Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic Violence charges are treated differently than most other criminal cases because from the outset of the charge, not the conviction, it is very likely that you will have your home and your children taken from you. If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence defense contact the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer immediately to discuss your rights and your options.
Do not plead guilty at Arraignment
Arraignment is the first formal court appearance in a criminal case. During this hearing, you will be formally notified of the criminal charge against you and given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. DO NOT PLEAD GUILTY! This is obvious in cases where you do not believe you’ve done anything wrong but is also true in cases where you do think you’ve done something wrong. There is no benefit in pleading guilty up front but there may be costs in doing so. Some people mistakenly believe that if they plead guilty at arraignment, they will get a lighter sentence than if they plead guilty later. This is incorrect. The reverse is much more common; you will likely get sentenced harder if you plead guilty up front.
If you decide to plead guilty later, the Judge will not use the fact that you pled not guilty initially against you. By pleading not guilty at Arraignment, what you are really saying to the Judge is that you want a chance to see what evidence the Prosecutor has and if you feel it is sufficient to prove your guilt then you want a chance to negotiate with the Prosecutor for a better outcome.
Pre-Trial No Contact Orders
In most criminal cases, a Judge will issue an order directing the Defendant not have any contact with the alleged victim. In Domestic Violence cases, that order can be extended to the victim’s home, place of work, and children. These orders are issued before there is a finding of guilt and can render a Defendant homeless. If you work at the same place as your spouse then you might just find yourself out of a job too. Whether or not the children were involved with the incident, you can be prohibited from seeing them. If you are served with an order like this, do not violate it. Violating a No Contact Order is an independent crime. That means even if the underlying charge is dismissed, you can still be prosecuted just for violating the order. The better way is to get the order removed.
There is Hope. You Have Options.
There will most likely be several options for resolving your criminal case, but they may not become available until after your case is underway. Your options may include:
No one wants to go to trial. It’s stressful and risky; however, it may be the only way to avoid a criminal conviction. The tactics used at trial, like self-defensewill depend on the facts specific to your case. This is where an experienced and aggressive trial lawyer like the attorneys at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer really becomes helpful.
Stipulated Orders of Continuance / Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements
These are contracts, nothing more. You make an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office to do (and not do) certain things, like entering a Domestic Violence Treatment Program and stay out of trouble. If you comply with the contract, the case is dismissed. Not all prosecutors will offer these types of resolutions but they are a powerful tool when available. There are potential up and downsides to these agreements and they should be thoroughly discussed with your attorney prior to committing to one.
It is often possible to get a Domestic Violence charge re-filed as a different, less serious, charge. The factors involved are: the facts of the current case, the Defendant’s criminal history, and the position of the alleged victim. Examples of reduced charges are: Disorderly Conduct or Simple Assault without the domestic violence tag.
Be Aware of the Other Pitfalls of Domestic Violence
Only the State or City can bring criminal charges: With any criminal charge, including Domestic Violence, only the City or the State can bring the charge – not the alleged victim in your case. This means that even if the person labeled “victim” wants the No Contact Order or the entire case to simply go away, they don’t have the power to dismiss it; only the Prosecutor does, and they will vigorously resist any attempts to have the case, or any protection orders lifted.
Be aware that some Victims Advocates are advising alleged victims to drain joint bank accounts. This advice leaves Defendants in the impossible position of becoming suddenly homeless due to the no contact order and penniless.
Conviction for a crime labeled Domestic Violence will forfeit your rights to own or possess firearm until they are restored by a court of competent jurisdiction. This is true even in cases where no gun was used, threatened, mentioned or even owned by the defendant.
Because of the nature of Domestic Violence charges, you need to find an attorney like the attorneys at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer that understands the complexity of these charges and what you can do about them.
The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer will fight to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Call us today at (360) 334-6277 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer represents clients throughout Southwest Washington State, including in Clark County, Cowlitz County, and Skamania County and Vancouver, Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Washougal, Woodland, Yacolt, Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, North Bonneville, and Stevenson. Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer focuses on the areas of Criminal Defense, Bankruptcy, Traffic Infractions, Landlord Tenant, Personal Injury, Firearm Rights Restoration, and Post-Conviction Relief (Vacating & Sealing Criminal Records).