Winning in Court for Domestic Violence in LA
A conviction for domestic violence can have serious consequences to your family life, your work life, your reputation and your ability to possess or own guns. In terms of work life, a lot of government jobs or contractors who work with the government will not employ someone with a domestic violence conviction. In family law, a domestic violence conviction can affect one’s ability to gain custody of the children. A domestic violence conviction can be embarrassing to your reputations. It will also render one incapable of legally owning a firearm. For these reasons, and others, many choose to take their domestic violence case to trial.
Domestic violence trials can be tricky to navigate, but also rife with opportunities for a defendant to take advantage of the nuances. For instance, many times the alleged victim does not want to testify, which weakens the case against the prosecution. Indeed a victim cannot be jailed for refusing to testify under Civil Code 1219(b). Even if the victim is not in court, the prosecution can make their case by presenting alternative evidence, such as 911 tapes, body-cam video, and the potentially incriminating statements of the defendant himself (or herself). However, a case without the live victim testifying is significantly weaker than when one does.
Often times in a DV (Domestic Violence) trial, there is what’s called a “recanting” victim. This means that on the day the victim called the police, she reported one thing, but now that the case is proceeding, she is either saying something else or claiming that she was misquoted by the police or that she lied to the police. This is NOT necessarily going to win your case and may lose your case. The reason is that the prosecutor will impeach the will impeach the victim’s trial testimony with the first statements she made to the police. The victim will look like a liar because she said two different things. The prosecutor can then argue that the victim is trying to protect the defendant and this is what victims of domestic violence do. The prosecutor can then make the compelling argument that the jury should believe what the victim said close to the time and under the stress of the incident, not what the victim is now saying way later at trial.
Picking a Jury for Domestic Violence Cases
Picking a jury in a domestic violence case is also an important art. Those jurors who themselves or loved ones have had previous domestic violence cases will be stricken either by a peremptory challenge where each side can strike a handful of jurors for almost any reason, or they will be stricken for cause- which means because the Judge doesn’t feel they can be unbiased in this type of case. The defense will want to focus on jurors who are “old school” traditional types who reject modern “me-too” style movements since they may be less sensitive to domestic spats at home. Also, jurors who do not like the government interfering with the private lives of its citizens may be good domestic violence jurors for the defense since these cases by definition are private disputes where the government is getting involved.
During testimony, any witness who testifies, including the victim is subject to cross-examination. The defendant can choose to testify or to exercise the 5th Amendment right to stay silent. The defense can call witnesses too or simply rely on the state of the evidence- which means to argue that the prosecution has not met their burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable double. The standard in a criminal case is not guilty versus innocent, but guilty versus not guilty. To reach a verdict, the jury must unanimous which means all 12 members must agree on the guilty or non-guilt of the defendant. If there is no unanimous agreement, then the jury is considered “hung” and the judge can declare a mistrial or even dismiss the case.
We’re Here to Help
If you or someone you know is involved in a situation with domestic violence, the Esfandi Law Group wants to help. One of our experienced attorneys will talk with you to understand the facts of your case and can guide you towards the next best legal steps to take.
No two domestic abuse cases are the same. Every case requires a high level of care, attention, and respect, as well as confidentiality, in order to protect all parties involved. With over twenty years of experience in dealing with sensitive legal cases for victims in Los Angeles, we know what it takes to help our clients with delicate legal matters. Contact our Domestic Violence Defense Team today for a free case review.
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Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.