If you’ve been charged with domestic violence, we urge you to call a California domestic violence lawyer in SF at The Morales Law Firm for assistance. You may be worried about what’s at stake and what happens next. A conviction carries significant consequences, including potential jail time, fines, mandatory participation in educational/rehabilitative programs, loss of child custody, loss of gun ownership rights, and social stigma. Indeed, even if you are not convicted, accusations of domestic violence can ruin your reputation and perhaps even cost you your job.
For these and other reasons, it’s important to understand what you may be up against and seek the help of an experienced domestic violence lawyer from The Morales Law Firm who can help you resolve your charges as favorably as possible. If you’ve either been charged with domestic violence or accused of this behavior and you’re worried about being arrested, don’t wait to connect with a domestic violence lawyer San Francisco, CA residents trust. Call now to better ensure that your rights are protected moving forward.
What you must know about domestic violence evidence
A standard domestic violence case starts when an officer is called to respond to a domestic violence situation. Upon arrival, the officer will separate each person involved and get statements from them individually. It isn’t uncommon for an arrest to be made if there are signs of injury. Law enforcement will be watching out for inconsistent statements and visible physical injury. The officer may take photographs of such injuries or damage that was done to the property. These photographs and testimonials will be used to build a case against the person arrested.
Furthermore, the prosecution will depend on statements made by the supposed victim to the operator that handled the 911 call. A copy of this recording is delivered to the defense during the discovery process.
A follow up investigation will be performed
When domestic violence cases arise, someone from a family violence unit will be assigned to investigate further. This detective may interview the victim, suspects, or witnesses and may try to get medical documents or other types of evidence. But ultimately, all this evidence will be submitted to the prosecution to determine if criminal charges are warranted. And if so, which level of charge is appropriate.
We will do our own investigation too
Trust us when we say that we will scrutinize every bit of evidence that the prosecution has against you. We will need to make sure that such evidence was obtained in a legal manner. Depending on your situation, we may argue that you were defending yourself or that the combat was mutual. If the case goes to trial, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. This means that they have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charges you face.
It is important that you are transparent with your attorney
As someone who has been accused of domestic violence, you may be understandably on the defense and are afraid to share your truth about what happened. As criminal defense attorneys, it is not our job to judge you or the situation. And we cannot fully help you unless you are forthcoming with facts and how the interaction unfolded through your perspective. If we don’t know the whole story and you leave something out, then it comes up during court, we can only do so much in the moment to protect you.
Domestic violence includes threats as well as actions
Physically harming an intimate partner or family member is well understood to qualify as domestic violence. But it is important to know that threatening violence also qualifies as a crime under most statutes. In some jurisdictions, it is also considered domestic violence when the perpetrator makes non-violent physical contact with the victim in a manner that is understood to be provocative or offensive. In short, bruises and cuts are not the baseline of what constitutes domestic violence. The definition is much broader.
Relationships differentiate domestic violence from battery
Inflicting or threatening violence against someone would normally be classified as “battery” (or assault and battery, depending on where you live). Domestic violence involves those elements, but it is its own class of crime because it involves violence in the context of intimate relationships.
Which relationships qualify? It’s important not to make any assumptions about your specific situation before you’ve connected with an experienced domestic violence lawyer. Exceptions to general rules may apply in your situation. With that said, in many cases, domestic violence is considered violence between the perpetrator and:
- A spouse or former spouse
- A partner in a dating/romantic relationship
- A co-parent or person with whom one shares a child
- The perpetrator’s children or step-children
- Someone who lives in the same home (even a non-related roommate)
Questions You’re Afraid to Ask Your Domestic Violence Lawyer
Will You Have To Go to Trial?
If you’re like most clients, the trial can be intimidating. If you’ve never been in front of a judge or jury, you may be worried about how to handle a trial case. Most lawyers will not guarantee that you don’t have to go to trial during the consultation.
It is more beneficial to bring the case to trial in some cases. If you are under false accusations, the lawyer may suggest you go to court to help fight against the allegations. However, you may choose to get a plea bargain in other cases. Sometimes, a plea bargain allows you to drop the severity of the charges or the sentencing.
How Long Will the Case Take?
There is no way to guarantee how long a case will take. There may be obstacles you didn’t prepare for, after all. However, don’t be afraid to ask your domestic violence lawyer in San Francisco, CA how long the case may take. It is fine for you to get the case over with as quickly as possible. While things may change in the future, ask how long typical cases last and if yours is expected to last the same.
How Can You Communicate?
Communication with the lawyer is imperative to your case. While you can take a step back and relax while your lawyer does the research and gathers evidence to defend you, you still need to stay up to date. You will need to talk often with your lawyer, either when he or she needs to update you on the case or when you have questions. There are various ways to communicate with a lawyer, but you need to decide how you will communicate ahead of time.
In many cases, lawyers are willing to discuss the case over the phone, through video meetings and in person.
What Are the Costs?
You can go over the expenses of your domestic violence lawyer in San Francisco, CA, before you sign a contract. Every lawyer may have a different fee structure. For example, some attorneys charge an hourly rate or flat fee.
When someone is being accused of domestic violence, one of the first worries is how much it may cost to hire a lawyer to help with the case. Don’t be afraid to ask about fees during your consultation. It is beneficial for you and the attorney to discuss pricing in advance to ensure that you are not surprised with charges and so that your lawyer receives fair payment for his or her services.
Common Defenses To Criminal Charges
Family relationships can be complex, and what police officers see when they are called to a disturbance may not tell the whole story. There are numerous defenses to allegations of domestic violence, including:
- Defense of self or another person
- Accidental injury
- That the alleged victim’s injuries were caused by something or someone else
- That the allegations are false
What about false accusations?
Most domestic violence allegations are made in good faith. However, when false allegations are made, it is often to gain an advantage in family law proceedings such as a child custody dispute. This can be a very tricky situation to sort out, because courts must investigate allegations fairly and understand that while domestic violence is a real problem, there are instances in which alleged victims have something to gain by making false accusations.
If you’ve been falsely accused of domestic violence in the context of a custody dispute, it is critical to defend yourself against the criminal charges first, with the help of an experienced San Francisco, CA domestic violence lawyer. After that, the results of your criminal case can be cited in any family law proceedings. If the accusations are shown to be clearly false, it could actually damage your co-parent’s chances of gaining custody.
Don’t risk your future – Contact an Attorney Today
Domestic violence charges are always serious and must be addressed quickly and decisively. Your best chance of a favorable resolution in such cases is to work with a skilled domestic violence lawyer who will fiercely advocate for your rights and your freedom. Call our team today to obtain skilled, dedicated representation.
More Important Information About Domestic Violence
The ramifications of alleged domestic violence can quickly escalate, leading to consequences that are more serious than most people realize. Below is some information regarding how you could find yourself facing erroneous domestic violence charges, followed by information on what to expect if convicted of domestic violence.
Note that, as always, if you have questions about being charged with domestic violence, you should connect with a knowledgeable domestic violence lawyer as soon as you possibly can. If you have questions, even if you haven’t been charged yet, chances are that you’re in need of legal guidance. The team at the Morales Law Firm can help.
Victim Cooperation Not Necessarily Required
Domestic violence charges are sometimes the result of a misunderstanding by a well-meaning but uninformed third party. And unfortunately, it is not always possible to clear the matter up by explaining the situation to law enforcement.
Say, for example, that you and your spouse were having a loud argument that the neighbors could hear. Someone calls the police and they arrive at your doorstep. You are assumed to be the perpetrator and your spouse is presumed to be the victim. Even if your spouse tries to explain away the situation and doesn’t want to press charges, this may not be the end of the story. In California, once police get involved, they can pursue prosecution even if the alleged victim doesn’t cooperate.
You likely won’t be able to get the charges dropped early in the process, but a domestic violence lawyer may be able to negotiate to reduce the charges (from a felony to a misdemeanor, for instance). As with any criminal charge, time is of the essence. It is important to respond quickly and with the help of a seasoned legal team.
Sentencing Terms and Costs
Depending on the facts of your case (severity of the charges, prior offenses, etc.), your conviction for a domestic violence charge could result in moderate to serious jail time. But even if you are given the most lenient sentence available, it could still include:
- Three years of probation
- One year of weekly participation in a mandatory batterer’s program (meeting once per week for two hours or more)
- A $400 payment that goes toward funding programs to combat domestic violence
- 15-30 days in jail, which can be served in the Sheriff’s Work Alternative Program
- An additional $300 in fines
- Monthly fees for probation supervision
If you are on probation and fail to meet all of the requirements, you could be sentenced to serve jail time.
Restrictions After a Domestic Violence Conviction
In addition to the sentencing terms and costs mentioned above, you will likely face numerous restrictions after a domestic violence conviction (during the time you are on probation). These restrictions include:
- Being the subject of a mandatory stay away order (which could impact your living arrangements)
- Mandatory prohibition against owning guns while on probation
- Limits or prohibitions on consumption of alcohol and drugs (sometimes enforced by drug testing)
- Possible anger management counseling
- Possible substance abuse counseling
If you are an immigrant without citizenship (documented or undocumented), a domestic violence conviction could prevent you from gaining citizenship/naturalization, or could even result in deportation.
If you have been accused of domestic violence, you may have important questions about what you can expect in the near future. You might also wonder whether you should consult a domestic violence lawyer. The following are some of the most common questions our firm receives.
What is Domestic Violence, and Is It a Crime?
Technically, domestic violence is not a crime; rather, it is an element of an offense that has been done to another person or group of people. In general, domestic violence occurs to family or household members, and can include:
- Reckless or dangerous conduct
Domestic violence charges can be filed when an alleged offense is committed against:
- A current or former spouse
- Blood relatives over the age of 18
- People who are, or were, sexual partners
- People who live together
- People who used to live together
Are Penalties Often Severe?
Generally, in California, domestic violence charges are severe. The eligible offenses committed against family or household penalties tend to include heightened penalties. If convicted, jail or prison time, large fines, probation, and a permanent criminal record may apply.
What Are the Repercussions?
If you are convicted of domestic violence, there can be collateral consequences, including:
- Mandatory rehab
- Mandatory anger management classes
- A likelihood of a protective order (which carries its own terms and penalties)
- Removal from the household
- The inability to own a firearm
- Loss of child custody
- The inability to travel to certain countries
- The inability to hold certain work positions
- Harsh social stigmatization
What If I Am Getting a Divorce?
If you have been accused of domestic violence during a divorce, the proceedings may be impacted. That being said, it is not uncommon for allegations to be made as a means of tainting the reputation of the “accused” spouse. If a false accusation of domestic violence has been made, you should hire a domestic violence lawyer right away.
Could Criminal Charges Affect My Child Custody Agreement?
When it comes to custody agreements, arrangements and modifications, courts always put the best interests of the child above all else. Consequently, a criminal charge or conviction may well negatively impact your ability to gain or maintain custody of your children, especially if your spouse or former spouse decides to make an issue of it.
Obviously, felony charges and convictions can, and usually do, have more of a negative impact than those for misdemeanors and traffic offenses. However, if you have multiple convictions, the judge could decide that this shows your propensity for unlawful behavior that could endanger your children’s wellbeing. You do not need to have been convicted of abusing your kids to have your child custody rights compromised.
Domestic Violence Offenses
If you have a history of domestic violence or child abuse charges and/or convictions, this reality could make it very difficult for you to maintain sole or joint custody of your children. In fact, the judge is more likely to restrict you to supervised visitation with them in the wake of a conviction.
Alcohol and Drug Offenses
A history of alcohol or drug charges and/or convictions may well indicate to a judge that you have a substance abuse problem or addiction. This, in turn, makes it more likely that you are a negative influence on your children and may even put them in danger while under the influence. None of this bodes well for your custody situation. If your abuse allegations involve substance abuse, seeking treatment for substance abuse could improve your custody scenario.
Recent Charges or Convictions
The more recent the criminal charges against you or the conviction(s) you receive, the more likely they will negatively impact your custody aspirations. While a judge may be willing to ignore or discount, for instance, a conviction you received over 10 years ago, he or she undoubtedly will not be so accommodating with regard to charges filed or convictions received within the past two or three years.
Your New Partner’s Criminal Record
Keep in mind that if you’re divorced and have remarried or are living with someone, his or her conduct and criminal record almost assuredly will come into play. After all, if you’re attempting to gain or maintain custody of your children, they will be living with this person as well as you if you’re successful. Consequently, your new partner’s criminal history (especially concerning domestic violence and/or other behaviors that could impact your kids) will be nearly as important as yours in determining the best interests of your children.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
Your wisest strategy whenever custody of your children becomes an issue is to seek the advice, counsel and representation of an experienced local child custody lawyer. This is especially true if you or your significant other has a criminal record. The Morales Law Firm can help you present the best criminal defense possible which will – in addition to defending you against criminal charges – help to show that you have obtained any necessary treatment, are a fit parent, and should not be penalized in re: child custody as a result of the allegations against you.
How Can I Respond When Police Are On Their Way?
If police have been called because of a domestic violence dispute or altercation, you should not get any more confrontational. Do your best to calm down. Breathe, relax, and wait for the police. You should not run or avoid the police as this can exacerbate the situation.
You might be better off by not saying anything when police arrive – even if your accuser is alleging you of the domestic violence. The odds of you changing the mind of the police officer are slim. Talking to them might only give police more evidence. Wait for your opportunity to call a domestic violence lawyer from our law firm, and then do so right away.
Domestic Violence: What You Should Know About Your Rights
If you have been accused of domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, you should understand your rights as the defendant. In CA, intimate partner violence laws carry heavy penalties for offenders, including time in jail and monetary fines. You can also be prosecuted even if your accuser never presses charges. Here are four things you should understand about your rights.
Right to Be Heard
If you have been told to wait and not hire an attorney until a date is set for court, you have improperly advised. You should act now and contact a domestic violence lawyer in San Francisco, CA, at the Morales Law Firm.
Right to a Fair Investigation
California domestic violence laws are strict and carry heavy penalties. Despite the circumstances surrounding your case, you have a right to a fair investigation. The attorneys at the Morales Law Firm will thoroughly investigate each detail of your case and work with the district attorney’s office to ensure that you have a fair investigation.
You Have Been Falsely Accused
When law enforcement responds to a domestic dispute, and you are not at fault, do not assume that the accusations will disappear. Likewise, do not sweep the incident under the rug by attempting to console the accuser. You should seek legal help as soon as possible while the details of your case are fresh. Some innocent individuals are fearful that they may be found guilty and are offered a plea bargain by the prosecuting attorney. If you accept the deal, you are essentially saying that you are guilty, and these charges can stay with you for the rest of your life. A domestic violence lawyer in San Francisco, CA can help you understand your rights. If your accuser has falsely accused you of committing any act of violence against them, be it physical or nonphysical, do not depend on the internet to interpret the law in an attempt to defend yourself. Contact the Morales Law Firm today.
You Are Not a U.S. Citizen
If you are in the U.S. on a work visa, undocumented, or have established a legal residency, you could face deportation if charged with intimate partner violence. Even if your accuser does not press charges, the state of CA can still prosecute you, and you could be deported. Contacting a domestic violence lawyer in San Francisco, CA, at the Morales Law Firm can help mitigate your case early in the process.
Call The Morales Law Firm Today
Being proactive now may save you a great deal of stress and trouble down the road. No matter the specifics of your particular situation, if you’re facing charges or have questions about domestic violence law generally, please contact a San Francisco domestic violence lawyer in CA from The Morales Law Firm as soon as you can.
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