Domestic violence is a complex issue on its own; when it comes into play in my criminal defense cases, it can be an intricate puzzle to solve. Both offender and victim are in an intimate relationship before the arrest, and it is very likely that they will continue to be in one after the case finishes. Treating these cases and those involved with the utmost care is imperative. Fortunately, we are uniquely equipped to take on Colorado domestic violence crimes with a fresh perspective and specialized approach for each case.
Understanding the Cycle of Violence & Its Impact on My Clients
The most serious domestic violence cases involve what most researchers call “The Cycle of Violence.” Understanding this cycle is an important part of representing domestic violence victims and alleged offenders.
The Cycle of Violence involves three main phases:
- Tension Building – During this phase, conflict and stress builds between the partners in a relationship. It starts with cold shoulders, then escalates to arguments and threats.
- Violence – This is when most ‘assaults’ occur, whether they are taken out on the partner, the children, or the property.
- Honeymoon Phase – Following the violence, the instigating partner apologizes and seeks forgiveness; he/she will bring gifts to their partner, express remorse, and make promises to never commit the violent act again.
In addition to The Cycle of Violence, there are recurring themes involved in these relationships. The most extreme cases see victims doubting personal abilities, making excuses for visible injuries, and consistently trying to please the partner, in order to avoid acts of violence from their loved one. In other domestic violence cases, it’s possible that there is not a clear cut “victim” 100% of the time, and the parties alternate between offender and victim depending on circumstances. Most notably, you also have situations where victims reach a breaking point and lash out in self-defense creating the “battered wife” defense.
In any event, if you are going to trial for a domestic violence charge (even a non-violent one), a handful of so-called “Domestic Violence Experts” will be endorsed to testify about how your situation lines up with this Cycle of Violence dynamic. Only a seasoned domestic violence criminal defense attorney is armed with the necessary information to go head to head with such an expert.
The District Attorney is NOT ‘on the Victim’s side’
As you can clearly see, domestic violence cases are complicated, and not meant to be handled with a one-size-fits-all strategy. Victims are likely to recant and return to the relationship, even with protection orders in place and the courts telling them to stay as far away from their partner as possible. Research has found, invariably, two main reasons victims will return: love and children (including pets)–more about that later.
Victims who do return to their partners should also realize the risk they are taking if they go against court orders. Victims who violate protection orders are simply setting their partners up for another arrest. The first thing a cop will do on even the most innocuous and innocent situation is to “clear” the person (i.e. check for warrants and protection orders). This means that if a victim is simply in the same car during a traffic stop and there is a no contact order, their partner is going to get arrested. Victims should seek to modify the protection order or influence the DA to dismiss the case if they want to see their partner without fear of criminal justice implications. In order to do so, victims may need to hire their own attorney. Nicol Law Offices, LLC offers flat-rate victim representation that is very affordable for folks in such a situation. Contact Justie for more details about how we can help get through to the DA on your behalf!
The Dynamics of a Domestic Violence Arrest
Because domestic violence cases are as unique as the two people involved in the relationship, nothing is ever black and white, especially when it comes to making an arrest. But often cops and DA’s don’t see the gray areas. Colorado, like most states, has Mandatory Arrest laws; in short, this means when police respond to a domestic situation, someone is leaving the house in handcuffs nearly 100% of the time. Unfortunately, the person arrested isn’t always the person who started it. My firm has represented women who were arrested after fighting off an initial assault by their male partner, and we’ve also had male clients who were charged after trying to leave an argument which then turned physical. Don’t even get me started on same-sex couples… the cops literally don’t know what to do!
In addition, many couples have no idea that the victim isn’t the one “pressing charges.” In Colorado, whether to bring charges or drop charges is entirely up to the District Attorney’s Office responsible for prosecuting the crimes committed in that jurisdiction. In other words, if victims want to “drop the charges” later on, they simply can’t. But there are still ways to ensure that the victim can influence the proceedings, not the least of which is Colorado’s Victims Rights Act contained in our state’s Constitution. If you feel like nobody is listening to you, talk to an attorney today!
Navigating Children in the Middle of DV Cases
Law enforcement responding to a domestic disturbance will definitely take notice of any children in the home, too, and you could be looking at Child Abuse charges, as well. Whether or not the child witnessed an incident has the largest impact on the whether the alleged offender will also receive a Child Abuse charge. An additional factor that law enforcement will consider is the co-existence of domestic violence with substance abuse around the kiddos. Evidence that children are being exposed to dangerous substances (and the effects thereof) can result in a charge of Child Neglect (US Department of Health and Human Services, 1999) even if no domestic violence charges are filed.
Children can play a powerful role in the Cycle of Violence dynamic, also. Research shows that many Domestic Violence victims return to the relationship when children are involved, in fear of the children’s safety (if the other partner has an established history of physical violence) and/or in fear of losing custody in a divorce. Many victims will also remain in these relationships with the belief that it’s better for the children to keep them in a two-parent household. In fact, even if human children aren’t in the household, over 25% of victims reported a delay in leaving their abuser over fear he/she would harm their pets if left behind. This is one of the reasons I work on sheltering initiatives to increase the availability of safe havens for pets in these situations.
It’s clear that domestic violence affects the whole family for years. Research shows that childhood exposure to both physical abuse and parental domestic violence (even just emotional abuse) not only subjects the child to persistent trauma in the moment but can eventually lead to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. In short, staying in these relationships is not always in the best interest of the children, the pets, the victim, or the alleged perpetrator. Domestic violence is truly a family issue for all involved, and finding a way forward–outside of the courthouse–is critical.
Nicol Law, LLC: Providing more than help in court for domestic violence clients
My firm’s specialty is a holistic approach to domestic violence cases, developed through years of diverse practice experience: everything from defending a victim erroneously charged with an offense to taking on clients who instigated an alleged domestic violence incident. I have experience handling property damage cases all the way up to the most serious stalking felonies on behalf of both the perpetrator and the victim. Additionally, I partner with Project Safeguard, a Colorado-based non-profit which helps victims of domestic violence journey through related civil court processes while offering resources for their safety – and legal representation – at no charge to the client!
My specialized approach to domestic violence cases begins with the awareness of just how diverse each case can be. Victims AND offenders make mistakes, and everyone involved deserves a chance to be heard and their wishes addressed. I handle my clients’ cases on an individual basis and strive to treat the arrest as a learning experience. I also coach clients to advocate for their individual treatment goals and emphasize possible repair of the relationship – not just ‘beating the charge.’