This is the next post in my series Helping Virginia Residents Decide if they Need to Hire a Private Attorney for a Criminal Case. My last post discussed why it may be beneficial to hire a private attorney instead of relying on a public defender. In this post I will be discussing a common area that people mistakenly believe they can “clear up” without legal representation – domestic violence charges.
Couples that reconcile mistakenly believe that a partner cannot be convicted of domestic violence in Virginia
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding domestic violence charges is that the victim of an alleged crime has the authority to decline the pressing of charges. The police will begin an investigation based on their observations once they are called to a potential crime scene. They will record all obvious signs of violence. These signs may include broken furniture, holes in the wall, blood spatters, or injuries to the victim. They may also interview neighbors to determine how severe an argument is, and will take statements from everyone present at the scene of the alleged crime including statements from children and both partners. They will also make note of if either partner is intoxicated or appears to be under the influence of an illegal substance. The police will turn their findings over to the prosecuting attorneys once they have gathered all of their evidence. It is the prosecutor’s job to determine if enough evidence is present to press charges.
While it is helpful if the victim is cooperative, Virginia prosecutors do not require the victim’s blessing in order to proceed with the case. Many couples assume that if they reconcile, or if they victim “doesn’t talk,” then the charges will not stick. This is not correct; prosecutors can utilize physical evidence, the victim’s own statement at the scene of the crime, witness statements, and medical records to obtain a conviction with or without the victim’s consent. This is why a person who is charged with domestic violence cannot rely on their partner’s silence as a way to handle a domestic violence charge. An attorney is needed to protect your rights and ensure that the prosecuting attorney does not pressure you into taking a poor deal.
A criminal defense attorney will protect the accused’s rights and obtain the best deal possible
A first offense for a misdemeanor domestic violence is punishable with up to 12 months in jail, paired with a $2,500 fine. Once you are convicted of a crime, if you are charged with another crime, even a nonviolent crime, then you may face a harsher sentence. A qualified criminal defense lawyer will be familiar with “standard deals” that the prosecutor will typically agree to, that are not offered to a person who does not have representation. Your attorney will be able to advocate for you by using facts about your character, your past lack of criminal history, or may be able to attack the evidence against you. Too often, a person who attends court without legal representation becomes quickly frightened by the prosecutor and either makes a statement that hurts their case or accepts what is ultimately a bad deal. The bottom line is that attending court without a lawyer leaves you open to having your rights violated and can result in a harsher punishment than is warranted.
If you have been charged with a domestic crime then do not assume you can handle the charge on your own. Our Virginia Beach attorneys offer free consultations and can provide you advice on how to proceed. Contact us today. We also service Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, as well as in the surrounding counties of Northampton, Isle of Wight, York, and James City.