Are Courts Biased in Domestic Violence Cases
Many defendants in domestic violence court feel like the system is out to ruin their lives. Over the years, several of the clients I represented became jobless and homeless after being arrested. Some people have a very hard time
attending the mandatory classes and couseling, coming to court, and complying with their probation requirements such as staying in contact with a probation officer. A few clients feel the court experience has helped them. Considering the volume of problem cases domestic violence court handles the court works remarkably well. However, everyone working in domestic violence courtrooms knows the system can fail tragically.
On October 24, 2005 a domestic violence defendant who had 8 felony D.V. convictions was arrested for murdering his ex-girlfriend and stuffing her body in the trunk of his Honda Civic. He had just been released from the S.F. jail the week before and was under a court order to attend a 52-week domestic violence counseling program, having been in D.V. court since December, 2001. In 2004 a husband was arrested in San Francisco for murdering his wife. At the time he slit her throat he was a model participant in his domestic violence classes. In 2000 a San Francisco woman was stabbed to death in her Richmond District apartment by her ex-boyfriend in front of her two children. She had made two police reports against him before the killing. Alcohol and drugs are often involved in domestic violence incidents. Many defendants have mental health issues such as anger and depression. The court tries to change defendants’ behavior and that is a tough job.
Judges want to enforce the laws and bring criminals to justice. That places them firmly on the side of the prosecution. The domestic violence court can seem more biased than most because it is a behavior modification department and the judges there tend to be involved in the cases. When the court first opened in Department 18 the judges allowed posters depicting battered women and children to be put on the courtroom walls. The probation department has a desk in the courtroom and encourages the judge to take a harsh line against domestic violence probationers.
Prosecutors persistently state that women accused of being batterers really are offenders, even after they are forced to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. A prosecutor believes that the case a defendant was arrested on is only the tip of the iceberg. They will insist a person is guilty after one of their own domestic violence experts writes a report saying that the woman is the true victim. However the D.A. dismisses some cases and greatly reduces the charges in others. Once a defendant is convicted and placed on probation he or she can be jailed by a judge for minor acts of wrongdoing.
The state provides special funding for prosecuting these cases. In San Francisco all domestic violence cases are prosecuted in a special court, Department 13, by a special unit of the district attorney’s office. The police have a separate investigation unit set up for domestic violence. The district attorney has an office of social workers that talks to victims and encourages them to cooperate with the prosecution. Prosecutors often use domestic violence experts to testify about patterns of domestic abuse.
Men are victims too. Male on female violence gets all the publicity. Male victims are stigmatized and ignored. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control, “approximately 1.5 million women and 834,732 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.” This figure means at least 36 percent of the victims of domestic violence are men (ncjrs.org). California State University maintains an online bibliography of over 174 studies showing “women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners” at
One of the studies is the most comprehensive analysis of existing research on the topic ever published (Archer, Psych. Bulletin, 11/00), which found that 38 percent of injured victims are men and that self-defense does not explain the female violence. A report by the California Research Bureau shows that thousands of men seek shelter-based services every year.
Health & Safety Code section 124250 excludes them from services, including motel vouchers and court advocacy, because of their gender.
Related to court bias is the bail issue. Why should a person or their family have to post bail at the felony level when the victim’s injuries are minor and the case is going to be charged as a misdemeanor? Why do judges order defendants who haven’t posted bail to participate in batterer’s counseling before they have been
convicted of domestic violence? Why is a defendant who cannot afford to post bail required to stay in jail right up to the day of trial and sometimes beyond that on a marginal case?
Experienced Domestic Violence Lawyer
The stakes are high in a California domestic violence case. A criminal conviction for domestic battery or criminal threats in California may result in jail, large fines, mandatory domestic violence counseling sessions which meet weekly for one year, mandatory alcohol education classes, personal conduct orders, stay away orders, temporary restraining orders, and other punishment. For that reason, it is critical that that a person charged with domestic assault, domestic battery, criminal threats or stalking have only a qualified domestic violence defense lawyer to handle the case from the earliest possible moment.
Contact The Office
Robert Tayac is recognized as being among the top domestic violence lawyers in California and represents clients in criminal cases related to domestic violence, assault and battery, and applications for and responses to restraining orders. Attorneys, investigators and experts working with this highly specialized law office represent clients in the Northern California criminal courts located in San Francisco, San Mateo Marin, Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Napa counties. Additionally, lawyers of this law firm represent clients seeking or defending against temporary restraining orders and no harassment orders before the superior courts of San Francisco, San Rafael, Redwood City, South San Francisco, Napa, Oakland, Palo Alto, Walnut Creek, San Jose and Santa Rosa. The firm accepts only California domestic battery cases, California temporary restraining order actions or California driving under the influence cases.
The stakes are high in a California domestic violence case. An arrest for domestic battery, domestic assault, criminal threats or stalking in California may result in actual jail, large fines, mandatory 52 weeek batterer's treatment program, mandatory alcohol education classes, and other punishment. For that reason, it is important that you have only a qualified California criminal defense lawyer handling your domestic violence case from the beginning. If you or someone you know has been or may be accused of domestic violence, we invite you to read the information contained in this website and welcome you to call our office and discuss your case with a domestic violence lawyer. If you prefer, you may submit a confidential case questionnaire which will be reviewed by a member of our firm and receive a prompt response.
If you hire Robert Tayac to handle your
case, you will know your case is being properly handled by a knowledgeable, experienced, and trustworthy California criminal defense lawyer.
Office Locations and Areas We Serve
Mr. Tayac represents clients who have been arrested in the following counties as well as other cities throughout California and can meet clients at one of several office locations in Northern California.
This website is about California’s domestic violence laws and the
San Francisco and Bay Area courts.
Domestic violence cases in California frequently must be fought. Many people
arrested for domestic violence are innocent. A person doesn't have to commit a crime to be taken to jail by the police, especially in domestic abuse cases.