As with any criminal charges, police and prosecutors must gather evidence that the defendant committed the crime, then use that evidence at trial or as leverage to negotiate a plea deal. Many times, when someone is charged with domestic violence, the evidence is scarce and may be limited to the testimony of the alleged victim. But there may be other forms of evidence, depending on the circumstances.
Here are the common forms of evidence used in domestic violence cases and possible weaknesses in that evidence.
The most important physical evidence in a domestic assault claim tends to be photographs of the alleged victim’s injuries. By the time of trial, the injuries will likely have faded. But even with photos, it may be difficult to prove where the injuries came from or who caused them.
In many cases of alleged domestic abuse, there are no witnesses to the incident. The closest thing may be the police officer who responded to a 911 call and arrested the defendant. Though the arresting officer may not have observed the defendant assaulting the alleged victim, they were probably present soon afterward and have personal knowledge of anything the parties said in front of them.
However, the arresting officer may not automatically testify about those statements. The Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer may not testify in court about statements given to them if the person who made those statements is unavailable to testify unless the defendant has had the chance to cross-examine that person ahead of time. “Unavailable” in this case means absent from the trial or present but invoking a privilege that stops them from being compelled to testify.
Finally, many domestic violence cases largely come down to the accounts of the defendant and the alleged victim. But the alleged victim does not always show up to trial to testify, even the prosecutor has served them with a subpoena, which is a court order to testify in court. Without that testimony, it can be difficult for the prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, if the authorities believe the defendant somehow induced the witness not to testify, they could charge him or her with witness tampering.
A conviction on domestic violence charges can result in jail time, as well as cost you the right to see your children. Working with a defense attorney can help make dealing with the charges as fair as possible.