Prosecuting Domestic Violence Charges in Virginia
The prosecutors generally decide whether or not to go forward with a domestic violence case after a person has been arrested. They have to determine whether to bring charges, proceed to trial based on those charges, look into a plea agreement, or drop the case. In doing so, the Commonwealth must decide what is in the best interest of the Commonwealth and, in this case, the Commonwealth includes the society at large as well as the alleged victim in the case.
Read below to learn more about prosecuting domestic violence charges in Virginia. Also, a seasoned domestic violence lawyer could advocate for you if you are facing allegations.
What Must a Prosecutor Prove in a Domestic Violence Case?
In order for someone to be convicted of domestic violence in Virginia, the prosecutor must prove all of the elements of the offense beyond any reasonable doubt. They must prove that there was an assault and that an assault and battery occurred, that the parties were statutory family members, and that the offense occurred within the jurisdiction. In doing so, the prosecution has to prove, number one, that there was an offensive touching that was not justified.
Putting the Alleged Victim on the Stand
When prosecuting domestic violence charges in Virginia, the Commonwealth may put the alleged victim on the stand. The potential benefit of a prosecutor putting an alleged victim on the stand is that the defendant gets to see their accuser. In the United States as well as in the Commonwealth of Virginia, an adult who is charged with a crime has the constitutional right to confront their accuser. This means in a domestic violence context that the alleged victim is going to have to take the stand. There are cases in which the Commonwealth can prosecute a case without ever putting an alleged victim on a stand but this is not the norm.
The two primary examples in which a victim will not take the stand and the prosecutor could still successfully pursue the prosecution is if there is a complete confession of the case by the defendant.
The other way to secure a conviction without putting the alleged victim on the stand is less common but is seen more frequently. It is called forfeiture by wrongdoing. In a forfeiture by wrongdoing case, it uses hearsay statements including potential hearsay of the alleged victim, which will ordinarily not be admissible. Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered for the truth of the matter.
Forfeiture by wrongdoing means that the statement of the accused that was previously offered and otherwise considered hearsay due to the confrontation clause and inadmissibility of the confrontation clause can then be admitted and considered by the court.
Importance of Obtaining an Experienced Defense Attorney
There are many ways an attorney could defend someone who has been accused of domestic violence. Therefore, if you are facing domestic violence charges, you should obtain an accomplished lawyer right away. A seasoned attorney will have a good relationship with the local prosecution, which could help with anticipating what strategies may be used. Call today for more information about prosecuting domestic violence charges in Virginia and how a lawyer could fight for you.