When you have been wrongfully accused of domestic abuse, don’t simply ignore the charges, hoping they will go away. Police and prosecutors take domestic violence very seriously. Before you know it, you could be subject to a restraining or protective order, which may severely restrict access to your home or your children. You could face incarceration, put your employment at risk, and see your visitation and support obligations altered.
Protect Your Rights
If you have been arrested and charged with domestic violence, and the allegations are false, or if you have been served with a temporary restraining order, you must fight to protect your interests:
- Don’t cop a plea immediately — Police and prosecutors will tell you that you don’t have a chance and that your best course of action is to plead guilty. Though it can be difficult to fight domestic violence charges, you should never admit to something you didn’t do.
- Don’t agree to enroll in a domestic violence offender program or to seek counseling for anger management — This can be used against you, as an admission that you have a tendency toward violence.
- Don’t enter into any type of civil or criminal restraints if those restraints require an admission of bad acts perpetrated by you. In some circumstances, a plea or restraining agreement may be unavoidable, but only after careful consideration.
The most important thing you can do if you have been falsely accused of domestic violence is gather and preserve all evidence to support your innocence, or to demonstrate the lack of credibility of your accuser. At your first opportunity, while the alleged incident is fresh in your mind, write down as many facts as you can about what happened. If there were witnesses, write down their names and personal information, so that your lawyer can question them about what they saw or heard. If you have evidence of prior false accusations by the purported victim, or of any actions they have been involved in that might diminish their credibility, provide this information to your attorney.
You will also need to prepare yourself for the costs of your defense. Domestic violence cases typically have a high conviction rate. In order to successfully defend you, your lawyer will need to build a strong and comprehensive case. This may require numerous witnesses and subpoenas. Your defense could cost you thousands of dollars.
It goes without saying, but you should also refrain from doing anything that will help a prosecutor make a case against you. You have the right to remain silent—exercise it! Don’t talk to police without your lawyer present. Don’t make the mistake of believing that you can explain everything to police and walk away. It doesn’t happen.
And, most importantly, don’t take matters into your own hands. Avoid contact with your accuser, and let your lawyer do the talking.