A conviction for domestic violence-related charges can impact your career, family life, housing situation, visitation rights with your children, and standing in the community. If a spouse, domestic partner, or another person living with you has wrongfully accused you of domestic violence, it’s crucial to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. The court system takes domestic violence very seriously, so it’s vital to be proactive in building your defense. Contact the attorneys at ChancoSchiffer, P.C. to protect yourself against such allegations.
Georgia’s legislature enacted the Family Violence Act, O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1, to protect victims of abuse from former or current spouses, parents who share children, parents, stepparents, and foster parents, among others. The first step in working toward a dismissal in a domestic violence case is to determine whether the actions listed in the original complaint actually constitute domestic violence.
Domestic violence applies to specific actions, such as assault, homicide, harassment, stalking, criminal sexual conduct, terroristic threats, kidnapping, burglary, and criminal mischief. If the actions listed in the original complaint do not fit the legal definition of domestic violence, the judge will likely throw out the case before it even reaches trial. If the actions in the complaint do not meet this requirement, it’s likely a “de minimis” infraction, or minor conduct too trivial to warrant a criminal infraction.
A domestic violence charge must also meet jurisdictional requirements when it comes to the parties involved. The Georgia Family Violence Act outlines the relationships that fall under this jurisdiction. Domestic violence pertains only to parties who are married, in a romantic relationship, or expecting a child together. It can also apply to roommates, housemates, and former spouses. Violent actions that take place between parties that fall outside these definitions would fall under different classifications.
A valid defense against a domestic violence charge is self-defense. It’s possible for a victim in a domestic violence case to have suffered injuries from the defendant while acting in self-defense. It’s also possible for a victim to exaggerate injuries and the defendant’s actions. The defense will need to prove the victim’s use of force justified the defendant’s actions.
While there is no charge of the offense of only domestic violence, the Family Violence Act, O.C.G.A. § 19-13-1, explains what constitutes domestic violence in Georgia. It can apply to assault, battery, sexual misconduct, burglary, kidnapping, and many other actions. Although by definition domestic violence doesn’t take place in professional settings, one’s actions in private can have drastic repercussions on his or her professional career.
The law accounts for the fact that most domestic abusers are repeat offenders, and convictions will generally lead to restricted rights for defendants. For example, a man charged with spousal assault may face lifetime prohibition from purchasing or owning firearms due to his legally documented violent tendencies. In the same vein, a person convicted of any type of domestic violence could lose his or her professional license if his or her profession would enable the abuse of others.
It’s also important to note that license revocation is not a court-ordered punishment, in most cases. Most professional accreditation boards and licensing agencies have conduct policies for license holders. For example, an attorney convicted of domestic violence can face disbarment by the Georgia State Bar. When an individual commits a domestic violence-related act, the professional review board that oversees his or her field may decide the offender is unfit to hold a license any longer. Generally, a domestic violence conviction would constitute “unprofessional conduct,” and the offender would face disciplinary action from the appropriate licensing board.
The first step in protecting your professional license after a charge of domestic violence is to build a strong defense. Typically, this involves carefully reviewing the prosecution’s evidence submitted through discovery to find holes in the case. It also includes gathering statements from relevant witnesses, depositions, and lengthy fact-finding procedures. An aggressive professional-license-defense attorney will help move this process along more quickly to help you avoid an unjust conviction.
The most common defenses against domestic violence charges are self-defense and jurisdictional requirements. If the original complaint filed against you lists actions that do not constitute domestic violence, or the relationship between the defendant and the accuser falls outside the scope of the law’s definition for domestic violence, the defense may be able to secure a dismissal before the trial begins. If the plaintiff suffered injuries due to the defendant acting in self-defense against the plaintiff’s unlawful use of force, the defendant will likely avoid conviction and the plaintiff might face legal scrutiny.
Remember that in criminal cases, the burden of proof rests on the accuser. The defendant does not need to prove that he or she is innocent. In fact, letting things play out is sometimes the best thing a defense team can do if the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to convict. The accuser and the prosecution must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction to take place. If the defendant provides a legitimate alibi backed by witnesses who contradict the prosecution’s case, that may be all that’s necessary for a dismissal.
Ultimately, the best defense against wrongful domestic violence charges is a good criminal defense attorney. The team at ChancoSchiffer P.C. has experience with all types of criminal defense cases in the Atlanta region, including domestic violence. If you’re facing wrongful charges of domestic violence, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We’ll review the charges against you and let you know how our firm can help.