Difficulties Prosecuting Domestic Violence Cases

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingDec 02, 2019

The prosecutors do have a difficult road to prosecuting many California domestic violence cases in Los Angeles. Often, what happens — and they are used to this — is that the alleged victim decides they don't want the person prosecuted.

So, now the prosecutors have to deal with somebody in their camp who is adverse to them and what they're trying to do.  Realize, the prosecutors are simply trying to protect victims of domestic violence. They're trying to make sure that those who batter other individuals or hurt them are prosecuted and are deterred from committing future domestic violence-related offenses.

So, with their eye towards protecting the victim, if the victim tries to change their story, which is one of the big problems that prosecutors run into, they don't care.  They're still going to prosecute the person.  They will use the police to charge them.

Difficulties Prosecuting Los Angeles Domestic Violence Cases

If the person gets on the witness stand, for example, and tries to change their story — tries to help the defendant in the case — the prosecutors will, of course, confront them and say, wait a minute, back then look, you've got a black eye, and you told the police that this person hit you.

Now you're just trying to say this to help them because they're your only source of income; they're the father of your child, whatever the case may be.

So, then the prosecutors will call the police officer who took the statement and say, when you went out there and took the information, the person was crying, they had a black eye, they said that Bill is the one that hit them and they gave a complete description of it.  Did they seem sincere to you?  Yes, they did.  So, you're not just going to lose the case because someone doesn't cooperate, but this is a problem for the prosecutors.

If someone is trying to take back domestic violence-related charges, it can sometimes work to the defendant's benefit.  Other times, it doesn't make a difference. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will explain further below.

Victim Doesn't Cooperate With Prosecutor

Another problem in prosecuting these domestic violence cases is that once the case is set for trial or if the case is set for a preliminary hearing in a felony, the alleged victim doesn't want to cooperate. They don't show up to the court proceedings. The fact that they try to evade trying to be served with a case so they don't have to appear creates another problem for the prosecutors in trying to prosecute these cases.

There is a case called People v. Crawford that will allow the prosecutors in certain circumstances to be able to put on other evidence of the victim's statement instead of having the victim there live and in person.  Sometimes the police will capture the statement on bodycam.

Sometimes it will just be the police officer saying what the person said.  Usually, that would be hearsay, and most of the time, I'm able to keep those types of statements out of the record. Still, there are some occasions where the prosecutors are able in domestic violence cases to get those statements in against the defendant, and that's a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the jury is scratching their head, saying, how come the alleged victim isn't here to tell us their story.  I don't know if I believe what this police officer tells me.  On the other hand, the defense doesn't get an opportunity to cross-examine the alleged victim, ask them any questions.  So, that makes it difficult as well.

So, you have to know the case well as a defense attorney, learn what it's going to take to defend the case if you're going to take it to trial, and sometimes the victim not showing up — though it is a problem for the prosecutors — can also operate as a problem for the defense.

Developing a Defense Strategy with an Attorney

So, prosecutors face all sorts of problems in dealing with these cases. Still, they're used to dealing with these problems, and they have counter-measures to try and deal with an uncooperative victim, for example or other issues that may pop up in the case.

The best thing to do as a defendant and defense attorney is to coordinate together to develop a plan that best suits the case.  In other words, anticipate what some of the problems the prosecutors are going to face in dealing with the case and figure out how you can best use those problems to your advantage to get the best result in your domestic violence case and make sure that you capitalize on those problems when they come up. Hopefully, those problems don't become your problems in the criminal case.