When your spouse or partner accuses you of domestic violence you feel devastated. Besides the stigma of being known as an abuser, being charged with domestic assault can separate you from your children, force you to leave your home, and cost you your job. It can also land you in jail and give you a criminal record.
Fortunately, people facing domestic violence claims have options for taking control of their legal defense. If you are in this difficult situation, the steps you take now can preserve your legal rights as a Michigan resident and greatly improve your chances of overcoming the accusations.
Do Not Try To Explain The Situation To The Police
In these situations, police will often present themselves as being there to help. While they may sound friendly, the reality is that they are not necessarily on your side and their goal may be to make an arrest. Generally, officers do not have discretion not to arrest someone in a domestic situation. When I first started as a prosecutor in NYC back in 1993, officers were permitted to utilize their discretion. Their ability to do so, however, has been eroding over the years. Now, it seems more often than not that if the police respond to a domestic violence call, someone is going to jail – at least for the night.
Given that you most likely will not be able to talk yourself out of an arrest, shut up. You have the right to remain silent. You should use it. The things you say in the heat of the moment can be used against you toward a domestic violence conviction.
Do Not Try To Work It Out
If you are charged with domestic violence, be careful. Trying to work things out with the alleged victim often leads to more problems for the accused. In most cases, your best bet is to stay away from the alleged victim. That could mean leaving the home temporarily. Do not call. Do not even try to speak to them through mutual friends. Whether you have children with the alleged victim or not, you should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible. If you have children, this is particularly important to determine the best way to keep your kids safe and protect your relationship with them.
Follow The Terms Of The PPO
Many domestic violence cases can involve two legal proceedings. Besides the criminal charges, the alleged victim may seek a domestic relationship personal protection order (PPO). This is commonly known as a restraining order or order of protection. In many cases, the accused does not find out that their accuser has asked for a PPO until the court notifies them that the order has been issued. Depending on its terms, a PPO can threaten you with arrest and jail if you contact, approach or follow your accuser, as well as your children or other family members. As a result, you may be forced to move out of your home.
While it can be frustrating and heartbreaking, it is important to follow the terms of the PPO. Showing that you are peaceful and law-abiding can help create a favorable impression with the judge and jury.
Do Not Try To Explain Yourself On Social Media Or Elsewhere
Word tends to spread quickly when someone is arrested for domestic violence. Many, if not most, people assume guilt whenever there is an arrest. Once your employer finds out, they may fire you without knowing all the facts. Unfortunately, this is all too common when people are accused of crimes like these. Furthermore, you may lose friends and be expelled from social groups.
You may be tempted to explain yourself to people or even post about the event on social media. That Facebook post could come back to haunt you as evidence against you. A conversation you have with a mutual friend may prove costly if that individual is called as a witness in the domestic violence case. The only person you should speak to about your case is your attorney or mental health professional. The key is to make sure the conversation is legally privileged.
Document Your Side Of The Story
Instead of trying to tell your side of the story – to the police, to the alleged victim, to friends and family, to Facebook – talk with your attorney about whether you should write it down. While it’s fresh in your mind, you may want to make notes about what happened. If you do, you should note of all the details as you experienced them, record the names and contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the event. Were you injured by the alleged victim? Take photos of your injuries. If possible, take photos of any broken objects or anything else that can be evidence, as long as it doesn’t require you being in contact with the alleged victim.
Get Legal Representation
Like many people in your situation, you may be in disbelief that this is happening, particularly if the alleged victim is a spouse or someone you care about. You may be hopeful that everything will work itself out. All too often though, the accused is charged, convicted and left with irreparable damage to their lives because they didn’t act preemptively to defend themselves against the allegations.
Ultimately, the best thing you can do for yourself after being arrested, or even investigated, on domestic assault charges is to hire a criminal defense attorney. An experienced defense lawyer can go over the case with you, give you honest advice, and fight for you in court. At the Law Office of John Freeman, we regularly handle these kinds of cases. Contact us today.