Getting charged with domestic violence is a threat your freedom, your reputation, and your relationship with your family. If your charges come about as you are going through divorce proceedings – or precipitate a divorce – they can lead to even more dire consequences because they will follow you through every step of the process, from the initial petition to the rulings that the judge may make concerning child custody, property division, and your ability to communicate with your ex going forward.
If you are charged with domestic violence, or you are afraid you may be accused of domestic violence during your divorce, it is best to start working on your defense strategy ahead of time. Consider the following strategies and tips for presenting your best self in court to help you beat the charges against you or minimize the penalties that you will face.
Common Defense Strategies to Combat Charges of Domestic Violence
Wrong Suspect: Maybe the abuse occurred, but your ex is covering up for a friend, different romantic partner, roommate, or someone else entirely by putting the blame on you. If this is the case, you can approach the situation either by proving that you did not commit domestic violence, or that you did not commit domestic violence and the real culprit did.
Which strategy is most appropriate in your situation will depend upon the amount of evidence and witnesses available. If your ex has detailed a specific date or occasion on which the domestic violence occurred, you may be able to use an alibi to prove that you were not present and the domestic violence was committed by someone else.
Self-Defense: Abuse and violence is not always one-sided. An ex may have accused you of domestic violence after you defended yourself from their abuse. It is not uncommon for law enforcement officers to show up during a fight and misunderstand the situation. If you threatened or struck your partner in an act of self-defense, this can help your case, but you will have to prove your partner’s abuse to a judge. This is not always easy, but it is possible.
Inconsistencies in Your Partner’s Story: If your ex is lying to a judge, breaking down their story will eventually show their true intentions. You and your lawyer can work to point out inconsistencies, holes, or outright lies that your ex is using to prove that you committed domestic violence.
By negating evidence or testimony your ex has against you, a judge may not have enough legitimate information to prove that you committed domestic violence. Remember, you are innocent until proven guilty. All you have to do is create reasonable doubts about your guilt to avoid conviction.
Consent: This defense is not appropriate in most cases, but if your partner consented to the actions that led to your domestic violence charges, and you can prove consent was given, you will not be convicted.
Be on Your Best Behavior: When you are in the courtroom, be on your best behavior. While this strategy does not technically do anything to prove that you did not commit domestic violence, it still makes you look better to both the judge and jury, and can help to sway them in your favor.
Be polite to the judge and witnesses, and be cordial with your ex. Dress appropriately and pay attention during any negotiations or hearings that you attend. If you are fighting for child custody, be a good parent and cooperate with your ex over parenting times and other arrangements. If there is a protection order against you, obey it. You may be upset at your ex or at your current situation, but don’t let your feelings get you into any more legal trouble. Avoid any behaviors or actions that could be used against you.
Know Florida’s Domestic Violence Laws: Above all else, a judge or jury will be looking to Florida’s laws on domestic violence in order to decide whether or not you are guilty. Know these laws front to back.
Does the incident in question match Florida’s qualifications of domestic violence? Are there parts of the incident that are legal? Talk with your lawyer about which parts of the law you can stress and how the incident fits in with Florida’s laws. You can begin by reading Florida’s official definition of domestic violence here.
Hire a Lawyer: Working with a family lawyer who has successfully handled domestic violence cases before is one of the best moves you can make if you find yourself facing charges. They will be able to help you avoid the criminal and civil penalties that come with domestic violence charges and convictions.
Want more information on how you can defend against domestic violence charges? Reach out to our offices and set up your free 20 minute consultation.