Question: What is unique about domestic violence cases?
Answer: The concept of trust. If a victim or complaining witness decides that they don’t want to come to court and prosecute, that does not mean that the prosecution is going to drop the case – that’s important for people to understand. If you get arrested for domestic violence, and the person who called the police happens to be your spouse and they regret getting the police involved, that does not necessarily mean that the prosecution is not going to pursue the charge. The detectives and the prosecutors have all been trained on how to investigate and prosecute cases in which the victim is either reluctant to appear or doesn’t appear at all. They can still make a case.
It’s important to have an attorney who knows what they’re doing and has experience with that. I have actually had that training as a prosecutor myself, so I know what police are doing when they go to a scene – they try to collect all the evidence necessary so that if the victim changes their mind, the case can still be prosecuted.
That’s what makes domestic violence cases unique. It’s almost assumed that there might be a change of heart because of family involved; that by the time the case comes to court, the person’s willingness to participate in the case will change. Sometimes you will see cases in which the people regret the police involvement. They don’t realize that in Virginia there is a mandatory arrest policy, which means that if police are called to a scene for a charge of domestic violence and there’s probable cause to make an arrest, then they must make an arrest. Even if they arrive and neither party wants to cooperate, if they are able to establish that it is someone’s fault, the police are required to make that arrest. It’s a unique situation. I have had several cases in which the victim doesn’t want to cooperate and pleads the Fifth Amendment at trial. There are a lot of consequences associated with domestic violence cases, especially if it relates to people that are not US citizens in that situation.
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