How Does Police Determine The Aggressor In Domestic Violence?

Over the past 25 years that I've been in practice, the criteria for domestic violence has expanded in many ways, especially in San Fernando Valley, California. Domestic violence occurs when one or both members of a domestic partnership or relationship cause physical harm to the other.

The harm has to be physical, so simply yelling at someone would not be considered domestic violence. It also has to be physical damage done unlawfully, which means that a person who is being attacked and is exercising self-defense would not be charged with domestic violence.

When determining who the aggressor was in a domestic violence situation, police will be considering who caused the most damage, who is the larger party, and who won the fight. Often, these determinations are made unfairly because the police were not there and did not see what happened. When one party injures another while reasonably defending themselves, they are often arrested, which is unfair.

In determining who the aggressor was, the police are put in a challenging position. This is because the people involved in these situations are often emotional and manipulate the facts to avoid getting into trouble. It is not uncommon for the watch commander or sergeant to be called out to the scene to help determine which person was the aggressor. Even the prosecutors must sometimes second-guess the police when deciding which person was the aggressor.

Additional Charges A California Domestic Violence Arrest

Several additional charges may accompany a domestic violence arrest in LA County. If a couple is married and living together and physical force occurs between them, then Penal Code Section 273.5 would apply.

Another charge I see is Penal Code 243(e)(1), when physical force occurs between two people who are cohabitating, such as a boyfriend and girlfriend. I can often get these charges reduced to a 242 (simple battery) or 415 (disturbing the peace), even if the person was responsible for what they did.

It will depend on what happened, how bad the injuries were, and whether or not it is difficult to determine which person was the aggressor. There will be some battery charge in most cases, and the guilty party will have to take domestic violence courses, pay fines, and be on probation for three years. Depending on the gravity of what occurred, there may be other ramifications, including jail time.

Does the Police Make An Arrest Regardless Of Circumstances?

When the police are called out to a domestic violence situation in San Fernando Valley, they will usually arrest unless it can be determined that no one was physically injured. If it were just a couple of people shouting at each other and a neighbor calling the police, then the police probably would not make an arrest. If the police cannot determine the aggressor, they will arrest and charge both parties.

This can work to the defense's benefit by creating a problem for the prosecutor. When the case goes to trial or some hearing, and one party testifies, they may say something to incriminate themselves. If a person is charged with domestic violence in the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles, they want to obtain a criminal lawyer and be careful about what they say.

How a Prosecutor Proves a Domestic Violence Case