Domestic Violence Facts
The legal definition of domestic violence has grown over the past decade to include non-physical forms of abuse such as emotional or psychological in addition to physical forms of abuse. Emotional abuse is often used to control, humiliate or punish a spouse and while there are no bruises to display, the end result is the same—one spouse becomes fearful of the other. While a physical abuser uses fists or other weapons to threaten and control, an emotional abusers is more subtle. The emotional abuser begins isolating their spouse from friends and family, discourages any independent activities, accuses their spouse of unfaithfulness with no basis in fact, engages in constant criticism of their spouse’s looks or intelligence, controls all financial decisions and will often use the children as a threat against their spouse.
Over 85% of all domestic violence occurs against women and, in fact, one in four women will experience some form of domestic abuse in her lifetime. Females between the ages of 20 and 25 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal domestic violence however most cases of domestic abuse are not reported to the police. A full one-third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. As you can see, domestic violence is a very serious problem however there is an alternate side of the problem which is rarely discussed.
The Other Side
There is another side to the issue of domestic abuse which lies in false allegations or a simple spousal argument which escalated yet both parties were equally culpable. Unfortunately, in many instances allegations of abuse are made—and believed by the courts—as a method of gaining an advantage in a divorce or custody proceeding and because of the broad definitions which now exist for domestic abuse, these methods are often successful. In particular, the phrase “fear of harm” which exists in the domestic violence definition is extremely subjective and can be very difficult for the person accused to combat.
A raised voice or any gesture which could conceivably be interpreted as threatening has been used to claim domestic abuse. Since allegations of domestic violence can have not only civil but criminal consequences, false allegations can literally destroy a person’s reputation and impact their future in a very negative manner. The person falsely accused of domestic violence may suffer incarceration, fines and may have a “no contact” order entered against them which mandates they leave the family home and have no contact with their children or spouse.
In the civil arena false allegations of domestic abuse which are believed by the courts carry a statutory presumption for custody in most states. It is often presumed that when domestic abuse has occurred there will be no mediation allowed. Restraining orders may be issued and the person falsely accused of domestic abuse may be unable to even contact the children via e-mail, phone calls or third-party messages. The accused person may be required to attend anger management and treatment and can even find their civil liberties significantly curtailed in that they may be prevented from owning or possessing a firearm for any purpose. Clearly, when false allegations of domestic abuse are made, the stakes are very high.
Where to Turn
Whether you have been falsely accused of domestic violence or have simply had a relatively benign argument which escalated into raised voices misconstrued with subsequent charges filed you are likely aware that once the government enters into your life you may end up with significant damage to your future. It’s important that you contact an attorney who has experience defending victims of false allegations of domestic abuse. Many times once the spouse making the allegations realizes an arrest is imminent they may seek to withdraw the complaint or retract statements. Unfortunately in this instance once the legal wheels have been set into motion, they can rarely be slowed. A criminal defense attorney will have a solid understanding of the process and can fully explain your options while fighting hard to have the charges dismissed.
Assault charges are criminal charges which contain the act of violence. Should there have been a weapon used in the commission of the assault, the severity of the charges will escalate accordingly. By the same token, if injury occurred as a result of the assault, the penalties and punishments will be much harsher. Contingent upon the specific circumstances, the act of criminal assault could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony with wide-ranging consequences. Simple assault is a much less seriously punished crime and usually involves a situation where law enforcement personnel actually saw the assault occur—except in the instance of domestic violence.
Assault Charges With No Physical Contact
Further, charges of simple assault are entirely possible even if the accused never actually threw a punch. Suppose two neighbors are engaged in a verbal disagreement over the tree branches from one neighbor’s tree which fell into the other neighbor’s perfectly manicured lawn during a severe storm. Voices are raised and tempers are flaring. One neighbor taps his finger on the other’s chest in the interest of making his point and finds himself under arrest for simple assault. Even more surprising to most people is that a mere vow of injury could also result in assault charges being filed. If the person you threaten to kick, hit, or otherwise harm has good reason to believe you might actually carry through with that threat, you could be charged with assault.
The Subjective Nature of Assault Charges
As you can see it is a pretty subjective area. Suppose a wife was getting a little too cozy with her co-worker. The husband observes the behavior and later, when the couple is deep into an argument the husband’s temper explodes and he yells “I could just strangle you.” Bad choice of words—sure. The question is whether it was a valid threat and whether the wife truly believes that her husband would put his hands around her throat and strangle her given the chance. Most adults can remember a time when they have uttered words in anger they later wished they could take back. Did they really mean they would kill the other person? Doubtful. Did the other person actually believe the one yelling the threat absolutely intended to kill them? Depends on the circumstances, but in many cases it is unlikely.
Penalties for Assault
Therefore, you could certainly be charged with assault were you to hit, kick or choke another person, you might also find yourself under arrest for simply saying you would like to do those things. If only a minor bump or bruise were to occur, a Class A misdemeanor could lead to a fine of as much as $4,000 while a other assault crimes could be elevated to a third-degree felony leading to two to ten years in prison. Should a simple assault be perpetrated against a family member, spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend it may automatically turn into a third degree charge. If you were to poke or elbow another person it would normally result in misdemeanor charges. However, if that person was older or officiated sports, the charges might be changed to a Class B crime. When a weapon is used in the commission of assault, it becomes aggravated assault and can lead to as much as two decades in prison and fines as high as $10,000.
Defense to the Crime of Assault?
If you have been charged with criminal assault or even if you think charges are likely, you need to contact a highly qualified criminal defense attorney at the first opportunity. Whether your attorney chooses—after discussing all your options—to completely dispute that the assault ever took place or whether they plan on questioning the validity of the alleged evidence it is crucial they be brought on board very quickly if you want them to be able to prevent your life from being altered in a negative manner for the remainder of your life. The crime of assault is very serious and you must treat it as such.
Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
Absolutely no one will argue that many sex offenses are heinous crimes that definitely should be punished harshly. While it may be hard to see in light of the seriousness of the crime, there are instances when a person is falsely accused—and convicted—of a sex crime and required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of their life. There are other times when someone makes a really stupid mistake—one they should be punished for, of course, but perhaps not the same punishment as the person who rapes a child or other more serious sex crimes.
For instance, there are cases of men who drank a bit too much and ended up groping a 14, 15 or 16 year old girl, then spent the remainder of their life as a branded sex offender, unable to get a job or live any kind of normal life. Should they be punished for something that is, of course, damaging to a young girl? Of course! However, should their punishment be exactly the same as that of a man who committed a crime that was many times more horrible?
No Fresh Start for Convicted Sex Offenders
These men are not allowed a fresh start when their jail sentence is up. Their photographs and the details of where they live are plastered across the Internet for anyone to look up and to see. These men wonder, every time they see two co-workers talking at work—if they are, in fact, talking about the monster who works side by side with them. The passage of Megan’s Law came in response to Megan Kanka, a 7-year old New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered in 1994 by a twice-convicted child molester who moved across the street from the family without their knowledge.
A Matter of Degree
It is absolutely understandable that families with children would want to know when these convicted pedophiles move into their neighborhood. But certainly there are lesser degrees of sex offenses? For instance, suppose a 21-year old young man is dating a fifteen-year old girl with the full knowledge of the girl’s parents. Perhaps one night after both had consumed a bit too much alcohol things went a little too far—no rape involved, simply two kids full of hormones. The next day, however, fully aware that her parents would come unglued if they found out their daughter was having sex, the girl blurts out the word “rape.” Things progress quickly from there as the girl doesn’t know how to take back the untrue words she uttered in fear and desperation.
Soon, the boyfriend—who certainly should have had better judgment—is serving time in prison then required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Effectively, his life is ruined. He will be unable to obtain a student loan and go to college, unable to pursue the career he has always dreamed of, unable to marry and have a family without constantly worrying that someone in his neighborhood will look up “registered sex offenders” in their neighborhood and there his photograph and his address will be for all the world to see. Can this really be considered justice? The people who look up this young man will not be told that he made a stupid mistake at the age of 21 which altered his life forever, only that he is a sex offender. And as we are all aware, what people can imagine is almost always worse than reality.
Don’t Wait to Get Help
As you can see, if you have been accused of any kind of sex crime, no matter how minor it may seem, you must take the charges seriously. It is imperative that you find a criminal defense attorney who has defended those accused of sex crimes for a significant period of time—successfully. You want an attorney who is solidly in your corner and understands that there are degrees of sex offenses just as there are degrees of murder and virtually every other crime. Your criminal defense attorney will be a strong advocate with a goal of ensuring your life is not forever ruined. Don’t wait, hoping the charges will go away—call an experienced attorney.
Elements of the Crime
In most states a conviction for robbery requires the state demonstrate the crime’s elements. In other words, it must first be definitively proven that property was taken—from the possession of another person—that was not yours to take. It must also be proven that you took the property against the other person’s wishes, using coercion or intimidation and that when you relieved the person of their property you had every intention of depriving the person of their property either for good or for a significant length of time. Robbery is generally classified as a “continuing offense” meaning each element must be proven however they don’t have to happen in a particular sequence.
Further, a robbery is only “complete” once the person who took the property gets arrested or has safely made their getaway. The relative worth of the items taken are generally considered irrelevant in the commission of a robbery. The act of taking the property must contain its own two elements—that you gained possession of another person’s property and that you carried it away. Carrying something away denotes that you took some movement and under most laws even if you decided to give it back right away after you “carried it away” you are still on the hook for robbery. Therefore if a person grabbed a woman’s purse, turned away to look inside it, decided there was nothing worth stealing in it and gave it back they would still have committed the act of robbery.
To prove robbery, the property taken must be in the immediate presence of the person it is being taken from, meaning it is well within the control of the person and that fright prohibited the person from retaining possession of his property. The item or items taken do not absolutely have to be on the victim’s person but must be in a vicinity under which control would be logically exercised. The element which states the property taken must have been taken against the person’s will means only that it was taken without their consent.
The Most Common Legal Defenses to Robbery
Your lawyer may assert that you did not intend to take the property and only did so after using force or fear for another purpose. Further, if you accidentally took property but later decided to keep it, the elements of robbery have not been fully met although you might be charged with petty theft or grand theft. A second potential defense could be that you took someone else’s property but did so without exerting undue influence or fear therefore you did not violate the robbery law. Again, you could be charged with petty or grand theft or possibly embezzlement. Robbery involves force or fear—if these elements are not present then you must be charged with another crime or all charges must be dropped. A third defense is called claim of right and exists when you may have robbed another person but only because you had an honest and reasonable conviction that the precise property you took rightfully belonged to you.
Claim of right will not apply in situations where you are merely settling a debt. Say your neighbor asked to borrow your wheelbarrow and then destroyed it. You cannot rob him of $50 to make up for the broken wheelbarrow, rather you are only allowed under the law to reclaim the wheelbarrow itself. Mistaken identity is always a potential defense since many robberies involve people who wear masks meaning others could be falsely accused of the offense of robbery. Perhaps you really didn’t commit a robbery and have been falsely accused by an angry ex or a vindictive neighbor. Whether you committed the crime or not it’s imperative that you hire a highly experienced criminal defense attorney early on in the process. Don’t wait, hoping the charges will go away—they almost never do. Your attorney will work hard on your behalf to ensure your future is not forever wrecked by a stupid mistake or a false accusation.