Why Should I Hire a Lawyer When Facing Domestic Assault Charges?
Often, individuals facing domestic violence charges are reluctant to hire an attorney. They may believe it’s easier to simply plead guilty, or they may believe there’s no way to prove they aren’t guilty of the charges. In either case, going to court without proper legal representation can be a costly mistake. An attorney can use his expertise to ensure you get a fair trial and may give you your best chance for proving that you’re not guilty of the charges.
Preparing for the Trial
Getting ready for your trial and developing a strong defense strategy is just as important as the trial itself. One of the key components of any trial is the discovery phase, which allows each side to ask questions, depose witnesses, and examine evidence. This process ensures that both the defense and the plaintiff have had access to the same information, so they won’t be taken by surprise at trial.
While this may sound like a simple process, it’s important that the right information be requested. While there’s no rule that says an attorney must be involved in this process, an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer will know which documents are most relevant to a defense. The average person may not understand how certain facts in a case can play a part in an individual’s defense, or which items may not be admissible as evidence in court.
Commonly, these documents can help your defense attorney improve your chances for a positive outcome at trial:
- Medical records for injuries suffered by the plaintiff
- List of witnesses for the plaintiff, including expert witnesses
- Copies of all evidence, which may include photographs, video or voice recordings, and other physical items
- Domestic violence police reports
- Written police or court statements filed by the plaintiff
- Transcripts of the temporary restraining order (TRO) hearing
Defending Against a Domestic Assault Charge
There are three primary defenses against a domestic assault charge. The defendant may choose to plead not guilty on the grounds that he or she was not involved in the incident that caused the injuries. This can be difficult to prove and may be especially problematic without the expertise of a domestic assault lawyer. If the plaintiff can provide evidence and witnesses that establish you were involved in the incident, this type of defense strategy is likely to fail.
Secondly, there’s the self-defense doctrine, which can be applied to domestic violence cases, as well as to other types of assaults. You must be able to show that you caused the injuries as a result of defending yourself against “imminent bodily harm,” which the plaintiff was attempting to inflict. The degree of force the defendant used must be that which any reasonable person would use in similar circumstances. In this defense strategy, your attorney will have to show that the force used was necessary to protect against the unlawful show of force perpetrated by the plaintiff.
Finally, a third defense is to prove that the charges are resulting from a de minimis infraction. This means that the act was too minor and shouldn’t fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal court. Under some circumstances, an injury may result accidentally, or where the defendant never intended to cause harm. For instance, grabbing an individual’s wrist and causing a sprain, where the act was meant to prevent them from falling. In these types of situations, a de minimis infraction defense may be the best course of action.
A domestic assault conviction can have long-lasting consequences. In addition to incarceration or probation, a conviction can result in a loss of your living situation or employment and it may affect your custody rights as a parent. This is why it’s so important to work with an experienced domestic violence attorneys, such as William Hanlon Tampa Criminal Attorney. An initial consultation will help you understand your rights and gain a professional assessment of your situation.