If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, you need legal help right away. This accusation can hurt not only your freedom, but it can also harm your reputation. In some instances, it may even cost you your job.
Domestic violence accusations are often false, created by angry, jilted lovers to get revenge. According to YouGov, 8% of Americans are falsely accused of domestic violence every year.
In this article, we will offer some reasonable, effective defenses against a domestic violence allegation. First, however, let’s look at the crime in closer detail.
What Qualifies as a Domestic Violence Charge?
Violence happens between people every day. Two drunks get into a brawl at a bar; angry shoppers scuffle over a parking space; people pummel one another over that last item during Black Friday; etc.
These charges, however, are not “domestic.” Most of us have an innate understanding of what domestic violence is: Husbands and wives getting physically violent, parents abusing their children, and so on. Domestic violence charges actually extend much further than that. Depending on your relationship with the victim, any violent act could be labeled domestic violence.
Here are some examples of relationships that can make a violent act “domestic.”
- Any Romantic Relationship
We all know that domestic violence happens between husbands and wives, but it can also happen between boyfriends and girlfriends, fiancés, etc. In fact, the relationship need not be active. If a former spouse/lover/boy or girlfriend commits violence against their ex, they could be charged. It doesn’t matter if the two people haven’t seen each other in years. Technically, someone you had a one-night-stand with years ago could accuse you of domestic violence.
- Family Members
Violence between close relatives could be considered domestic. You don’t have to live together or even near one another. You don’t have to have a close relationship, either. Maybe you and your brother rarely speak, but if you get into an altercation, you could be accused of domestic violence.
- Anyone Within the House
Imagine you have a roommate, and the two of you rarely speak. You have absolutely no connection with one another beyond sharing a living space. Regardless of your closeness, if you get into a fight with them, you could be accused of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Penalties in Colorado
For an initial accusation of domestic violence, the state wants to treat the offender and help them get better. The accused can be ordered to complete a treatment program, and they can be evaluated by a mental health professional. Other minor punishments include probation and house arrest.
These are not assured outcomes, however. Judges still have the option to throw the book at you, even if it’s only your first offense. At its most severe, domestic violence is a Class 5 felony, punishable by 2 to 6 years in prison.
If there is a gun involved, your Second Amendment rights can be affected. You may lose your right to buy a firearm or even ammunition for one year.
Another potential penalty is having a protective order placed against you. This affects your ability to go near your accuser. You may even lose access to your home or your children. Your gun rights are also affected, limiting your ability to purchase a firearm or ammunition.
Defense #1: Challenging the Evidence
As with any criminal allegation, your best defense is to simply prove you didn’t do it. One of your best strategies is presenting an alibi. Working with your attorney, pinpoint the time of the alleged crime. You may be able to prove that you weren’t even present when the violence supposedly happened.
Witnesses are also useful, here. If you have a valid alibi, and you were with someone else at the time, they can vouch for your whereabouts. Perhaps neighbors can verify that they didn’t see your car the night of the alleged attack. If there was anyone else present at the time, they may be able to testify that they saw no evidence of abuse.
Records can be helpful as well. Maybe there is security footage that shows you were somewhere else at the time. You can also measure the accusation against medical records. For instance, say your accuser claims you punched them in the face, but the record doesn’t show injuries consistent with that kind of attack.
If you are truly innocent, your attorney should be able to build arguments that put serious doubt in the prosecution’s case.
Defense #2: Prove That the Violence Was Unintentional
These days, a technicality is not enough to secure a solid conviction. Prosecutors must also show intent, or a willful act. In a heated argument, any errant gesture could accidentally connect with another person. If they were caught off guard or had poor footing, even an accidental tap could send them sprawling. Out of anger and embarrassment, they make a domestic violence accusation.
If you made physical contact with the other person, but you didn’t mean to, you can explain your side of the story in court.
Defense #3: Explain That You Had No Other Alternative
Violence should always be a last resort, and some believe that it’s never justified. Sometimes, however, you find yourself in a frightening situation, and you don’t know what else to do. Imagine your partner is in the middle of a serious mental breakdown. You try to reach out with love, but there’s no getting through to them. They are smashing and throwing things, screaming, and scaring the children. Out of desperation, you strike them, trying to deescalate the situation.
Scenarios like these may justify a violent response. If you were in a tense situation and believed you had no other choice, your response could be deemed excusable by the court.
Defense #4: Claim Self-Defense
Violence is often a two-way street. If someone is coming at you aggressively, you have the right to protect yourself. When this is the case, explain your situation to your attorney, and they may be able to build a credible self-defense claim.
Keep in mind, however, that the evidence must back up your claim. Self-defense is justifiable only if it is proportionate to the attack. If someone throws a punch, you cannot respond by beating them mercilessly. A self-defense claim must hold up to scrutiny, so make sure your story is genuine before pursuing this strategy.
If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, reach out to our firm for help. We may be able to take on your case and help you build an effective defense. You can call us at (970) 238-7900 or contact us online.