Love it or hate it—Valentine’s Day is here to stay! Like many holidays, the stress of the day alone can cause tension in even the best of relationships (more about holiday stress here). But Valentine’s Day is an entirely different animal compared to other holidays. High expectations, financial pressures, and the “wining” part of “wining and dining” often don’t mix well. For many couples, the night doesn’t quite end as expected. For some couples, the night can go really wrong and end in a domestic violence kind of situation (keep in mind DV isn’t just physical abuse, but can include emotional control, and breaking of objects).
Domestic violence (“DV”) isn’t linked to one particular holiday or another, although holidays in general often have higher rates of violence between family members. Nevertheless, my criminal defense law practice does get a fair number of domestic violence cases following Valentine’s Day. These cases can be challenging, but not just for the reasons you might think. Domestic violence is a very serious matter—you’ll never hear me say otherwise—and harming someone you love is inexcusable. But these cases are rarely, if ever, black and white. Here are some things you might not know about domestic violence and related offenses.
It Takes Two to Tango
Show me a domestic violence or assault case, and I’ll show you two people. It takes two to argue and fight, and in every domestic violence case, there are two sides to the story to consider. And I’m not talking about victim shaming or denying the harm inflicted on DV victims. I’m talking about the fact that there are a unique set of circumstances leading up to every incident, and these facts are important in domestic violence defense cases. For example, I’ve represented women charged with assault against their male partners because they were fighting back after an initial attack. Similarly, I’ve defended men against domestic violence-related charges incurred after they tried to extricate themselves from an argument that turned physical.
The story behind the situation matters, which is why I take the time to work with my clients to understand the entire set of facts leading up to the incident.
The Justice System Requires Proof
It’s an unfortunate reality that some domestic violence charges are fabricated by one party simply out of spite. People who do this disrespect domestic violence victims and vastly underestimate the negative future effects that mere allegations of DV can have on someone’s life. Still, it does happen between fighting couples, and more often than you might think.
Anger is an irrational emotion that drives irrational actions. Law enforcement and the justice system generally err on the side of believing the alleged victim, as they should. In fact, Colorado laws require mandatory arrest if the police have probable cause to suspect a crime of DV has been committed. In other words, the victim has no say in whether to “press charges.” But the realistic impact of this presumption in favor of alleged victims is that unfounded accusations voiced in anger can result in charges against the partner on the wrong end of the argument.
I’ve seen this story play out countless times with my domestic violence defense clients. It’s not fair, and it’s one of the reasons I take these case types while other Colorado defense attorneys focus on prosecuting them.
Unique Challenges in Domestic Violence Defense Cases
A truly unique aspect of many domestic violence cases is that the person alleging domestic violence and the person charged with domestic violence often continue to have a relationship after the conclusion of the case. It’s no secret (or source of shame) that many domestic violence victims stay with their abusers, but it does make these cases particularly sensitive. A good domestic violence attorney has to contend with this reality, so whereas a hard-lined, aggressive tactic might be appropriate in some assault cases, a domestic violence charge warrants a nuanced approach and candid client conversations.
One especially trying aspect of DV cases is the Mandatory Protection Order that is entered in every case every time. These restraining orders, called MPOs for short, often prohibit any contact whatsoever with an alleged victim. If you’re married, this means that no matter how slight the charged offense, you should prepare to spend several weeks away from the marital home. Further, you’ll be given only a few minutes to gather personal necessities from your home under the watchful eye of a supervising cop. A good defense attorney can help with not only navigating the criminal system but also making sure that the MPO can be modified quickly.
My advice: Don’t wait until your next court date, get a Colorado criminal defense attorney to help you, even if you’re scheduled to go back to court!
Domestic Violence Itself Is Not a Crime; It’s Merely a Label or Type of Offense
“Nobody was hurt, so why is it considered domestic violence?”
“I just took her phone away, why am I here with wife abusers!?”
These questions are all too common from first-time offenders. Believe it or not, prosecutors aren’t taught how to separate the wheat from the chaff. They go after all DV cases nearly the same. And our state statutes are equally one size fits all.
In my years handling domestic violence cases through my Front Range criminal defense law practice, I’ve seen some of the dumbest cases fully prosecuted. For example, in one case, a man stood up too fast from a bar-height chair and tipped it over into the oven door, breaking the glass. The result: Criminal Mischief (a misdemeanor offense) charged as a crime of domestic violence. Yup, you got it. The man spent weeks away from his wife and kids, all because the glass broke during an argument with his wife.
Don’t let domestic violence define you – Let Justie get Justice for you!
If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime of domestic violence, do not wait to contact a Colorado domestic violence defense attorney. Your rights and reputation are on the line—now is NOT the time to be without an advocate. Call me, Justie Nicol Gersch Petterson, at (970) 670-0738 or email email@example.com for a helpful legal consultation, before it’s too late!
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IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship. It’s a blog post and not legal advice. Each case is different, and this post is meant for generalized knowledge, only. If you haven’t signed an engagement letter (or even received an engagement letter) AND issued some form of payment (peanuts do not count), then no attorney-client relationship exists. Nevertheless, we will do our best to ensure your confidentiality should you choose to contact us privately, but do not post about your case in the comments here (because reaching out for help with your case should be confidential, damn it).
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