Domestic violence cases pose unique problems for both the criminal attorney and his client.
An attorney that is unfamiliar with the nuances of these cases cannot
effectively represent his client and may, in fact, seriously compromise the case.
The domestic violence case usually begins without a police officer observing
a crime. As opposed to a DUI case, where an officer pulls an individual
over for weaving, a police officer typically responds to a domestic violence
case by way of a 911 call. Often, this call is made during or after a
The penal code defines domestic violence as abuse against an individual
who is closely related, either by marriage or previous marriage, a current
or former cohabitant, or an individual with whom the alleged suspect has
had a romantic relationship or has a child. A simple argument with a stranger
is not domestic violence.
Often times, people in romantic relationships say and do things that they
later regret. Emotions often run high and rational thinking goes out the window.
Although many 911 domestic violence calls are certifiable emergencies,
many are made just to scare the other party. A lot of people believe police
officers are like referees who can be summoned any time, day or night,
to lend a sympathetic ear to individuals experiencing domestic difficulties.
This could not be farther from the truth.
Many times I have spoken to people who have called the police in these
types of cases and they informed me, "I only wanted the police to
tell him to leave." The police don't do this. Any individual
who thinks a police officer will just make the parties go to neutral corners
is sorely mistaken.
Police officers generally do not like responding to domestic violence calls.
Tensions are high as is the possibility of danger. If there is an accusation
of physical violence, a police officer must investigate the incident as
an assault. This generally means someone is going to jail, and bail can
If an individual is fortunate enough to be able to post bail, he/she will
usually be served with a restraining order. I have heard numerous inexperienced
attorneys tell their clients to essentially violate the restraining order
by going home to pick up clothing or the like. A restraining order means
stay away, period!
Many years ago, I was retained to represent a man charged with domestic
violence. Upon release from custody, his previous attorney told him to
go pick up some clothes. The client was immediately rearrested when he
returned home for violating the restraining order.
Part II of this series will deal with the evidential issues presented in
domestic violence cases.
Contact the law office of Barney B. Gibbs if you or a loved one has been
charged with domestic violence in Orange County and would like to know
more about your case.