How to Defend Against Domestic Violence Charges in North Carolina
In North Carolina, domestic violence accusations are taken quite seriously, and apply to a much broader list of scenarios than you might expect. It is a crime that involves any act of violence, including threats, unwanted sexual actions, or physical harm, against a person with whom you have a personal relationship with. A personal relationship includes spouses, somebody you’re dating, housemates, parents, guardians, and co-parents.
If you are facing an investigation or charges for domestic violence, you need a lawyer who can put together a solid defense strategy. It is important to remember that anybody charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty, which means the burden of evidence rests on the prosecution, not the defense.
As every case is unique, the appropriate defense strategy will vary depending on the specific facts and circumstances. That being said, in the blog post we’ll discuss some approaches to fighting domestic violence charges, ranging from common to more niche.
1. Evidence Lacking Credibility
To be convicted of a crime, the prosecution has the burden of proof to show that the person committed the act beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that all it really takes for a defense strategy to succeed is for it to demonstrate that the evidence the prosecutors are presenting doesn’t meet the standards for a fair and just conviction. As criminal trials involve a jury, it is always best to reinforce that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The best way to do that is to attack the arguments and evidence presented, without having to present any new information.
This may go against how most people approach being accused of something wrong, where you may be inclined to launch into counter-accusations. While doing so may be viable in certain cases and perhaps even necessary, it’s always best to start with finding gaps and holes in what the prosecution is arguing and presenting. In domestic violence cases, this often involves finding inconsistencies and contradictions in claims from the witness or victim. It can also involve disputing the credibility of collected evidence.
For example, the prosecution could present pictures of bruises on the alleged victim, but they may have nothing to corroborate that the accused caused them.
2. False or Malicious Allegations
If you’re facing allegations that you believe are false or even malicious, you should discuss that with your lawyer, but be prepared for a candid response you may not like.
It’s first important to distinguish between an allegation being false or being malicious. An allegation may be false by simply resulting from a misunderstanding of the law, while a malicious allegation involves ill intent towards the accused.
False allegations are typically best tackled using the previous discussed approach, where you maintain innocence until proven guilty and show that the allegations lack credibility. Showing that they were malicious, however, involves the defense making a claim they would have to provide evidence for, which is something that needs to be approached carefully. If you believe you have evidence that points to malicious intent, share it with your attorney and be ready to hear whether or not it will support your case
3. The Act was Consensual
In most cases arguing this defense would not be sensible, but there are limited cases where it may apply. Violent acts are not something most jurors will consider likely to be consensual, and if the alleged victim is arguing that they didn’t consent, this approach isn’t going to do any favors.
That being said, there are instances where the alleged victim retracts prior statements and claims there was consent, or somebody else wrongly made the allegations on their behalf. Typically, prosecution will account for this and not pursue charges when their key witness will not corroborate their argument, but some may still try to push for a conviction. If this is the case, your lawyer doesn’t need to present consent as a new argument, but as something stemming from newly introduced evidence.
4. You had no 'Personal Relationship' with the Victim
As domestic violence requires that the defendant and alleged victim had a personal relationship, the charges won’t hold if this is not the case. That being said, if there’s evidence that you committed a violent act, this may only shift the case to the applicable charges for violent crime against a stranger, such as assault, sexual battery, or stalking. Typically, this doesn’t make the outcome much better, as it could relieve some protective orders but still be met with harsh sentencing.
However, sometimes claiming and offering proof that you do not know the alleged victim can also hurt the credibility of their claim that you committed an act of violence. If this is the case, it may be a worthwhile approach to pursue if you can be certain they can’t prove you had any real contact with the accuser.
That being said, it’s not typical that this would be a matter resolved in trial, as both the prosecution and defense would have figured out these details by then, but sometimes mistakes are made which can work out in a defendant’s favor, at least for the time being.