If you're the victim of domestic violence, an attorney can help protect you and your family through various methods such as getting a restraining order or custody changes. On the other hand, if you've been accused of domestic violence, an attorney can help keep you from losing custody of your kids and also possibly keep you out of jail.
"Domestic violence is the use of force or fear to intimidate another person… Some examples of domestic violence include threats of violence, throwing an object against the wall, taking away someone's car keys, preventing the person from leaving a room, breaking an object in their presence, grabbing the person's wrist, or intentionally bumping into the person."
— Gina Famularo, California family law attorney
Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, economic, psychological, or sexual in nature. It also isn't restricted to spousal relationships.
If you've been a victim of domestic violence, you may be able to get an order of protection. If the person who hurt you then violates the order, they can face jail time. An order of protection is temporary at first. A scheduled hearing will later determine if the order will continue.
Before you file for a protection order, you should consult a domestic violence attorney. They'll be able to help you pinpoint the exact crime committed by the person who hurt you.
Hiring a lawyer is a good idea as well. The laws on what admissible evidence is in a domestic violence case may vary between states, and even between counties. A locally based attorney will help you gather what you need to make sure the protection order stands.
In severe domestic violence cases, an order of protection might not be enough. In such cases, the person who hurt you may end up going straight to jail.
The first thing you should do is contact a qualified domestic violence attorney as domestic violence is a criminal offense and can carry criminal charges. Be candid about what happened, and your lawyer will let you know if the domestic violence charge has any staying power. At this phase it is important to tell the absolute truth, no matter how it may look.
People may sometimes misunderstand what domestic violence is and mistakenly file charges. For example, restraining another person to stop them from harming themselves is not considered domestic violence.
It can also help to talk to your lawyer about how to gather evidence that can support your case. Be sure to let your domestic violence lawyer know about any evidence that the alleged victim may have as well. The lawyer will know what evidence is admissible and relevant to the case.
Discussing your available options can be beneficial as well. Even if you're found guilty, you may be able to avoid jail time if you agree to adjust your conduct and follow rules set out by the court.
Should an order of protection go into effect, ensure you don't violate the order. No matter your personal feelings about the situation, the order is a legal document that must be followed.
The possible outcomes of a domestic violence case vary between states. For example, in Washington, there are about 5 possible outcomes:
Dismissal with prejudice. This is when the jury decides that the suspect is not guilty and the case should never be reopened.
Dismissal without prejudice. This happens when there isn't enough evidence for a conviction, but there's a possibility that the case could be reopened in the future.
Amended charges. Prosecutors may adjust the charge so that it does not include a domestic violence charge, but still includes a crime of which the person is likely to be found guilty.
Stipulated order of compliance. This means that the case is dismissed if the accused person agrees to act according to specific rules of conduct.
A guilty finding. Either through a plea or after a trial, the person is found guilty and sentenced by the court.
Talking to a domestic violence attorney can help you learn more about domestic violence laws in your specific state and what each outcome may mean for your future.