Each legal case presents its own challenges to prosecutors, but domestic violence cases as a class present unique hurdles. Witnesses that don't want to cooperate and conflicting accounts of events are two challenges that may be common in many domestic violence cases.
If you are the defendant in a domestic violence case, it may help to have a lawyer experienced in handling cases like yours. Attorney Joseph D. Lento regularly handles domestic violence cases in New Jersey and will work hard to exploit the challenges that the prosecutor faces in your case
Specific difficulties that the prosecution in a domestic violence case may face are:
The Inability to Refer to Prior Instances of Alleged Abuse by the Defendant
Many domestic relationships span the course of years. A couple may be married for years and may have a pattern of unhealthy behavior towards one another. Perhaps a wife often puts her hands on her husband, or roommates have a long history of heated verbal arguments
The prosecution in a domestic violence case must focus solely on the event in question. This means that:
● The prosecutor may not be able to reference prior instances of physical aggression by either the defendant or the plaintiff
● The prosecutor cannot suggest that their case falls within a pattern of mistreatment
● The prosecutor may not be able to reference any facts or evidence that fall outside the scope of the case
As a defendant, this sole focus on the case at hand could be detrimental to you. For instance, your attorney may not be able to show that your partner has abused you physically in the past, suggesting that any physical actions you took were in self defense.
Your attorney must recognize what a prosecutor can and cannot admit into your case. If the prosecution tries to admit information or evidence that does not pertain directly to your case, your attorney should take the necessary steps to exclude that information.
A Common Lack of Witnesses
Domestic violence often occurs in a private setting. Whether an altercation happens in a home, apartment, or other private location, the purported victim and the alleged perpetrator may be the only ones who witnessed whatever occurred.
If there are no other witnesses to an alleged instance of domestic violence, then a case may take on a he-said, she-said dynamic. Because juries must convict someone of domestic violence only if the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a lack of witnesses generally works in favor of the defense.
Lack of Cooperation By the Purported Victim of Domestic Violence
There are many cases where a third party alleges domestic abuse, but the purported victim of the abuse denies the allegations or refuses to cooperate. There are also countless instances where a purported victim alleges abuse but recants their allegations and refuses to cooperate with the prosecution.
One paper found that an estimated 40 to 90 percent of those who allege domestic violence eventually recant one or more claims about the alleged mistreatment. That is an astounding statistic, and if an accuser recants their accusation before a defendant's trial begins, then the prosecution's case could wither.
Quiet Questions That the Jurors Might Wonder About
Domestic violence is an issue that is difficult for many people, including jurors in New Jersey, to grasp. During jury selection, your defense attorney will move to exclude any juror who has a connection to domestic violence from the juror pool. They will argue, correctly, that victims of domestic violence could be biased against someone accused of domestic violence.
A jury of individuals who are not victims of domestic violence may not understand how someone could become a victim of domestic violence. Fairly or not, those jurors may ask openly or in their own minds questions like:
● If the accuser felt endangered by the defendant, why were they in a relationship with them?
● Did the accuser make any attempt to leave the premises where the alleged abuse happened? If not, why?
● Did the accuser engage in physical violence themselves?
This is not to say that these questions are appropriate or fair. However, studies have shown that some people place blame on a victim of abuse if they stay in a relationship with an abusive person, especially when they haven't had the same experience as the person alleging domestic abuse.
For better or worse, these are realities that any prosecutor handling a domestic violence case in New Jersey must grapple with.
What Strategies Might a Prosecutor Use Against You?
The U.S. Office of Justice Programs (OJP) notes that "domestic violence-related cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute" and notes that prosecution strategies often depend on the anticipated defense of the criminal defense attorney.
For example, if the prosecution believes that your attorney will claim you acted in self defense, then the prosecution may work to prove specifically that you did not act in self defense. If prosecutors anticipate that you'll try to prove that you engaged in no act of domestic abuse, they will try to prove that you did commit the act in question.
Prosecution and defense strategies can vary greatly from one domestic violence case to the next. Your greatest priority should be hiring a lawyer who will fight tirelessly to clear your name or to secure the best possible outcome based on your circumstances.
Hire the Lento Law Firm to Lead Your Defense
The Lento Law Firm focuses heavily on defending those accused of domestic violence in New Jersey. Domestic relationships are extremely complex, and the justice system too often treats them as black and white. You deserve a law firm that understands the nuances of domestic violence cases and will provide the defense you deserve.
Call The Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case. You can also contact us online with your case details. Don't wait to ask for help. The sooner you retain our team, the more time we will have to prepare your defense.