Unfortunately, couples are guaranteed to experience conflict at some point during the relationship. If relationship conflict has caused law enforcement to get involved, be prepared to face a domestic violence charge.
A domestic violence charge can arise from a violent act or threat of violence committed against not only a significant other, but also anyone with whom the accused has a domestic relationship. This includes violence or threats of violence against:
- Current/former spouses.
- Family members by blood or marriage, including but not limited to: parents, stepparents, children, or stepchildren.
- Anyone with whom the defendant has a child, or anyone who claims to be carrying the defendant’s child.
- Anyone with whom the defendant lives with or used to live with.
Two of the biggest misconceptions about domestic violence cases are
1) charges are brought only for serious injuries, and
2) the victim can simply drop charges against the accused.
Both are false assumptions. First of all, every crime is considered a “crime against the State,” as well as the alleged victim. Causing harm to any person is something the government has an interest in preventing, regardless of the severity of the injuries or the relationship to the victim. Prosecutors, too, are often unlikely and unwilling to drop a charge merely because the victim asks. The victim’s desire to protect a loved one accused of a crime is significantly outweighed by even the slightest possibility that he or she may be in a chronically abusive relationship with the accused. Just because the victim feels sympathy for the accused, the prosecutor probably will not. Which is why you need a proven defense lawyer in your corner from the very beginning.
What should I do if I am accused of domestic violence?
Successfully defending a domestic violence charge requires an experienced domestic violence defense attorney who is capable of evaluating the evidence objectively and spinning that evidence into a zealous defense. Without the reputation and experience, a lawyer is simply wasting your time. Think about it: why would a prosecutor, judge, or jury worry about the input of someone who isn’t a known trial lawyer? Put simply, you will need a trial lawyer by your side throughout your case, so that you will have the best possible chance at avoiding a lengthy jail sentence.
Greg Watt has a tremendous reputation for successful domestic violence defense. With experience in both prosecuting and defending domestic violence cases, Greg knows how to approach the case on your behalf and how to advise you accordingly.
Things to keep in mind regarding your case:
No domestic violence case is simple.
Sometimes a plea bargain is the right move, other times the facts of the case need to be put to the test during trial. No one should approach a domestic violence case lightly including, and especially, your own lawyer. Never risk hiring a novice to deal with a domestic violence charge; you need a skilled trial lawyer who is ready and willing to fight for you. Remember, if your case goes to trial one of the most difficult challenges is being able to successfully cast doubt upon the accuser’s story while maintaining a sympathetic jury. An unequipped lawyer can do more harm to your case than you are prepared to imagine. Don’t risk it. Contact The Watt Law Firm for help now.
DO NOT underestimate how easy it is to pick up a domestic violence charge.
Often simple arguments between couples trigger a 911 call by neighbors; within minutes an Officer may arrest one party simply as a “play it safe” course of conduct. From an Officer’s point of view, it alleviates any concern as to whether the argument is going to escalate, since one of the parties is in custody. It’s a simple and effective solution, and it certainly is within the Officer’s authority to make the judgment call in the field. Unfortunately, that judgment call may have been made in haste or at the behest of an accuser who played fast and loose with the truth.
Victim rights are always on the mind of a good domestic violence defense lawyer.
Once again, the untrained lawyer in this area risks serious harm to the case if those rights are not properly understood. That being stated, a good domestic violence defense lawyer also knows from experience that victims sometimes exaggerate the facts or purposefully lie to authorities.
When you hire The Watt Law Firm, be prepared to address the evidence against you.
Charges are often brought based on as little as the alleged victim’s word, and rarely is the evidence conclusive. For that reason, our clients are encouraged to participate in their own defense. There may be an alibi defense, or we may discover that the accuser’s story varies drastically from the police report, thus revealing important factual inconsistencies. There may be a self-defense or defense-of-others claim to be made. Sometimes simply demonstrating that there is no evidence to support the accuser’s version of events can “head the case off at the pass” before extensive and costly litigation is necessary. This takes a known trial lawyer; someone skilled enough in this area of law to communicate the factual deficiencies of the case to the prosecutor.
Lastly, don’t rule out the possibility that procedural mistakes were made before or after the arrest.
You have too much at stake to risk being convicted due to a simple procedural oversight. It takes a highly experienced trial lawyer to sift through the evidence and leverage even the smallest opportunity into a major break in the case.
Domestic Violence Law and Consequences
In Kansas, “domestic violence” is considered any act or threatened act of violence against persons in dating relationships with the defendant, or any family or household member of the defendant. (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-5111(i)). Although any crime (i.e. assault, child abuse, mistreatment of the elderly, etc.) committed under these circumstances could technically be considered “domestic violence,” the crime most often charged is domestic battery.
Domestic battery is knowingly or recklessly causing bodily harm to a family or household member, or knowingly causing physical contact to that person in a rude, insulting or angry manner. Charges escalate based on the severity of bodily harm and prior convictions:
A first offense for domestic battery is a class B person misdemeanor punishable by a minimum of 48 hours and maximum of 6 months imprisonment, a fine of $200-500, and a domestic violence offender assessment.
A second offense within five years is a class A person misdemeanor punishable by a minimum of 90 days and maximum of 1 year imprisonment, a fine of $500-1000, and a domestic violence offender assessment.
A third or subsequent offense within five years is a person felony punishable by a minimum of 90 days and maximum of 1 year imprisonment, a $1000-7500 fine and a domestic violence offender assessment. A Person charged with felony domestic battery will not be granted probation, suspended sentence, or parole for at least 90 days.
(Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-5414)
In Missouri, Domestic Assault is the crime commonly charged when the alleged victim is 17 years old or older. Other crimes are chargeable for abuse to children or the elderly. There are three degrees of Domestic Assault, and prior convictions as well as the severity of bodily harm affect charging and sentencing decisions.
Third Degree Domestic Assault, generally, involves physical harm or threat of harm to a family or household member. It may also include the knowing isolation of a household member from having access to communication devices or transportation. The range of conduct is broad under the statute. The possible consequences for this class A misdemeanor include up to a year imprisonment and up to $1000 in fines. A third or subsequent conviction, however, is considered a class D felony punishable by up to 4 years imprisonment and $5000 in fines.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 565.074)
Second Degree Domestic Assault involves physical injury to the victim by the use of a weapon or by choking. It can also include recklessly causing a serious physical injury to the victim. This is considered a class C felony punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment and $5000 in fines.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 565.073)
First Degree Domestic Assault carries with it the most severe penalties of the domestic assault crimes. It involves attempting to kill a family or household member, or knowingly causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to that person. The difference between this and Second Degree Domestic Assault is the knowledge, versus recklessness, requirement leading to the serious injury. If the domestic assault actually causes serious injury or if the accused has a prior conviction for domestic assault it is a class A felony punishable by 10 to 30 years or life imprisonment. If it does not cause serious injury it is a class B felony punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison.
(Mo. Rev. Stat. § 565.072)
In addition to possible jail time and fines in either State, extraneous consequences may follow, such as temporary restraining orders and even adverse court orders regarding child custody and support. In short, you could lose not only your liberty, but also your ability to be near your family!
If you need help from an experienced domestic violence defense attorney, contact Greg Watt at The Watt Law Firm today.
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