I've been practicing in San Fernando for twenty-five years, and I have an excellent familiarity with what is being done related to domestic charges in the San Fernando Courthouse. First off, you have to realize that the District Attorney's office, which prosecutes felonies in that courthouse, has a particular unit that only deals with domestic violence cases. So, if your case is filed as a felony, you will get your specially-assigned prosecutor.
There are about five or six of them, and there's also a head prosecutor in charge of what they call the VIP unit, referred to as the Victim Impact Unit. They handle domestic violence cases, sex crime cases, stalking cases, and other cases where there are victims or families involved. I've seen them also handle child abuse cases. Misdemeanor domestic battery is covered under California Penal Code 243(e)(1). Corporal injury to a spouse is a wobbler and covered under California Penal Code 273.5.
Individuals like those charged in domestic violence spousal abuse sex crime cases will be looked at with a hard line because the special prosecutors have the issues versus situations where you're just a general case going through the court.
You will be dealt with by the prosecutor who sits in the court where your case is pending, that prosecutor has many other cases they have to deal with, so they're not putting a stern eye on you.
Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Cases
As far as domestic violence cases that are filed as misdemeanors, those are typically dealt with by the City Attorney's office. They will also usually assign a special prosecutor to handle the misdemeanor case. This has come about this special prosecutor thing in domestic violence cases because of all of the political pressure put on the police, judges, and prosecutors who punish people who commit these domestic violence cases.
So, this is what I would characterize as a targeted crime — a crime the prosecutors have targeted t prosecute seriously. If you get convicted of a domestic violence case, just bare minimum, you're looking at being placed on probation for three to five years. You're looking at losing your gun rights for ten years.
In some cases, having a felony, you're looking at losing the right to vote. Also, you're looking at doing a 52-week domestic violence course which is once a week for 52 weeks, and a host of other potential punishments depending on what happened, who the prosecutor is, whether there was any injury, how strong the prosecutor's case, whether you have a prior criminal record.
All of these facts are taken into account in a domestic violence case, so it's imperative that you get a criminal lawyer like me who's handled these cases before, knows the prosecutors, knows the judges, knows what's fair, and knows what's not fair.
Pre-Filing Intervention in Domestic Violence Cases
Some of these cases we can deal with in pre-filing intervention. I'll send a letter to the filing deputies giving your version of events, character letters, and any evidence we may have that attacks witnesses or the alleged victim's statement so we can try to avoid a filing altogether.
I recently had a case in San Fernando where the client was arrested. The victim had terrible injuries, but she caused her injuries. She fell on top of a mirror herself when she acted like a nut and wouldn't let my client leave the house.
That was a circumstance when the police come they have body cam, and they have an actual lousy injury — they've got my client there, there's an argument between the two of them, my client gets arrested, has to post $100,000.00 bail and is facing some serious charges.
We got to the filing deputy in San Fernando quickly. We got my client's version of events. My client's version of events is most likely supported by the evidence because once the prosecutors look at the body cam evidence, look at the statement of the alleged victim, look at my client's account, look at the injuries, look at the set-up of the house, they realize, you know what, this guy shouldn't have been arrested.
He should not be charged with domestic violence in San Fernando, and they never filed the case. So, that was a great example — pre-filing intervention, no charges filed, my client's done. Unfortunately, he was arrested, embarrassed as opposed to bailing, but once you get that non-filing, you're in a solid position to get rid of your arrest record and move on with your life. So, that's one area of domestic violence cases that you can attack.
Another area is if it's a bad case and they don't have the evidence, but you got arrested anyways, contact a reasonable attorney like me. We'll go in there and get our side of the story and our proof, and we go to trial. We beat them, and that can be done in a domestic violence case assuming that you've got the evidence, you've got the correct argument, you use the jury instructions, and you show the jury the person is not guilty.
The Burden of Proof in Domestic Violence Cases
Remember, the prosecutors in these domestic violence cases have the burden of proof and must prove every crime element under CALCRIM 840. They've got to prove that the person is guilty. The person doesn't have to prove anything.
I say you have to prove that you're innocent. Still, the bottom line is, I they don't' put forth the evidence that shows that you're guilty of domestic violence — lay out all of the elements that you were the aggressor — that you've committed some injury against the other party and that you were not acting in self-defense; defense of property under the right circumstances or simply defending yourself. If the facts vote in your favor, you should get the not guilty verdict.
The other way these persons are held, probably the majority of the way, is that they are negotiated through a plea bargain. Sometimes people get mad. They do things they shouldn't do, and now it's time for us to do damage control.
We get character letters together; we make the right moves to show the prosecutor and the judge that your actions were an aberration. They're not going to happen again. You've got a lot to lose — a family, a job, a career — whatever the case may be.
We layout your version of events. Sometimes the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The prosecutors don't have all the facts because the police did a sloppy domestic violence investigation. We're going to give them our side, and we're going to show them this is the way the case should be resolved. Get the matter taken care of and get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible. Contact the Hedding Law Firm for help.
San Fernando's jury pool is very conservative, but they're also reasonably-minded individuals. If you have a case you can win because the prosecutors do not have the evidence to convict you, you will need a great attorney to champion your cause and put on the evidence that shows your version of events. Attack the prosecutor's proof so you can get that not guilty verdict.