What Is The Effects Of Domestic Violence And Women Abuse?
Domestic Violence charges are treated differently than most other criminal cases because from the outset of the charge, not the conviction, it is very likely that you will have your home and your children taken from you. We are supposed to have a criminal system where you are innocent until proven guilty but as you will discover that is not the case with Domestic Violence charges. This survival guide will help explain the system you’re up against and how to get through it.
- Do not plead guilty at Arraignment. Arraignment is the first formal court appearance in a criminal case. During this hearing, you will be formally notified of the criminal charge against you and given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. DO NOT PLEAD GUILTY! This is obvious in cases where you do not believe you’ve done anything wrong but is also true in cases where you do think you’ve done something wrong. There is no benefit in pleading guilty up front but there may be costs in doing so.
Some inexperienced people mistakenly believe that if they plead guilty at arraignment, they will get a lighter sentence than if they plead guilty later. This is incorrect. The reverse is much more common; you will likely get sentenced harder if you plead guilty up front.
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If you decide to plead guilty later, the Judge will not use the fact that you pled not guilty initially against you. By pleading not guilty at Arraignment, what you are really saying to the Judge is that you want a chance to see what evidence the Prosecutor has and if you feel it is sufficient to prove your guilt then you want a chance to negotiate with the Prosecutor for a better outcome.
- Pre-Trial No Contact Orders. In most criminal cases, a Judge will issue an order directing the Defendant not have any contact with the alleged victim. In Domestic Violence cases, that order can be extended to the victim’s home, place of work, and children. These orders are issued before there is a finding of guilt and can render a Defendant homeless. If you work at the same place as your spouse then you might just find yourself out of a job too. Whether or not the children were involved with the incident, you can be prohibited from seeing them.
Stipulated Orders of Continuance / Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements
These are contracts, nothing more. You make an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office to do (and not do) certain things, like entering a Domestic Violence Treatment Program and stay out of trouble. If you comply with the contract, the case is dismissed.
It is often possible to get a Domestic Violence charge re-filed as a different, less serious, charge. The factors involved are: the facts of the current case, the Defendant’s criminal history, and the position of the alleged victim. Examples of reduced charges are: Disorderly Conduct or Simple Assault without the DV tag.
- Only the State can bring criminal charges. With any criminal charge, including Domestic Violence, only the State can bring the charge – not the alleged victim in your case. This means that even if the person labeled “victim” wants the No Contact Order or the entire case to simply go away, they don’t have the power to dismiss it; only the Prosecutor does
- Joint Bank Accounts. Be aware that some Victims Advocates are advising alleged victims to drain joint bank accounts. This advice leaves Defendants in the impossible position of becoming suddenly homeless due to the no-contact order and penniless.
- Gun Rights. The conviction for a crime labeled Domestic Violence will forfeit your rights to own or possess the firearm for the rest of your life. This is true even in cases where no gun was used, threatened, mentioned or even owned by the defendant.
Because of the nature of Domestic Violence charges, you need to find an attorney that understands the complexity of these charges and what you can do about them. If you have questions specific to your case, please give me a call. I do not charge money for an initial consultation and I can answer many questions over the phone or via email.
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