Los Angeles Domestic Violence Attorney

Your first move should be to hire an attorney that handles domestic violence cases in the courthouse where your case is pending. Hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney will increase your chances of a favorable outcome. Get a face-to-face consultation with a lawyer and begin the process of defending yourself and preserving your good name.

Domestic violence is described as physical, mental, or verbal abuse occurring in a family setting or intimate relationship. Incidents of domestic violence may occur between spouses, intimate partners, children, and siblings. Many cases of domestic violence remain unreported. However, when a domestic violence incident is reported to law enforcement, either by the victim or a witness, the incident is always thoroughly investigated.

Because of the political pressures related to domestic violence / spousal abuse cases, the police, prosecutors, and judges take a hard line in dealing with these matters. Most of the time, they arrest the aggressor and make them post a $50,000 bail and are demanding when it comes to the terms of any resolution.

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The way to turn the tide in your favor is to hire a local attorney who has defended people like you in similar situations time and time again. Hire a domestic violence attorney who knows how to present your story to the players in the system that will ultimately make the decisions that dictate the impact your criminal arrest will have on your life, future, freedom, and reputation.

Once your story is presented in the right way and any defenses you may have been asserted, you will be in a much stronger position to defend yourself and obtain a result that you can live with. Without the representation of a lawyer, this will be almost next to impossible.

Types of Domestic Violence Charges

When the police come out to a domestic violence call, it is police policy that they must arrest the aggressor if there is any sign of violence being used by any party. Also, a restraining order is usually placed on the purported aggressor, and when the case goes to court, the court will automatically place a protective order on the accused.

What happens to innocent unless proven guilty? In these cases, the police, prosecutors, and judges err on the side of watching their political backsides. They are concerned with what happens if they do not act, and the alleged victim ends up hurt or worse, and when someone is looking at them and their non-action as grounds for termination, etc.

We know how to handle these cases and get your side of the story to the right people, so things are handled fairly, and there is no rush to judgment without all of the facts being heard. “domestic violence” covers many offenses -from misdemeanors, wobblers,,, and felony charges. The Hedding Law Firm has experience defending clients in all California domestic violence cases, including;

  • Penal Code Section 243(e)(1) – Domestic Battery
  • Penal Code Section 273.5 – Corporal Injury on Spouse
  • Penal Code Section 422 – Criminal Threats
  • Penal Code Section 646.9 – Stalking
  • Penal Code Section 273.6 – Violating a Protective Order
  • Penal Code Section 653m – Making Annoying or Harassing Phone Calls
  • Penal Code Section 280 – Child Abduction
  • Penal Code Section 273d – Child Abuse
  • Penal Code Section 273(a) – Child Endangerment
  • Penal Code Section 136.1 – Intimidating a Witness
  • Penal Code Section 368 – Elder Abuse
  • Penal Code Section 136.2 – Criminal Protective Orders

Victims Can't Drop the Charges

There is a myth that a spouse or girlfriend can “drop” the charges after they called the police and you have been arrested. That is not true. The District Attorney's office will not drop domestic violence charges simply because time has passed and the victim wants to drop the charges. The decision is based on the 911 call, police report, whether there were any injuries, and whether there have been any prior acts of domestic violence.

Under California Evidence Code 1109, the prosecutor can make a motion to introduce evidence of prior acts of domestic violence, whether the incidents were charged as crimes or not – and it also includes acts of domestic violence against people other than the alleged victim in your case.

Our domestic violence lawyers in the San Fernando Valley have been doing this for years. Suppose only the victim, their coached children from a prior relationship, or another biased witness speaks to the officers after an incident. In that case, it makes sense for the police to arrest the person who was not there to defend themselves.

If this sounds familiar, I urge you to call us and set up a free, confidential, face-to-face (same-day) consultation with a criminal defense attorney at our law firm. You will be educated on the system where your case is pending, and we will set up a plan to resolve your specific situation and get you and your family back to everyday life.

Political Pressure to Make Domestic Violence Arrest

There are a lot of domestic violence cases filed in Los Angeles County. Unfortunately, when the police get a call and come out to a scene, home, or apartment, and they see someone is injured, they will make an arrest.

The police policy right now, LAPD, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is if someone has been injured in a domestic violence disturbance and can determine who the aggressor was and who caused the injuries, they are leaving that home with an arrest.

Domestic Violence Defense in Los Angeles
Police are pressured to arrest the aggressor in domestic violence and not leave the couple home alone.

They will not leave the parties at home and wish them the best of luck.  The problem is, they've got this policy because of a lot of political pressure from way back in the 1990s. This was related to situations where the police were not arresting the aggressor — not arresting anybody — and more severe events were occurring.

The bottom line is the police department does not want to be in a position where they're letting somebody go — not making an arrest — and something worse happens down the line. I can tell you right now when it comes to domestic violence cases in the San Fernando Valley, judges and prosecutors feel the same way.  They don't want to be the ones holding the ball.

In other words, they don't want to be the ones who didn't act, punish, or prosecute somebody involved in the domestic violence-related activity.

What If the Victim Won't Testify? 

One of the most common domestic violence / spousal abuse cases across the country is the misconception most people have that the prosecutors will drop it if the alleged victim decides they do not want to cooperate.

Unfortunately, because this is a common occurrence, the prosecutors will still pursue the case and expect that the alleged victim will not cooperate and try everything to prove the case regardless. New laws have been enacted, such as Proposition 115, which allows an investigating officer to testify about witness/victim statements at a preliminary hearing.

In effect, laws like Prop. 115 gives the prosecutors the right to sidestep the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Confrontation Clause. So it would help if you had an attorney that could get the advantage back for your defense. An attorney who can use the law as a weapon does not struggle to get around it like an obstacle. You can contact the Los Angeles domestic violence lawyer at our office to get legal assistance in that matter.

The best way to evaluate what it means to your case if the alleged victim does not want to testify is to sit down face to face with a domestic violence attorney in San Fernando Valley and give them all of the circumstances surrounding the case, so they can best decide how it will impact your particular case.

In a felony case, as we just touched on, if the alleged victim does not show up to the preliminary hearing, the prosecutors can still proceed by having the law enforcement officer who took the statement testify to what they said. However, this procedure typically will not work at trial…they will need to get the alleged victim into court. The defendant is not entitled to a preliminary hearing in a misdemeanor case. The prosecutors know they need to get the alleged victim into court to have the most robust case against the defendant.

See related: How Can You Be Found Not Guilty in a Domestic Violence Case?

Why Would A Prosecutor Decide Drop Domestic Violence Charges?

In domestic violence cases, sometimes the police arrest someone, and that person isn't guilty of the domestic violence charge. It was simply a scenario where the police were called out, and they had to arrest someone because that's their policy. The individual who gets arrested has to post a $50,000 bail, and they're given a court date, even though they might not be guilty. What I do, as your attorney, is get a letter over to the prosecuting agency.

Sometimes, I can even contact the investigating officer on the case and get them some of the mitigating evidence. The other party will send them a letter explaining what happened in some cases.

I believe in pre-filing intervention. Often, we get cases dismissed, and a lot of times, the authorities decide they don't have the evidence required to prosecute. Other times, it's the groundwork for what we're going to show, mitigation-wise, and we're just getting your version of events out there even before they have filed the case. We then have a foundation to start to resolve this matter for you.

Do I Have The Right To Defend Myself?

Self-defense is a valid defense in Los Angeles, California, regarding domestic violence and related matters. People have a right to defend themselves, and it makes sense that if someone attacks you, you're going to protect yourself. In many cases, I see that all people are trying to defend themselves. You are entitled to protect yourself when it comes to a domestic violence case, but you can only use the amount of force that is reasonable, under the circumstances, to protect yourself. If you use too much force against someone, the courts, juries, and prosecutors will not believe your self-defense claim.

How Will A Previous Conviction Impact My Case? 

The judge and the prosecutors may assume you are guilty if you've got a prior record and now you are committing another violent offense. However, you are entitled to have a jury decide whether you're innocent or guilty, whether they assume so. Another concern would be being on probation for the prior offense and picking up a new case. Then, you have likely violated your probation in Los Angeles County and put yourself in a position where you have to face a probation violation. It's essential to get an attorney on your side, especially if you're innocent in the new case. They're going to want to fight it and avoid that probation violation.

The standard for a probation violation is lower than for a criminal offense. You can go to trial on the new offense and be found not guilty but still have your probation violated. A judge found that you violated your probation by a preponderance of the evidence by engaging in some fight or violent behavior. It is imperative that you get an attorney who's been down this road before and knows how to defend against these types of offenses.

Am I Allowed To Speak To My Spouse?

When someone is arrested, they're typically taken to jail. They have to post a bail, which can be a fifty thousand or twenty thousand dollar bail, in Los Angeles County. The police will generally suggest that your spouse get a restraining order. They will also inform them that the police can issue them a temporary protective order.

If your spouse gets one of those and you contact your spouse, you will violate the order and face a new charge and potential jail time. If your spouse refuses to get a temporary protective order or a restraining order, you are allowed to contact them. If your spouse decides they don't want to have any protective order or restraining order and you get back together with them, the judge and prosecutor will put a full protective order on you once your court date comes.

You cannot be near your spouse while the case is pending and possibly after you get a conviction. People have to move out of their homes, and many don't have the financial resources to go somewhere else while the case is pending. We will have you start taking domestic violence courses to avoid this scenario.

When you get to court, we will argue that you have already begun taking domestic violence courses and are no longer a danger to your spouse. Then, we can try to get a level one protective order, where you can have peaceful contact with the other party.

What Should I Do If Offered a Plea Deal? 

Before you decide to accept any plea deal, you'll want to have your own private criminal defense attorney, who is familiar with domestic violence cases in the court where your case is pending, review the offer. You're going to want to sit down and go over all the details with them, and then your attorney will be in the best position to advise you.

Often, prosecutors are very tough on domestic violence cases in the Los Angeles area because they only get a one-sided version of what happened. They're not getting your side of the story. If you've been overcharged, it's up to your attorney to get lesser charges for you.

How Police Determine The Aggressor

In domestic violence cases, the police sometimes have rapid, difficult decisions to make because they have a policy that if they're called out to the scene of physical violence, they will arrest one of the parties or both of the parties. They're trying to determine who the aggressor is and who acted unlawfully.

The police are tasked with protecting the public and the victims of crime. Once they determine who the aggressor is, they will arrest one of the people. A lot of times, they get it wrong. Often, they shouldn't be stopping anyone, but they do. You need a top-level domestic violence defense attorney on your side to protect your rights, freedom, and reputation.

If there's some protective order, you don't want to go into your house because you may come in contact with your spouse. Under those circumstances, you would need to get some law enforcement to escort you. If there is no temporary protective order, you can go back to your house, but you should be extra careful because your spouse could call the police again, and then you're going to get arrested again and have two cases pending against you. Always get instructions from your criminal defense attorney.

Should I Ask My Girlfriend To Recant False Allegations Of Abuse?

If your girlfriend lied about what happened, she has an obligation and a responsibility. However, you have to realize that the prosecutors and the judges are used to the victim changing their stories for various reasons. The bottom line is they will likely still prosecute the case because it is tricky for prosecutors and police to tell whether the story is being changed. After all, it's the truth or if the victim is trying to protect their spouse.

You do not want to get involved with trying to get people to change their stories because you will end up being charged with intimidating a witness. If a person changes their account on their own, it will be up to the prosecutors and the judge to assess that and decide. Of course, your defense attorney should be there making arguments on your behalf and bringing evidence to support the new story.

When the police get to a domestic violence scene, they've got to make a snap decision on who the aggressor was and who the one who acted unlawfully was. A lot of times, the police get it wrong. They don't have all the information, and they have a policy of arresting people when there's been violence, and they're not always right.

The person who can help get it right for you is your domestic violence defense attorney. It would help if you gave them all the case's facts and circumstances. Let them do their job and help you. Then, you're going to be in a position to be able to make your arguments and show the prosecutor that you weren't the aggressor and you shouldn't have been arrested.

What If the Victim is Served with a Subpoena? 

To properly serve a witness in a criminal case in Los Angeles County, the person must be personally served. This means that someone must place the subpoena in their hands. Mailing the subpoena is not the proper way to help a person, and if the person does not show up, it is unlikely a criminal judge will issue a body attachment to arrest the person and bring them to court.

If, on the other hand, the alleged victim is personally served and the prosecutor can prove it, then at their discretion, they can ask the judge to issue a body attachment and send law enforcement out to arrest the person and bring them into court.

Prosecutors do not usually like to do this because they feel they are victimizing the victim again. However, if they think that the subject defendant is dangerous enough, they will have the victim arrested and not lose any sleep over it.

See related: How Can You Challenge a Domestic Violence Protective Order? 

What If the Victim Changes Their Story?

This is another common scenario that plays itself out every day of the week. Once again, unfortunately for the defendant, once that witness is placed on the witness stand and says something different than what they told the police, the prosecutor can then confront (impeach) them with their prior statement.

And, if they are a skilled attorney, they can usually make them look foolish in front of the jury, as though they are simply changing their story to help the defendant. Moreover, the prosecutor will then call the police officer who took the statement and parade every word in front of the jury. Then in their closing argument, they will tell the jury that the victim is lying because they are trying to help their significant other.

I could go for pages about different scenarios related to domestic violence charges, but the bottom line is that they are taken seriously, prosecuted swiftly, and punished severely. The only chance you have is to hire a seasoned domestic violence attorney that can tell your story and give the powers that be the other side of the equation.

You need your attorney to make your particular domestic situation stand out away from the thousands of guilty people who came in front of the court before you. It would help if you appeared to the prosecutors, not as the abuser the police reports make you out to be. Only a Master Attorney will be able to repaint the picture the prosecutor/juror has in their mind regarding the type of person they are. Our Encino-based criminal defense law firm represents clients charged with domestic violence throughout the San Fernando Valley, including Van Nuys, San Fernando, and LA County Courthouses.

Since the O.J. Simpson case, domestic violence (or spousal abuse cases) are now politically charged crimes that are difficult to deal with from a defense perspective. There are issues from the arrest to the initial court appearance to how the prosecutors deal with these cases.

That is why you must have an attorney behind you who knows the system and how to protect a client's rights, reputation, and freedom. This is where we come in. We have years of experience practicing as a domestic violence lawyers.

See related information: Understanding California Criminal Jury Instructions 840 – Inflicting Injury on Spouse Resulting in Traumatic Condition.

What Are the Penalties for Domestic Violence? 

While most domestic violence charges are considered misdemeanor offenses, payments can be enhanced if the victim was a minor or sustained severe bodily injuries. If a person is convicted of this crime, they may be sentenced to jail time, fines, court, and legal fees, community service, and probation, and it's defined as a crime of moral turpitude. Additionally, the person may be separated from their family and household if the victim chooses to get a restraining order.

After an arrest is made, the most critical time of a potential domestic violence case begins. The prosecutor's office often only has one side of the story because the defendant is not given a chance to tell their side without risking incriminating themselves. A local domestic violence attorney who knows the Los Angeles police and their customs may cut a criminal filing off at the pass with specific steps they can take. If nothing is done, charges become much more likely to be filed.

When it comes to punishments in domestic violence cases, they are all negotiable. In other words, not all punishments are the same, and if you have an attorney who is laser-focused on getting you what you need out of a domestic violence / spousal abuse case.

I sit down with the client and figure out the parameters for resolving your case. Once we have the plan in place, my job as a domestic violence lawyer in Los Angeles, CA, will be to convince the prosecutor and the judge of our position and get the result you deserve!

After a person has been charged, it is always in their best interest to speak with a qualified criminal lawyer who has experience handling these types of cases. A lawyer can carefully evaluate the person's case, protect the person's rights, and provide valuable advice throughout the legal process. Do not waste any valuable time, and call the Hedding Law Firm for a free case evaluation at (213) 542-0940. We will sit down with you and discuss all your available options.

Serious Injuries or Prior Domestic Violence Conviction

I have many clients arrested for domestic violence who get sent to Van Nuys court or San Fernando court, and they come in all distraught with their heads down, thinking that they've been charged with a felony. Most of the time, they're not going to get charged with a felony, and they haven't been charged with a felony.

The police can't charge anybody with anything.  They can arrest somebody for something. They can mark some boxes, but ultimately, the prosecutors in the San Fernando Valley courthouses are the ones who decide whether someone is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor in a domestic violence situation.

Difference Between a Felony and Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Case in the San Fernando Valley
Most domestic violence charges are a misdemeanor, unless there is a serious injury or a prior conviction.

The reason people think they're going to be charged with a felony is a lot of times, the police mark that box, and their bail is typically $50,000.00, which appears to be a felony bail. You're not going to get charged with a felony in a domestic violence case unless there's a severe injury or a prior conviction for a domestic violence case in Los Angeles county.

So, that gives you a pretty good idea that people aren't going to be charged with a felony most of the time. Felonies are severe, and you shouldn't get charged with a felony if there's no significant injury in the case. The prosecutor could allege a significant bodily injury in a domestic violence case in more severe cases. 

So, the first thing you want to do is get an attorney.  Come to somebody like me who's been doing this for 26 years, knows how to handle these cases, knows how to win an issue if you've got the evidence.

Negotiation with Prosecutor

You need a defense lawyer who knows how to negotiate the case if you've done something wrong.  That's what it's all about — figuring out what the right thing to do is and doing it to the best of your ability.

If you or a loved one is charged with a domestic violence case, you're concerned the person is going to get convicted of a felony, you've got to get an attorney to defend their rights, their freedom, their reputation, and all the things that they hold dear in their life.

Negotiation with Prosecutor in Los Angeles Domestic Violence Cases
If charged with domestic violence, you need a lawyer who knows how to negotiate with the prosecutor.

The San Fernando Valley court system is very reasonable.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of domestic violence cases, and it's a very political thing, so they're cautious about how they handle these cases. They're careful about whether the claim is filed as a felony or a misdemeanor.  But the critical thing for you is, if you or a loved one is charged with one of these cases, you've got to get an attorney.

You've got to get a warrior, a champion — someone who will stick up for you — someone who will show the prosecutors and the judge who you are, really ferret out the case. Sometimes people have defenses in the case.  Sometimes things aren't exactly what they appear to be, and the truth lies in the middle of these domestic violence cases in the San Fernando Valley.

I know what it takes to win these cases.  I know what it takes to negotiate these cases if necessary, and I know how to protect your family and rights. When the prosecutors file these cases, automatically, a protective order goes into place.  That means that you could be blocked from seeing your family.

You could be blocked from going home.  Your whole life can be overturned when you're charged with a domestic violence charge. So, you've got to come to somebody ready to fight for you, who has the experience, the know-how, and the street smarts to fight for you and get the job done.

Negotiation with the prosecutor might be possible. For example, through prefiling intervention, we might be able to persuade law enforcement and the prosecution to file formal charges in the first place. This is known as a "DA reject," occurring after the arrest but before the first court appearance.