Criminal Defense in Orange County

Legal Representation in Domestic Violence Cases - Part I

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 heated argument.

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 be $50,000.

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.