A Defense Attorney's View of the Changes in Domestic Violence Cases
Over the years, the lawyers at Newton & Hall have seen significant changes in how these cases are initially handled, as well as how they are resolved.
10-20 years ago, when the police were called out to the scene of a domestic violence call, it would not be referred to as such. It might be called a domestic dispute, a husband wife fight, or some other less serious name. The responding officer(s) would likely separate the parties at the scene, and try to determine what had happened. They would see if a crime had been committed, and if there was proof, they would make an arrest. Most of the time they did not make an arrest if there was only property damage, or if there was merely an argument. Much of the time they would ask that the husband or wife leave for the night, to cool things down. If they wanted to arrest someone, and the victim did not want to "press charges" often times they would not bother to make an arrest.
Flash forward ten years or so, and the police began to take these cases more seriously. They were now subject to mandatory arrest provisions under domestic violence laws. They now determined who the primary aggressor was, and that person got arrested. They began to arrest people for what would have once been considered petty crimes, just to get an arrest. If a plate was broken in an argument, the arrest might be for malicious mischief. They also began to ask for domestic violence protection orders, which kept the perpetrator from coming back to the house, or even having phone contact with the victim.
The prosecution's priorities have also changed during this time period. While previously, when a victim was uninterested in assisting law enforcement and the prosecution with the case, the case might be voluntarily dismissed by the prosecutor. Now, prosecutors started taking these cases to trial, in order to try and secure convictions with 911 call tapes, statements from the victim at the time of the incident, or other less reliable forms of evidence.
They also offered fewer "plea bargains" and the ones they offered were less generous. Lawyers from decades ago could count on pre-trial agreements that kept their client's records clean. Agreements that were almost a given in all but the most egregious cases. Now prosecutors began to change the way they negotiated, and demanded harsher penalties.
Judges & the Law:
Judges who had run for election as being "tough on domestic violence" also toed the line. They imposed court orders barring contact in every case. They essentially began to collaborate with the prosecution to force criminal defendants from their homes, and force them to maintain two separate households. Defendants who previously would have been released on personal recognizance now had to post higher and higher bail amounts. The legislature also added aggravators and enhanced penalties. They took away gun rights from those convicted of domestic violence, and made it so the penalties doubled, tripled, or worse. They added mandatory minimum sentences for some offenses.
Experienced Domestic Violence Lawyers
We've been successfully handling these cases for many years, and have learned what needs to be done to have the best possible outcome in a domestic violence case. Call us at (253) 867-2675 for a free consultation, and let's discuss your case.