At Phillips & Thomas LLC, we have conducted many jury trials (in both Kansas and Missouri) on domestic violence cases, from low level misdemeanors all the way up to Class A felonies. Domestic battery and domestic violence charges are a special subset of the category of battery charges. Unlike regular battery, domestic battery by definition involves altercations between people who are either intimate with each other, or are close family members. For this reason, there are special emotional dynamics surrounding these cases that must constantly be kept in mind. It is not uncommon for the following things to happen:
- The alleged victim may swing back and forth about whether to cooperate with a prosecution. He or she may have been the one to call the police in the first place, and may not have anticipated that such a call would result in an arrest. So, there can often be intense emotions going on that need to be taken into account.
- The defendant may be unwilling to stop contacting the alleged victim by text, phone, or some other means. Failing to comply with “no contact” orders from the court can be a serious problem with these cases. It is important that clients understand that these court orders need to be adhered to very strictly.
- There may be other friends or family members who insert themselves into the case, by calling the prosecutor’s office, law enforcement, attorneys, or other parties.
- There may be connected or concurrent issues involving divorce, if the case is between spouses. Domestic battery cases can often come about during the final stages of a failing relationship.
- There may be connected or concurrent issues involving shared property, or property that one person has taken from another.
An attorney experienced with the nuances of domestic battery cases has seen all of these scenarios, and knows how to handle them. Let us look in some more detail about how domestic battery charges come about. Firstly, a battery is labeled “domestic battery” or “domestic violence” when someone allegedly commits the battery on any of the following persons: boyfriend, lover, friend, child, family member, or appointed legal guardian of someone else. If there has been an alleged offensive touching, it may result in a battery charge. Simply calling the police to a residence can be enough to set in motion some serious consequences, and many people do not fully realize this.
Once an arrest has been made for battery constituting domestic violence, there are some key things that you can do in order to protect your rights. Of course you should contact legal counsel to represent you right away. It may also be useful to document (with photos or through medical treatment records) any harm you may have been subjected to by another person’s conduct.
Do not violate any protective order against you. Violating a court’s “no contact” order is itself a new criminal charge, and many prosecutors will not hestitate to add another charge to a defendant’s burdens. Even if the alleged victim contacts you first, you cannot respond. Your attorney can, on your behalf, seek to modify any court’s “no contact” orders.
There are often improper arrests in domestic battery cases. This can happen because:
- Police expect to make an arrest (of one or both people) when they are called about possible domestic violence. Even if the alleged victim doesn’t want an arrest, they can be done out of “safety concerns” by the police.
- Parties commonly are excited and agitated when contacted by police, and the police often make snap judgments on who was the “primary aggressor.”
Defenses. Defendants have all the same defenses in domestic battery cases as they would have in regular battery cases. It is extremely important to focus on the details of these cases so that the most favorable outcome–including dismissal–can be achieved.
Consent. This is rare in a domestic battery scenario, but it can happen. The idea behind this defense is that the alleged victim in the assault or battery charge “consented” to being subject to the physical contact or imminent danger of physical contact. Essentially, the idea here is that people should be allowed to handle their own relations with each other, without interference from the government. This defense is commonly found in sexually-related assault or battery cases.
Self Defense. A person is permitted to use reasonable force when necessary to stop an attack on himself or herself, or when he or she reasonably believes that they are in imminent danger of harm. The key word here is “reasonably.” A person may cannot claim to be in fear of imminent bodily harm when an objective, neutral analysis of the situation shows he or she overreacted. These types of situations are very fact-specific, and each case will be different. The precise nuances of this general principle vary between Kansas and Missouri, and among many other states. Often, a key question will be: what level of force is permitted to repel an assault? Under what circumstances does self-defense stretch into an offensive attack?
Defense of Others. The situation here is similar to that of self-defense, but the focus is on the threat to some third party. This may arise in scenarios where someone uses force to prevent harm not to himself, but to someone else. And the requirements are generally the same, in that a person using force to protect someone else must have a reasonable belief that that person was about to be subject to imminent harm. But the laws in Kansas and Missouri will vary on the degree of force permitted.
Insanity or Diminished Capacity. These are rare. They involve situations where a defendant may claim his action was not truly “voluntary” within the meaning of the law, in that he or she had some mental defect or was not able to appreciate the nature and consequences of his or her act.
Stating the general legal principles here is only the first step. Everything depends on the facts of the particular case. If you or someone you know has been accused of some type of assault or battery, you need an attorney with actual trial experience in this area of the law. At Phillips & Thomas LLC, our experienced team of trial attorneys has handled these cases in jury trials and bench trials in Kansas and Missouri for many years. Call us for a free consultation.
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