San Diego’s Premier Domestic Violence Defense Firm

What To Expect: The Stages in a Domestic Violence Matter

Domestic Violence matters in San Diego fall into four distinct phases. The key is to hire an experienced Attorney who focuses on domestic violence and be proactive. Here are the phases in detail.

Phase 1 – Arrest And Character Assembling

When people call the police to diffuse a  situation, they are often surprised to find out that  they’re the ones who are ultimately arrested for committing a domestic violence crime. The Police often conduct a quick investigation and conclude who is the aggressor and see a scenario that may contain charges of domestic violence or battery, intimidating or dissuading a witness, false imprisonment, vandalism, and criminal threats.

Don’t be alarmed if you were booked on felony charges. That’s common because the police are (frankly) covering their butts and trying to show they are taking the matter too seriously. Felony charges can be dismissed and/or reduced to a misdemeanor. In California, if there is ANY signs of violence, an arrest has to be made (they likely tell the participants this as well).

Once an individual is out of jail, the key is to procure an experienced attorney, who focuses on Domestic Violence matters. With our firm, we begin collecting character information. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, it was much more difficult to consider issuing charges against an individual who looks and has good character.

Phase 2 – Pre-issuing Intervention

A domestic violence conviction on your record can cause you all kinds of problems. You do not want to “wait and see” what happens at the arraignment. You want to take action and nip the matter in the bud if you can before arraignment. Many matters can be dismissed and/or reduced before arraignment

It’s important to understand that the alleged victim cannot simply drop the charges to make the case go away. It can be a factor and help sway a prosecutor. However, for too many years, “victims” were being forced and pressured to drop the charges against a significant other. As a result, the prosecutor took the decision-making process from the complaining witness. Many people feel regretful after the incident because they’ve falsely accused someone in a fit of rage. But by then, it’s too late – the process is already in motion.

The Train Track To Court

A good way to describe the pre-issuing stage is the think of a train track with stops along the way to court. Ideally, you want to stop that train from making its way to the last stop (court). An individual has a folder with their name on it. Inside is a police report written by the arresting officer. The officer forwards the file to a sergeant for review. The next stop is usually a domestic violence detective. Depending on the agency handling the matter, the detective may be making phone calls to “complaining witness” and getting additional investigation done. The detective then routes the case to the prosecution. The prosecution has a special unit, called the family protection unit, who handles the domestic violence matters. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, I can tell you that they are trained in the theories of domestic violence. Their priority when reviewing a case is:

  1. Can they prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt?
  2. Is there any “independent” evidence?
  3. Is there a “cycle of violence” or “history of abuse” in the facts?

If the prosecution believes it can prove the charges, the file makes the final stop, which is the courthouse where the matter will be set for arraignment.  Again, you want to “stop the train” and work on doing what can be done in getting the charges dismissed or reduced before arraignment.

Phase 3 – Arraignment And Pretrial Hearings

Arraignment is when you appear in court to hear the formal charges against you and enter a plea (you hopefully will be entering a plea of not guilty). Arraignment is often a quick proceeding, and in almost all cases, you will have to appear in person.

Protective orders are often issued at the time of arraignment. That’s an order issued by the court preventing you from having any contact with the victim. This will usually cover the timeframe while the case is pending, but it can be amended depending on the circumstances. To me, this is an important part of the arraignment for most people. You want to make sure there is no order kicking you out of the home or restraining you from your significant other (who may want you home).

After arraignment, there will have a pretrial date set.  In many cases, there is a resolution at the first pretrial conference.  In other cases, it may take more hearings, usually to examine the evidence, confer with prosecution, and talk resolution. Generally, there is an effort during the pretrial stage to settle the case without going to trial.

Phase 4 – Trial

If the parties are unable to come to a resolution, then the matter will proceed with a full trial on the domestic violence charges.

This is the formal proceeding where the prosecution has to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt by a unanimous jury. Each side presents evidence, and then the jury will make a decision.  Statistically, very few cases go to jury trial.

Every case is different. The way to the best possible outcome is to retain an experienced, domestic violence attorney and start getting proactive. Discover why so many people are glad they hired Premier Domestic Violence Law Group. Schedule a free consultation today at 619-752-3702.