December 31, 2020 | Domestic Violence
Domestic abuse is an enormous social problem. But the ways that the legal system deals with the issue of domestic violence has created additional complications. For instance, false allegations of abuse are sometimes used as a strategy to gain leverage in divorce, legal separation, and custody proceedings.
False domestic violence claims are very damaging to the families in which they occur. If you or someone you love has been falsely accused of domestic abuse, contacting a criminal defense lawyer can help.
Laws Regarding Domestic Abuse
While more women experience domestic violence than men, people of all genders suffer abuse. Actual incidents of abuse are tragic, but false allegations are destructive in their own way. Beyond the immediate harm suffered by the accused, fabricated claims of mistreatment undermine the reports of actual abuse victims. False allegations are very socially destructive.
Another problem is that the laws regarding domestic abuse are often out-of-date. Some laws have been developed only to protect women from abuse, rather than all people. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is an example of infusing outdated gender expectations into the law. Even though gender-neutral language was added to VAWA in 2005, many outdated stereotypes about gender are still at work in the court system.
Legal Consequences of Domestic Violence Accusations
Accusations of domestic violence can have both civil and criminal consequences, depending on the specifics of the case. The civil consequences can include the application of “Protective Orders.” This is another name for a restraining order designed for situations involving domestic abuse. Also, criminal charges of assault and battery may be brought against someone accused of domestic violence.
If a jury finds that a defendant is guilty of abuse in a criminal case, the legal consequences can be severe. The perpetrator may face incarceration and heavy fines. Additionally, they may be prohibited from having contact with certain members of their family.
In the context of civil domestic abuse cases, the penalties are also intense.
They may include:
- Presumption for Custody – The laws in many states include a “presumption” that the perpetrator will not be awarded physical placement or custody if domestic violence has taken place. In Kentucky, for example, joint custody is presumed to be in the child’s best interests unless a domestic abuse report has been filed.
- Prohibition of Mediation – Many states presume that in cases involving domestic abuse, mediation of disputes is unnecessary.
- No Contact – When domestic violence has occurred, the courts will prohibit the abuser from contacting the victim in any manner. This includes a prohibition on emails, telephone calls, written letters, or communications through third parties. Violations of these restrictions can result in criminal charges and incarceration.
- Exclusive Home Use – A common element of no contact provisions is the exclusive use of the home by the victim. Although a law enforcement officer may accompany the perpetrator to the house to remove personal belongings, the person is typically barred from being on the premises.
- Parenting Restrictions – Restraining orders of this type will typically restrict the contact the perpetrator has with their children. The order may designate supervised visitation or no visitation.
When it comes to false domestic abuse allegations, the stakes are high. Sadly, domestic abuse hearings are usually very short, and the burden of proof for those seeking Protective Orders is quite low. If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, do not wait to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney.
The Legal Burden of Proof and Court Procedure
As we mentioned above, the burden of proof for acquiring a domestic violence restraining order is low. In fact, the person making the accusation only has to prove the claim by a “preponderance of evidence.” This is the lowest standard of proof in the legal system. A “preponderance” means that the person must simply show that the abuse was more likely than not.
Many times, the courts will issue an order based on very weak evidence. Often, the courts would prefer to err on the side of caution. One unfortunate reason for this is that judges may want to avoid any negative press if the allegations are true and the abuse results in future harm. This severely undermines the rights of the accused.
In addition to the “preponderance” standard, domestic violence hearings are usually scheduled on a very brief timeline. This gives the accused party insufficient time to prepare their case.
Courts will often schedule hearings to fit in their very crowded docket. When this happens, the party leveling the accusation has ample time to prepare. On the other hand, the accused may have as little as two weeks.
If a false allegation of domestic violence has been directed at you, it is best to have a criminal defense lawyer fighting for your rights throughout the process.
Protecting Yourself Against False Allegations
When you are falsely accused, seek legal representation first. A qualified attorney can give you the best chance of protecting yourself against the many damaging legal consequences.
Additionally, take the following actions:
It is incredibly important to de-escalate any tension between you and the former spouse or partner who is accusing you. The question of which actions are perceived as a threat is very subjective. Therefore, any tension-escalating actions or language will hurt your case. Do your best to resolve or decrease any tension between yourself and the accuser.
Rely on Witnesses
It is always helpful to recruit independent witnesses to oversee any interactions where conflict is a possibility. Witness testimony can serve as powerful evidence to undermine baseless allegations.
Expose Inconsistencies in the Accusations
Finding the factual flaws in the accuser’s version of events will be incredibly helpful for your case. For example, do you have a reliable alibi for the time in question? Is there documentation, such as receipts or work records that prove that you were occupied at the time of the alleged abuse?
A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you to prepare and present the strongest case possible in the face of false accusations. If you have been wrongly accused of domestic abuse, seek legal counsel immediately.