Domestic Violence Trial Issues
Most domestic violence criminal cases do not go to trial. If the facts are against you the lawyers discuss the facts and make a
plea bargain. When the facts are in your favor often your case will need to be ready for trial before the
district attorney will dismiss it. The D.A.’s office is more likely to go to trial on close domestic violence cases. If you plead guilty to make peace with your spouse and get on with your life your decision will haunt you. A domestic violence conviction can become a club your partner will use to beat you over the head with. Even if you lose your job and supporting your children becomes a problem maintaining your innocence is more important.
Going to trial is among the worst experiences you can have. Even if a jury of twelve of your peers does not convict you a trial is an emotionally and financially draining and your life is put on display. However, if you do risk trial in a misdemeanor domestic violence case and lose it is unlikely that the judge who hears your case will throw the book at you at sentencing. After most judges hear the evidence in a close case they will have some compassion for you. Judges threaten to throw the book at defendants if they are convicted because they want to discourage time-consuming trials. Some judges will make good on that threat. If you give up your right not to testify and take the witness stand and the judge thinks you lied, that would go against you at sentencing.
The prosecution has to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and jurors must unanimously agree on your guilt for every count you’re convicted of. An acquittal by a jury does not mean you are innocent. It means the district attorney could not present enough evidence to get a conviction. A defense that comes up a lot in
domestic violence cases is that you were defending yourself, or that you did not cause the other person’s injuries. A more difficult defense is that the other person is making the whole thing up. Even when the victim retracts their first statement and says that they made it up the prosecutor will usually continue to prosecute the case saying the first statements are the spontaneous and contemporaneous and therefore truthful. Why would a victim make up a story about what happened? Even if the victim makes small contradictory statements, usually only large inconsistencies can damage a victim’s credibility.
One unique obstacle to a defendant pleading guilty in a domestic violence case is that the judge tells the court reporter to go off the record and makes the defendant admit that they committed an act of violence against the victim. One reason for this is that domestic violence batterers treatment programs will not accept a person who will not admit to having committed an act of violence. Judges sometimes refuse to allow a defendant to plead guilty if they don’t freely admit to having been violent, when it appears that the defendant is making the admission just to get out of jail.
Defendants often ask, if my partner is making this all up, this case shouldn’t have been filed at all because nothing happened, why should the case be taking so long and costing so much? The hardest cases to defend are the cases where you actually have a defense. In a surprising amount of cases a person with a good defense will want to plead guilty just to get on with their lives and “get it over with.” I once had a civil restraining order case where a man did that in another county (on the bad advice of a lawyer) and his ex-girlfriend began stalking him afterwards.
Sometimes it is hard for a client to accept that a weak case for the prosecution is much harder to defend than a strong case. When the D.A. has a slam-dunk case a domestic violence attorney makes the best deal possible by presenting mitigating facts about their client. When the prosecution has a weak case it’s a lot of work and it is stressful. All the good facts of your case have to be supported by as much evidence as possible. The D.A. may use expert testimony to introduce evidence of domestic violence patterns. Your own D.V. expert can give you a test and give an opinion as to whether or not you fit the profile of a batterer, the test results are confidential unless you choose to disclose them to the prosecution. Lie detector test results are not admissible in court and are expensive.
Prosecutors are serious about domestic violence cases, and if they think they have a chance of a conviction they will go to trial. Some of the weaker trial cases are handed off to volunteer attorneys from civil law firms who want to get courtroom experience. The courtroom is set up to give an advantage to the prosecution, on the theory that they have the burden of proof. The
district attorneys in San Francisco usually know the facts of their cases and have meaningful pretrial discussions with defense attorneys.
It is important that defense attorneys take strong cases to trial. It takes many hours of work to prepare for trial, and you and your domestic violence lawyer have to spend lot of time waiting to go out to trial in an available courtroom, usually on a no time waiver basis, which increases the chances of getting a dismissal. Remember that ultimately you are responsible for your own case.
The consequence of being on probation is a severe restriction of your personal liberty, and the complaining witness will have successfully manipulated the system, or have been manipulated by the system, to get the defendant unfairly convicted. Going to trial in a
domestic violence case is emotionally devastating for a defendant, even if they are acquitted at the end of it. Getting convicted of something you didn’t do, or for the one time you fought back acting in self-defense, is worse.
If you have a serious doubt about how your domestic violence attorney is preparing your case for trial bring it up well before the trial date. Go to the clerk’s office and add your case to calendar if you have to, and let your lawyer know about the additional court date. The judge may decide not to let you change lawyers. You don’t have the right to the lawyer of your choice, only the right to have a competent lawyer.
Some clients try to get an advantage by setting their case for trial on a no time waiver basis, a tactic that puts pressure on the D.A. to dismiss the weakest cases, but which can also jeopardize your job when the judge starts to order you to come to court every day. Trials in misdemeanor cases proceeding on a no time waiver basis must start within 30 days but in domestic violence cases this right to a speedy trial is undermined by an exception (Penal Code section 1050(g)) that gives the D.A. another 10 days. Unless the case has been prepared and the facts are in your favor the right to a speedy trial is nothing but a right to a speedy conviction.
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 two (2) hours weekly for a minimum of one year, mandatory alcohol education classes, personal conduct orders, stay away orders, temporary restraining orders, and other punishment as provided by
Penal Code section 1203.097. 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.
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.