The State of California takes a harsh stance when it comes to accusations of domestic violence. In many cases, the prosecutor will aggressively pursue a conviction, even if the alleged victim would rather the case be dropped after the parties have “cooled off” from the incident that led to the defendant’s arrest. A conviction on a charge of domestic violence can have far-reaching consequences, so it is important that a person who is facing charges for an act of domestic violence seek legal help as soon as possible, and before agreeing to a plea deal. Probation in domestic violence cases can sometimes be the best outcome for the defendant, but there can be downsides as well. San Bernardino and Riverside domestic violence attorney Gregory H. Comings understands the many possible repercussions of a domestic abuse charge, and will work hard to advocate for the legal rights of a person accused of such an act.
Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical abuse like hitting or punching, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, threats of physical harm or death, economic abuse, and/or stalking. In its most extreme form, domestic violence can include rape or murder, but a defendant may be charged with an act of domestic violence even in situations in which the defendant did not cause any physical harm (or even touch) the so-called “victim.” The main prerequisite for a charge of domestic violence is that there must have been some type of relationship between the alleged offender and the person who supposedly suffered harm due to the defendant’s actions. This relationship may be a marriage, a domestic partnership, dating, a family relationship, or even a roommate arrangement.
In order to understand why a person may be convicted of domestic violence even if the person who was supposedly hurt or frightened does not wish to pursue charges, it is important to have a basic understanding of the legal system. There are two main types of cases: criminal cases and civil cases. In civil cases, a person who seeks a legal remedy files a claim against a person against whom they seek to recover money damages, an injunction, a declaratory judgment, or another type of relief. The plaintiff has the burden of proof and must supply evidence to support his or her claim. Usually, if the plaintiff decides not to pursue the case against the defendant for some reason, he or she can dismiss the claim. In a criminal case, the State (or the United States, in a federal case) is the “plaintiff,” i.e. the entity bringing the case. The victim of the alleged crime is merely a witness that can be subpoenaed to testify on the government’s behalf as part of its proof against the accused. The victim does not decide whether or not the case should be pursued; the prosecuting attorney makes this decision, and only a judge can enter an order formally dismissing a criminal case once it has been filed.
When there is a conviction in a criminal case, the defendant may be sentenced to jail time, ordered to pay a fine, be required to complete some type of counseling or program, or forced to perform community service. In some instances, a defendant may be sentenced to probation in lieu of jail time. During probation, the defendant may be supervised by a probation officer and may be required to follow certain rules and conditions. If probation is revoked, the defendant may be ordered to serve the remainder of his or her suspended sentence. It may be tempting to accept a plea bargain that involves probation rather than incarceration, but it is not always wise to do so. Even probation can have negative consequences, including a conviction on the defendant’s record and the possibility of going to jail if the conditions of probation are not strictly complied with.
In addition to the penalties discussed above, a conviction for domestic violence can result in a defendant losing privileges such as the right to possess a weapon, loss of custody of a minor child, deportation, and difficulty finding work in certain industries in the future. This is true even if the defendant is sentenced to probation rather than jail time. If you have been accused of domestic abuse, it is wise to talk to a lawyer about the possible repercussions of a guilty plea or conviction, the role of probation in domestic violence cases, and possible defenses that you may have against the charges. At The Law Office of Gregory H.Comings, we advocate for those accused of domestic violence, assault, and other crimes in Riverside County or San Bernardino. Call us at (951) 686-3457 or contact us online for an appointment to discuss your case today.