that is not enough.
If you can, keep written documentation chronicling interactions with the accuser, take photographs or videos, get statements from witnesses and in cases of mental health or substance abuse - the accuser's medical records can come in handy.
Witnesses can be key. Whether they're providing statements to comment on your character, or if they were actually there during, before or after any of the alleged abuse, they can be the secret to winning the case.
Domestic violence comes in all forms and does not necessarily have to be physical to be considered a crime.
Threats and emotional abuse including using guilt for sex, insults, public humiliation and stalking are all considered to be forms of domestic abuse.
And unfortunately, false allegations of domestic violence are common. If you feel you're being wrongly accused of domestic abuse, the most important thing to do is to seek legal representation as soon as possible.
Do not fuel the flame. Trying to reason with your accuser will only make matters worse. Let the professionals do the work. Contact our firm for more information or to schedule a consultation.