The term “domestic violence” often conjures images of an abusive spouse terrorizing the home. This scenario certainly exists, but legally, the crime is much broader than that. Domestic violence can happen between any intimate partners, but this can mean people who just started dating or had only a one-night fling. Any two people who live together could be accused of domestic violence, even if they have no contact outside the house.
A domestic abuse accusation can ruin your life, especially when it involves a family member. People who don’t know the full story will assume that you’re a spouse-beater, and the charge will come up on background checks.
If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, here are some defenses you can discuss with your attorney.
You and the Family Member Are Estranged
Imagine this scenario: Two sisters with bad blood agree to attend Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family. As the night wears on and the alcohol flows, a physical altercation breaks out among the siblings.
Technically, either sister could be accused of domestic violence, which simply isn’t fair. These sisters rarely speak to or see one another. They are essentially enemies who avoid each other.
You may be able to use this kind of estrangement as a defense in your case. This claim doesn’t necessarily deny that the violence occurred. It simply argues that a domestic violence charge is unreasonable. You and the alleged victim are mostly strangers, which is not the same as someone who beats their spouse or other live-in relatives.
You Engaged in Mutual Combat
Domestic violence, as a criminal charge, should be reserved for someone who abuses the people in their home. It should also apply to a dangerous ex who harasses and abuses their former lover.
Let’s return to the sisters we mentioned above. If one of them hit the other one by surprise, then the attacker should be held responsible for their assault. What if, however, both of them stood up, started taking off jewelry, and got into a fighting stance before the violence began? You can make a strong case that they both knew they were in a fight and consented to it. This is called “mutual combat,” and it can work as an effective defense.
You Acted in Self-Defense
In Virginia, you have the right to defend yourself against a physical attack. Your relationship with the attacker is irrelevant.
Justified self-defense requires the following:
- A genuine belief that you are in danger
- That danger is imminent
- Not fighting back could lead to serious bodily harm
- The defense is proportionate to the attack
You Made Accidental Contact
In a heated argument, you often point, wave your hands, and gesture wildly, and you’re probably not paying much attention to these actions. It’s easy to accidentally hit someone or knock them over. Out of anger, frustration, or plain revenge, they can turn around and accuse you of domestic violence.
Intent is a big part of any criminal accusation. If you didn’t mean to hurt someone, you can use this fact as a legitimate defense in your case.
You Didn’t Have Any Other Choice
Picture a situation where someone in the home is having an explosive mental health crisis. They are screaming, crying, and throwing things. You try to calm them down, but nothing works. Out of desperation and fear, you lash out and slap them.
It’s important to uncover all the facts in a criminal case. Human behavior doesn’t always fit into a nice legal box. Technically, lashing out at someone is against the law, but a good lawyer can help create understanding in your case. If there is any doubt about your intent, you could remain free of a guilty sentence.
Our firm can is here to help those who’ve been accused of domestic violence. For a free consultation, reach out to us online or call us at (757) 267-4949.