Domestic Violence Court Proceedings
First court appearance (Arraignment)
When you were released from custody you were given a citation or you signed a promise-to-appear. Either of these will have the date and the court location where you and your domestic violence lawyer must appear. At your first court appearance, called an arraignment, the judge tells you and your Orange County domestic violence attorney exactly what you are being charged with. Also, the judge will review the amount of bail posted, if any, and determine whether it is sufficient.
If you have not been served with a protective order you will likely be served with one at your arraignment. Also, at the arraignment, your domestic violence attorney will get a copy of the police report and the Complaint. Your lawyer should serve a written request on the DA for other important evidence such as video tapes, audio tapes, medical records, and witness statements.
At the arraignment a plea of “not guilty” is almost always entered. If you are being charged with a felony, you have the right to a “preliminary hearing” within ten days. This is an evidentiary hearing where the court decides if there is enough evidence to bring you to trial. The evidentiary threshold is very low. If you are out of custody your domestic violence lawyer may “waive” this ten-day requirement and set the preliminary hearing further down the road.
Most likely, another court date, called a “pretrial conference” is set within a few weeks. This gives your Orange County domestic violence lawyer valuable time to review the police report and witness statements and to interview witnesses and conduct legal research on any of the various legal issues that may arise in your case. Hiring a domestic violence defense attorney in Orange County with the intelligence and skill to spot these legal issues can be the difference between winning and losing.
Domestic Violence Pretrial conferences
The arraignment is typically followed by a series of pretrial conferences. During this time your domestic violence defense attorney will review all the evidence the DA intends to use against you and look for grounds to bring a motion (file a written request) to have that evidence excluded. Your case may also require your domestic violence lawyer to visit the scene of the alleged misconduct, interview witnesses and medical providers and consult with expert witnesses.
If your attorney recognizes police conduct impacting your constitutional rights, such as a search and seizure issue or the failure of police to adequately advise you of certain important rights, then your lawyer may file a motion to suppress the evidence. If enough evidence is suppressed the case must be dismissed.
If you are facing felony charges you have the right to a “preliminary hearing” at which the DA must produce enough evidence against you to justify prosecuting you. This hearing offers your domestic violence lawyer a great opportunity to cross-examine the police witnesses in your case. It is also an opportunity to present evidence of any possible defenses. Also, if you have been charged with a felony but the case really isn’t too serious, your domestic violence defense attorney can petition the judge to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.
Domestic Violence Settlement Negotiations
If the evidence against you appears strong, your criminal defense attorney must determine if you have a possible defense. Were you just defending yourself or someone else? Were you protecting your property? Or did the police arrest the wrong person just because the real aggressor was the first one to call 911? Often, the “victim” is the real aggressor but had a better story when the police arrived. In this case, character evidence can make all the difference.
If you don’t have a viable defense, it falls on your domestic violence attorney to negotiate the best possible deal for you. A skilled criminal defense attorney must be prepared to highlight the strengths of your case so that the DA would rather avoid a trial rather than risk seeing your attorney “pull a rabbit out of his hat” again. Your attorney must also present you to the judge and DA in the most favorable light. He must make sure the judge and DA are aware of any mitigating circumstances in your case. Often, the only window for the judge into your personal life is through your Orange County domestic violence attorney. If your attorney is effective at doing these things, you’re likely to get the best possible offer from the DA or the Judge.
Finally, if jail time seems unavoidable, a capable Orange County domestic violence lawyer will thoroughly explore sentencing options to keep you out of jail. These alternatives include home confinement where you serve your jail sentence at home with an electronic bracelet, leaving only for work or for necessities of life. Other options include community service or doing labor for Caltrans. If jail is unavoidable a judge can allow you to serve your time in a “private” jail, (“pay and stay”), where you are released for up to 12 hours a day to go to work. Another option is to serve your jail time on the weekends–checking in Friday night and being released Sunday night. A competent attorney will zealously push to get you an alternative sentencing option.
Domestic Violence Trial
If you do have a defense or if the DA’s evidence is not very strong, and if you are not inclined to accept whatever the DA is offering, your case will go to trial. Few domestic violence cases make it to trial; maybe one in twenty. At trial, the DA shows whatever admissible evidence they have against you to twelve ordinary citizens. The DA must prove every element of every charge against you by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest evidentiary burden in law. Your domestic violence attorney must persuasively point out the weaknesses of the DA’s case and skillfully present your defense.
In order to convict you, all twelve jurors must agree that the DA has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. If even one juror finds that the DA hasn’t met this heavy burden, then you can’t be convicted of domestic violence. (Hung jury) If all twelve jurors agree that the DA hasn’t met its burden of proof, then a verdict of not guilty must be rendered.
Free Telephonic Consultation With An Orange County Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you or a loved one is facing domestic violence charges call The Law Office of EJ Stopyro at (949) 559-5500 today. We offer a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Orange County domestic violence lawyer. Our main office is at 32072 Camino Capistrano, 2nd floor, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675. We have convenient meeting offices throughout the county.