If you commit a violent crime against a significant other, roommate, or family member, you face more than just general criminal charges. These charges are considered domestic violence, and have additional consequences that are not required for individuals who commit acts of violence against strangers.
For example, if you are convicted on charges of domestic violence, even if they are misdemeanor or reckless charges, you will lose your right to bear arms. You will also face big difficulties in gaining child custody or even certain property during a divorce proceeding. Because of this, it is important to build a strong defense if you are charged.
Luckily, there are a number of strategies that have proven successful when working with a skilled criminal lawyer. Which one you should use depends on the specifics of your situation, but the more you know about them, but better equipped you will be to protect your rights and your family.
5 Common Strategies for Defending Domestic Violence Charges
Self Defense – When law enforcement officers witness two people in a domestic dispute, an arrest will usually be made. Unfortunately, the police officers who make these arrests typically aren’t there for the beginning or the entirety of the incident.
Because of this, it can be tough to tell who began the fight and who might be acting in self-defense. Stereotypes and statistics may lead the victim to be arrested instead of the abuser. In situations like this, the defendant will have to prove to the court that he or she was acting in self-defense.
False Accusation – Unfortunately, these same stereotypes and statistics may lead people to falsely accuse a spouse or family member of domestic violence. False accusations may be made out of spite, or in an attempt to gain a favorable ruling in divorce or child custody proceedings.
One way to prove that you have been falsely accused is to prove that you have an alibi. For example, if you can prove that you were in a different location when the victim alleged that the violence occurred, you will have shown the judge that the victim’s story does not add up.
Lack of Proof – One of the hallmarks of our criminal justice system is that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. If the prosecution cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you will be set free. Point out inconsistencies or holes in the prosecution’s argument to raise those doubts and you may be able to beat the charges against you. Talk to an experienced domestic violence lawyer about crafting this type of defense strategy.
Mitigated Sentence – There is more than one charge linked to domestic violence in Illinois. Knowing these different charges and their qualifications could help you mitigate your charges and sentence.
For example, with domestic battery, there are separate charges and penalties you may face depending on one or two factors. A simple charge of domestic battery is a class A misdemeanor. Penalties are minor, including up to a year in jail. But under Illinois’ Domestic Violence Act, certain situations will bump charges up to a felony offense, which comes with a long list of additional consequences.
Specifically, domestic battery becomes a class 4 felony if the alleged abuser has prior convictions for violent crimes. Additionally, if a firearm was used in the battery, if sexual assault or abuse was involved, or if the battery was allegedly committed against a child, it will also be considered a class 4 felony.
Aggravated domestic battery is a class 2 felony. These charges have penalties that include up to seven years in prison, and an extended term could land you in prison for up to 14 years. For a charge to become aggravated, the offender must have caused great bodily harm to the victim or strangled the victim.
In a situation like this, it may be smarter to focus on disproving specific factors to reduce your charges (and penalties) rather than focusing on proving your innocence overall.
Seeking Rehabilitation – Even if it seems likely that you are going to receive a guilty verdict, your fate (and your sentence) is not set in stone. A judge could sentence you to jail with heavy fees, or they could opt for a more forgiving sentence based on education and rehabilitation.
Domestic violence is often associated with substance abuse, mental health problems, anger management issues, and so on. If you make it known that you intend to seek rehabilitation for these issues, you might be able to reduce or eliminate many of the criminal penalties you could otherwise face.
How do you show that you truly have this intent? A judge has the power to increase or decrease your sentence based on a variety of factors – including your behavior in the court. Dress professionally. Show the judge that you are taking this charge seriously. Refrain from jokes or remarks that would give the impression that you do not care about your case.
For more advice about what you should do in your specific situation, reach out to a knowledgeable Illinois domestic violence attorney as soon as possible.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.