The current attitude of dogged prosecution is a reaction to years of ignoring domestic violence.
In the not too distant past, police officers were essentially ignorant and uneducated about the dynamics of domestic violence. In responding to a domestic violence call they frequently did little or nothing to protect a victim of domestic violence and often made the situation worse. If injury was not obvious officers frequently left the victim alone to suffer even greater abuse for having "called the cops." In households of all economic levels, domestic violence was the "white elephant" in the middle of the room that no one talked about.
The pendulum has swung strongly in favor of domestic violence victims.
Reacting to a groundswell of criticism and public opinion, the legislature, police, and prosecutors have made an about-face. Laws now punish domestic violence--often severely--not only against spouses, but against girlfriends, boyfriends, anyone with a current or past "dating" relationship, and even roommates. Because it is common for victims of domestic violence to later change their mind, prosecutors generally have a policy of pursuing domestic violence and spousal abuse cases even if the victim retracts their statement and admits lying to the police. By law, sentences may require stay-away orders, fines, jail, and a year or more of anger management and domestic violence counseling. Even a misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence can have serious consequences resulting in loss of employment and deportation or exclusion of resident aliens from the United States.
Know what domestic violence is.
California Penal Code section 243(e) defines misdemeanor domestic violence as battery (use of force or violence) upon a cohabitant, parent of your child, former spouse, fiance or fiancee (boyfriend or girlfriend), or a person with whom the defendant currently has or has previously had a dating relationship. Therefore, if you get into a squabble with a roommate over placement of the furniture, or a tiff with an ex who judges your current romantic partner a 3 on a scale of 10...be careful! Force and violence includes any application of physical force, even if it causes no pain or bodily harm or leaves no mark, and even though only the other person's feelings are injured. The slightest unlawful touching, if done in an insolent, rude or angry manner, may be sufficient. While more serious violations may require actual injury (even a bruise may qualify as felony domestic violence in California), throwing your drink in your ex's face or knocking off his or her sunglasses could get you arrested.
The prosecutor will pursue charges of domestic violence even if you or your partner want them dropped.
Don't call the police just out of anger. Despite denials, law enforcement has a policy that, when responding to a domestic violence call, someone will be arrested--usually the male. But sometimes the one who calls first, cries the loudest, or who has the greatest injury wins. The other is taken to jail. If that happens, be forewarned-your Sunday-morning sobriety and pangs of conscience won't get your partner released. You cannot "drop the charges." The District Attorney and City Attorney will prosecute in spite of your retraction, and presume that you are now lying for your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse's benefit! The court will also presume that you are lying and order your friend or partner to stay away from you, even though you beg on bended knee, and even confess dishonesty. Thereafter, you see each other at risk of your loved one being arrested again for a separate violation of the domestic violence restraining order-itself a crime of domestic violence!
Using the system to arrest and further subjugate victims of abuse.
Using the system to further dominate victims of domestic violence is on the rise. Aware that prosecutors single-mindedly (and too-often blindly) pursue charges of domestic violence, abusers have learned to push their victims to the breaking point and then have the victim arrested. Already beaten down, often a victim of domestic violence will shamefully confess to striking their partner, providing everything that the prosecutor needs to convict. Victims frequently deny the abuser's violence-sometimes out of love, sometimes out of fear-only to find out too late that their partner has fabricated a tale of violence and abuse causing the victim to be arrested! Ashamed, and confused, they are doggedly pursued by the prosecutor for criminal charges, and now fully at the whim and mercy of their abuser-threatened with further arrest if they dare to resist or complain.
Exposing the abuser and the history of abuse.
The most effective way to combat false charges of abuse may be for the victim to admit and expose the pattern of abuse. Frequently a domestic violence victim benefits from counseling to understand the full depth of the abuse and to provide an expert opinion that they are the victim and not the aggressor. By showing their conduct in context of the pattern and history of abuse a prosecutor or jury may be convinced of their innocence. But be careful: Leaving an abuser is difficult and could be dangerous. A support network including a counselor and attorney can best advise you of the proper steps to take to stop the abuse and protect yourself. Resolving false charges of domestic abuse takes substantial effort and courage, but the very process of standing up for oneself may be as beneficial emotionally as the rejection or dismissal of the criminal charges themselves.
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