I've been filing domestic violence cases now for approximately 30 years, and I think the short and simple answer as to how you could be found not guilty is if your attorney can convince a jury of your peers that you did not commit the crime.
That takes a lot of things. Even though that answer is quick and straightforward, the process of doing a jury trial is not fast and precise, and sometimes it's complicated to calculate whether or not you could win a domestic violence case.
Often, what I see happening are your significant other calls the police or somebody else calls the police. They come out. They see injuries, and your significant other, witnesses, or both, tell the police that you're the one that unlawfully caused the injuries.
Meaning, you're the one that did that for no lawful justification. For example, you weren't defending yourself, and you ended up getting arrested.
Now you've got a case, and you're loved on decides, for whatever reason, that they don't want you to get a conviction. So, they're now going to tell the prosecutors and police that they don't want you convicted, or they're going to change their story and say that you didn't do what they claim you initially did.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will review this topic in more detail below in this article.
Common California Domestic Violence Charges
- Penal Code 243(e)(1) PC - Domestic Battery;
- Penal Code 273.5 PC - Corporal Injury to a Spouse;
- Penal Code 273.6 PC - Violating a Restraining or Protective Order;
- Penal Code 273a PC - Child Endangerment;
- Penal Code 273d PC - Child Abuse;
- Penal Code 368 PC - Elder Abuse;
- Penal Code 136.1 PC – Dissuading a Witness or Victim;
- Penal Code 422 PC – Criminal Threats;
- Penal Code 646.9 PC – Stalking;
Can The Victim Refuse to Press Charges?
No. Victims don't have the authority to make this decision. So, I get a lot of people coming to me, saying, so I can get that not guilty now because my significant other has changed their story. But what they don't realize, especially if they've never been charged with domestic violence in Los Angeles County, is that the prosecutors don't care about that.
What they care about is whether or not you committed a crime against your significant other and whether or not they can prove it. If they think you did it and they think they can prove it, then they're going to prosecute you, regardless of what your significant other says. It's a commonplace in LA that a significant other, for various reasons, change their story.
Common Domestic Violence Example
A perfect example is when the breadwinner becomes angry and strikes the typical case. That wife realizes that if he gets convicted, I will be in a position where the money will stop.
Maybe he goes to jail, whatever the case may be. So, what I'm going to do, is I'm going to change my story. But the prosecutors already know that, and you have to realize if that is a very political crime if you know anything about California and domestic violence.
So, they don't care about that. What they'll do it, all they need to do is get your significant other to court. Then, it doesn't matter what your significant other says. Then they're in a position where they can call the police, and law enforcement will come in and testify as to what your significant other initially said.
Sometimes, nowadays, they've got bodycam evidence of it, so they'll get that statement in, and then the prosecutor is going to argue, they're changing their story now but look at the injuries.
Look at what they said before. The question becomes, why would they lie before? Sometimes there's an answer to that. Sometimes a person wants to divorce, so they make up domestic violence.
Sometimes they feel like they might get arrested because the police come out and both parties have injuries, and they're trying to determine who the aggressor is. So, of course, they're going to tell a story that makes them look good, and the other person looks terrible because they don't want to go away into the police vehicle.
Explaining the Evidence Against You
So, it's one of those circumstances if you want to get a not-guilty verdict, you're going to have to overcome that argument. You're going to have to be able to explain why your significant other said what they say, and you're going to have to be able to explain whatever evidence it is that the prosecutors have. Whether that's pictures of injuries, witnesses, or damage inside the house, whatever the case may be.
I had a case in Valencia several years ago. My client was the husband. He was accused of punching the wife in the face, attacking her, and threatening her. He said I didn't punch her in the face. I didn't do any of that stuff. We were arguing, and she became angry when my son and the wife had decided that she wasn't going to stick with her original story, but the prosecutors were still prosecuting my client.
An example of where I did get a not guilty verdict in that Valencia case is you have to look at the facts. She claimed that my 225-pound client punched her in the face, and she didn't have any injuries on her face consistent with being stuck in the face. If a big guy that likes that punches you, you're going to have some pretty bag damage on your face probably.
So, now you're looking at the jury, saying, look, there are no injuries. If he punched her, how come there are no injuries? Then, you've got to figure out what's the motive for her to do this?
At the time, we contended that she was thinking about getting a divorce, and she had consulted with a divorce attorney, so this was going to be a perfect angle for her because it's an atomic bomb in a divorce case if you can get a conviction for domestic violence against the other party.
You can get a domestic violence restraining order against that person. That kills the other side, so that's an excellent motive to lie. So, now you've got inconsistent facts. You've got a reason to lie. We could argue several other things to the jury, and we got the not guilty verdict.
Seeking a Not Guilty Verdict in Domestic Violence
So, that gives you a pretty good illustration of what you're going to need to get a not guilty verdict. It's not going to be good enough that your significant other has changed their story. Prosecutors are used to that.
You're used to getting around that, and they don't care. They're going to subpoena your significant other to come and testify. If they don't testify the way they want them to, then they're going to use the police to impeach them. They'll use other evidence to impeach them – photographs of injuries, witnesses if they're available – whatever the case may be.
So, if you're looking to try to get a not-guilty verdict, you've got to get a great attorney. I've done close to 250 jury trials. I've done thousands of domestic violence cases over the years, so I know what it takes to get a not guilty verdict.
You have to get an attorney who has the skill set to do it for you. The last thing I would say to you is if you can't get a not guilty verdict because the prosecutors and police have done an excellent job. They're called the evidence against you, and, frankly, you're guilty, then you're going to need an attorney who can evaluate the case and tell you that.
You don't want some attorney to lie to you and make it sound like you can win, take your money, and not only do you go through the time and stress of a jury trial, but you waste good money only to be found guilty and, lastly, probably get a worse punishment than you would have earned if you would have worked the case out.
So, when you look at the jury instructions for domestic violence, you're looking at whether or not you did something physical to your significant other, causing some injury. That's that Penal Code Section 273.5 PC corporal injury to a spouse, and of course, you had to do it unlawfully.
You can undoubtedly defend it. You get a jury instruction of self-defense, if, for example, your significant other was attacking you and you were defending yourself when you did anything physical to them, then you could use the jury instruction for self-defense. See related chalk talk video on domestic violence defense.
How the Hedding Law Firm Can Help You
But, the bottom line is those jury instructions layout each element of domestic violence – the unlawful act, the injury, and you don' have any self-defense. You'd be found guilty if the prosecutors can meet those elements. If, on the other hand, they can't meet those elements, like in the Valencia case I mentioned to you, then you get the not-guilty verdict.
So, if you're looking to figure out if you could get a not-guilty verdict in a domestic violence case in Los Angeles, pick up the phone. Set a meeting with me. I've been doing this a long time. I'm very approachable.
I will tell you the truth. I will look at everything. I will need all of the pieces of the puzzle, as well. So, come in and don't leave things out. Don't lessen what happened. Tell me what happened. Tell me what you believe the police have as evidence, and then I'll give you a good idea of whether or not you can get that not-guilty verdict.
The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles and offers a free case review by phone, or you can fill out our contact form.