How can I respond to false domestic violence charges?

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There is no doubt that 2020 has been a tough and trying year for most Americans. Economic and health concerns have plagued the nation, and countless families have suffered on a deeply personal level.

Millions have lost jobs. We’ve all endured dramatic changes to our daily lives and routines. Even for those who have kept their jobs and health, these changes can weigh heavy. Arguments at home may loom larger, and the fact that unhappy couples have found themselves forced to spend more time together has contributed to a nationwide surge in domestic violence. Connecticut is not immune.

Understanding domestic violence charges

The first thing to understand is that while it’s possible for people to level false domestic violence charges, most accusations are legitimate. Not every accusation, but most. In fact, victims often don’t report the violence they suffer because they fear their reports may lead to retaliatory violence.

Because of this, the system exists primarily to protect the victim. In Connecticut, domestic violence is technically “family violence” and can account for any harmful physical contact between family members—or any people who live together. However, someone can face charges of domestic violence for actions other than striking, choking or lifting a weapon against someone else in their home. You could face domestic violence charges simply for making physical threats.

It’s important to note that these threats must constitute a “present threat” and involve a “likelihood that physical violence will occur.” Verbal abuse and heated arguments might be unpleasant, even bad. But they do not count as domestic violence.

What happens if you are accused?

If the police are called to investigate a report of domestic violence, the law demands they make an arrest when the “speedy evidence” supports it. In other words, if there’s enough evidence of physical violence—or the threat of physical violence—the police must react to this probable cause. They must make an arrest. This is the case even if the person who makes the call changes his or her mind.

Again, the person who calls the police on you cannot prevent your arrest if the police believe there was violence or the threat of violence. Instead, the state assumes responsibility, largely because the system serves to protect the victim.

This means that people arrested on domestic violence charges will want to consider their defense. If you’re arrested on false charges, it’s possible the state’s prosecutors will decide there’s not enough of a case to prosecute you. However, your accuser doesn’t get a say. The decision lies solely with the prosecution.

In the meantime, an arrest may carry additional consequences:

  • Protection orders that limit your access to your home and children
  • The confiscation of firearms
  • Damage to your reputation

You may want your defense to respond to these matters as much as to the criminal accusation itself. If you’re looking to divorce, for example, family violence charges could seriously harm your custody claim.

What’s the best way to respond?

There’s no “one best way” to respond to domestic violence charges. The best response varies with the facts and circumstances. Goals matter, too. There are ways to move forward that might be quicker and quieter, but they may not be what you want. Pre-trial deals may allow you to avoid courtroom drama, but they’re not for everyone.

It’s hard to find much data on the rise of false domestic violence allegations during this last, turbulent year. Still, it’s clear that pressures at home have made life difficult for millions across the nation, as well as in Connecticut. These pressures have led to spikes in domestic violence and surges in divorce. It wouldn’t be surprising if they have also led to surges in false accusations. More than ever, people may want to understand these charges and how to respond to them.