Unfortunately, the rise of domestic violence accusations in America is on the rise. But many times, the presumption of innocence is thrown out the window when someone has been accused, allowing for an unspecific, unsubstantiated accusation that can make a life-long impact on the person accused. Domestic violence (DV) charges can go beyond physical assault accusations. Domestic violence can include attempting to harm or causing physical harm to someone in your household or in your family. This can include domestic partners, ex-spouses and anyone that you have a child in common with. Domestic violence can also include threats that make the other party feel unsafe, such as aggravated menacing, menacing by stalking, or simply menacing. Consider consulting a Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer to keep your reputation and life intact.
The Wieczorek Law Firm defends clients throughout the greater Cincinnati area against domestic violence charges. Contact us 24/7 for a free review of your case. Time is not on your side, and you need an attorney you can trust to utilize every defense possible to receive the best outcome.
Domestic Violence Overview
Chapter 2919 of the Ohio Revised Code deals with criminal offenses committed against the family. Specifically, 2919.25 defines domestic violence as a person who knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical harm to a family or household member, who recklessly causes serious physical harm to a family or household member; or uses threat of force to knowingly cause a family or household member to believe that the offender will cause imminent physical harm to the family or household member.
Domestic Violence Definitions
A family or household member is defined as any of the following:
- A spouse, person living as a spouse or a former spouse of the offender
- A parent, foster parent, child of the offender, or other person related by consanguinity or affinity to the offender – this includes a pregnant woman’s unborn child
- A parent or a child of a spouse, person living as a spouse, or former spouse of the offender.
It is important to understand the term “domestic violence” is not limited to a single action or event and may be used against you to encompass several behaviors between two people over a period of time. A domestic violence accusation does not need to include a physical attack, but it may involve verbal and/or sexual attacks as well. After a domestic violence claim is made, it is likely that police will place the accused under arrest regardless of whether or not there is a lack of evidence or the accuser does not wish to press charges. It is also possible that a temporary protection order is made against the offender.
The Ohio courts also include same-sex couples that cohabitate together within the definition of family or Household Member, under the Person Living as a Spouse designation.
Because the definition of a “family member” is fairly broad in the Ohio Revised Code, a multitude of charges fall into this category and range in their severity and punishment. Several common domestic violence charges are:
- Child Abuse and Neglect
- Domestic Assault & Battery
- Domestic Sexual Violence
- Menacing & Stalking
How An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help If You Are Facing Domestic Violence Charges
If you have been accused of domestic violence, it is essential that you work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can:
- Review the charges against you, explain your legal rights, and discuss options for how you want to approach the case
- Answer your questions throughout every phase of the process
- Defend you in domestic violence protection order hearings
- Investigate the case to determine why the victim would falsely accuse you
- Obtain evidence that exonerates you or calls the alleged victim’s version of events into question
- Negotiate with the prosecution for a favorable plea deal
- Argue for a dismissal of charges if there is insufficient evidence that a crime was committed
- Fight for an acquittal in court
Domestic violence charges are serious and require an aggressive defense against them. A conviction for Domestic Violence on your record is not typically eligible to ever be expunged and will become part of your permanent record. In addition, any conviction can be used as an enhancement for any future DV charges. Contact The Wieczorek Law Firm today for a free case review in which we can discuss how we can help.
Evidence In Domestic Violence Charges
Even if the alleged victim in a domestic violence case wishes to drop the charges due to reconciliation or other circumstance, the decision to drop the charges rests solely in the hands of the prosecutor in the case. If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence crime, it is important to understand the evidence required for a prosecutor to continue to press charges without the assistance of the victim.
In order to continue to prosecute the case, some form of physical evidence will likely be necessary to prove that a crime was committed. Common forms of physical evidence include:
- Medical records documenting injuries
- Photographs of the alleged victim’s injuries
- The criminal record of the alleged offender showing previous domestic violence arrests or convictions
- Recording of the original 911 call
- Telephone records
- Text messages, emails, social media messages or other communication between the alleged offender and victim
- Other physical evidence including weapons, clothing, broken items from the scene, etc.
This evidence can be compelling to a jury, so it’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can challenge this evidence.
Because most cases of domestic violence occur between two people, prosecutors are forced to consider one person’s testimony against the others, with both accounts likely being completely different. Prosecutors will try to contact witnesses who may be able to account for the facts of the case. Unfortunately, witnesses not directly involved in the events in question tend to be biased for or against either party involved. An experienced defense attorney can identify these perceived biases and utilize them to expose any exaggerated or made up testimonies of the event in question.
Common Domestic Violence Penalties
The specific facts and circumstances of each case will ultimately determine the penalty issued. Factors such as the nature of the crime, criminal record and sustained injuries can all influence the classification of the offense.
- Misdemeanor of the Fourth Degree— Menacing is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Convictions are punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250.
- Misdemeanor of the First Degree— Aggravated menacing, menacing by stalking, simple assault, endangering children, and the violation of a protection order are all first-degree misdemeanor offenses. Convictions are punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
- Felony of the Fifth Degree— A repeat violation of a protection order is a fifth-degree felony. Convictions are punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
- Felony of the Fourth Degree— Repeat menacing by stalking, aggravated assault, repeat endangering children, and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor are all fourth-degree felony offenses. Convictions are punishable by up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
- Felony of the Third Degree— Endangering children resulting in serious physical harm to the child, violation of a protection order while committing a felony, and sexual battery are all third-degree felony offenses. Convictions are punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
- Felony of the Second Degree— Felonious assault, child abuse resulting in serious physical harm to the child, and sexual battery when an alleged victim is less than 13 years of age are all second-degree felony offenses. Convictions are punishable by up to eight years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.
- Felony of the First Degree— Rape is a first-degree felony offense. Convictions are punishable by up to 11 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can work to reduce the charges against you, have them dismissed, or argue for your acquittal at trial. Contact The Wieczorek Law Firm for your free case review today.
If you’ve been accused of a domestic violence crime, you may be placed on probation, depending on the type of crime you’ve been accused of committing.
The two types of probation include:
An alleged offender must regularly meet with a probation officer and may be required to submit to random drug testing depending on their specific case. The offender may also be required to show proof of counseling services or complete necessary court-ordered programs. Failure to meet with a probation officer or satisfy court requirements can be a violation of probation that can result in criminal charges. You could face the maximum penalty for the underlying crime you were accused of.
Also referred to as “paper-based probation”. The alleged offender does not have to meet with a probation officer on a regular basis but is still expected to abide by expectations set by the court. Any new criminal charges while on non-reporting probation can result in an alleged offender violating probation and possibly facing penalties relating to the suspended sentence.
Process To Obtain A Domestic Violence Protection Order
If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, it is important that you understand the process of obtaining a domestic violence protection order by the alleged victim. The victim completes a form to apply for a civil protection order. There is a lot of support today for alleged victims of domestic violence, so the victim may be able to get help with the forms from a domestic violence shelter, court clerk, or free legal services organization.
After the victim completes the forms and alleges one or more instances of domestic violence, they file the forms with the local court. The court typically provides an ex-parte order, which means an order that it makes without hearing from the other party. The alleged victim may describe the domestic violence to the judge. The judge can then issue an emergency ex parte protection order.
The victim can then have you served with the order, at which point, law enforcement can physically remove you from a shared property. All of this shows that you can be subject to a domestic violence order and face significant consequences, all at the word of the alleged victim. This is why it’s important to work with a lawyer who will defend you against such charges. Do not delay in reaching out to a lawyer for help because the hearing will be scheduled shortly after you are served.
After you are served, a full hearing must be held within ten business days. This is the first opportunity you will have to defend yourself. This hearing and case is separate from any underlying criminal charges. Because it is a civil case, the burden of proof is much lower. The standard is preponderance of the evidence instead of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The alleged victim simply has to show that their version of events is more likely than not. If the alleged victim is awarded a protection order, there are severe consequences that can affect your life. The civil protection order can be imposed for up to 5 years and will remain on your record for the rest of your life as it is not eligible to be expunged. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can fight to prevent this order from being granted.
Collateral Consequences Of A Domestic Violence Protection Order
If the alleged victim obtains a civil protection order against you, you can face many consequences, including:
- A civil finding that you are a domestic violence offender
- Having a court order you to stop abuse
- Losing your shared home and access to it and your possessions
- Being ordered to pay for alternative housing to the alleged victim
- Losing custody or visitation rights with your children or having only supervised visitation
- Being required to provide financial support to the alleged victim even if you are no longer romantically involved with them
- Having to attend court-ordered counseling
- Having to stay away from the alleged victim’s home, school, business, or place of employment
- Not being allowed to visit other properties where the alleged victim or their family members may be
- Having your personal property divided by the court
- Having to provide a motor vehicle to the alleged victim
Violating the terms of a protection order is a crime and can result in incarceration. Having a protection order against you can also impact your job or prevent you from obtaining security clearance.
It is important to understand that you can face these consequences even if you are ultimately acquitted of the underlying criminal case.
Defense Strategy For Domestic Violence Charges
If you’ve been arrested after being accused of a domestic violence crime, it’s important to hire a defense attorney who understands the charges and can form the best defense strategy possible. Despite being arrested, your alleged involvement and guilt will still need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction.
In domestic violence cases, there are certain situations where the victim or others may not be allowed or forced to testify. Below are some of the situations that may arise.
Also, under specific circumstances, a spouse may refuse to testify against the other spouse. Common exemptions include:
- Privilege Against Self-Incrimination: Under Ohio Revised Code Section 2919.25, no one should knowingly harm a family member.
- Spousal Privilege: This protects communications between a husband and wife during their marriage as long as that marriage is valid. To determine if their communications were confidential, the court will consider the circumstances, the language used, and the nature of the communications, per Ohio Revised Code Section 2945.42.
- Competency: The court breaks competency down into three elements:
- The individual must understand impressions of facts.
- They must be able to remember those impressions.
- They must be able to truthfully relate those impressions.
Depending on the circumstances involved in your case, viable defenses may include:
- No physical harm – If the domestic violence allegations are based on physical violence, a lack of physical harm may help demonstrate that the alleged victim is lying or exaggerating.
- Lack of intent – We may be able to argue that you did not intend to intimidate or harm the victim.
- Self-defense – You have a right to defend yourself against physical harm. If the alleged victim was actually the perpetrator, we can argue that you were simply trying to defend yourself at the time of the events in question.
- Defense of others – Likewise, you may have been defending your child or someone else from abuse at the time of the events.
- Retaliation – The alleged victim may be trying to get revenge because of a recent breakup, argument, or other matter. We can investigate the case and try to find why the alleged victim may be making false allegations against you.
- Upper hand in a family dispute – As indicated above, receiving a protection order against you can give your ex an upper hand in a family law dispute, so the alleged victim may be fabricating or exaggerating to try to gain custody, the rights to a family home, or other advantage in a family law dispute.
It is important to contact our law firm immediately to allow our team to intervene as early as possible. We’ll fight on your behalf for the best outcome possible based on the physical evidence involved in the case, possible witness or personal testimony, and other compelling factors.
Common Domestic Violence Offenses and Related Offenses
- Violation of a Protection Order – Outlined in Ohio Revised Code § 2919.27, the criminal offense of violating a protection order occurs when a person does not comply with the terms of a domestic violence protection order (also referred to as a restraining order). This includes a protection order issued or consent agreement approved pursuant to section 2919.26 or 3113.31 of the Revised Code; a protection order issued pursuant to section 2151.34, 2903.213, or 2903.214 of the Revised Code; and any protection order issued by a court of another state
- Domestic Assault / Battery – Defined in Ohio Revised Code § 2903.13 an individual is considered to have committed domestic assault if he or she knowingly caused or attempted to cause physical harm to a family member; or recklessly caused serious physical harm to a family member.
- Stalking/Menacing by Stalking – As defined in Ohio Revised Code § 2903.211, stalking or menacing occurs when a person knowingly engages in a pattern of conduct that causes or would cause another person to believe that they will cause physical or mental harm. Pattern of conduct” means two or more actions or incidents closely related in time, whether or not there has been a prior conviction based on any of those actions or incidents.
- Sexual Battery – Defined in Ohio Revised Code § 2907.03 sexual battery occurs when an offender knowingly coerces a person to submit to sexual conduct or engages in sexual conduct without the other person’s knowledge or while the other person’s conduct is substantially impaired. It also covers a wide range of situations where the offender had supervisory or disciplinary authority over the victim, including teachers, coaches, law enforcement or corrections, and religious institutions.
- Rape – Rape is defined in Ohio Revised Code § 2907.02 and covers a range of criminal conduct including: engaging in sexual conduct by force, while the other person’s ability to resist is substantially impaired by a drug, intoxicant, advanced age, or a mental or physical condition, or when the other person is less than thirteen years of age.
- Child Abuse / Neglect – Child abuse can come in many forms and there are a wide range of acts or omissions that can be considered child abuse or neglect under Ohio law. Ohio Revised Code § 2151.031 considers a child “abused” if he or she is the victim of sexual activity; is exposed to materials that are harmful to juveniles; becomes endangered as defined in section 2919.22; exhibits a physical, mental injury, or death inflicted other than by accidental means; has been threatened by a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker; or was subjected to out-of-home abuse.
Are You Looking for a Domestic Violence Lawyer in Cincinnati?
A domestic assault and battery arrest does not mean you will be convicted. After your arrest, the state prosecution will have to prove your involvement and guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Given the nature of domestic violence cases, there may be little physical evidence to examine. It becomes even more important that you be able to tell your side of the story or prove that the prosecutor did not meet their high burden of proof.
This is why hiring a Cincinnati domestic assault and battery attorney to be your legal representative can be beneficial. An attorney can formulate the best strategy based on the available information.
If you’ve been arrested on domestic assault charges, contact The Wieczorek Law Firm. Our dedicated and experienced team will fight to ensure you receive a fair trial and the best outcome possible.
We have experienced success in handling domestic violence cases across Ohio because of our uncompromising principles. Call us at (513) 317-5987 or complete our contact form for a free consultation today.