The United States Justice System operates on the belief that someone is innocent until proven guilty. This is the basis for all criminal and civil cases. Unfortunately, judges and juries often believe the accusers in domestic violence cases – regardless of evidence, the defendant’s rights, and due process. If you face a false domestic abuse allegation, here’s what you need to know.
Common Examples of False Abuse Allegations
There are several situations that can happen at home or between two people that may spurn one person to falsely accuse the other of abuse. Abuse comes in many forms, including physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and financial. Yet not every domestic altercation qualifies as abuse. Here are some common examples of a false domestic abuse allegation for domestic abuse charges:
- Throwing or breaking items in an argument
- Holding the arms of the other person in an altercation
- Restraining someone from hurting him/herself
- Yelling and screaming at the other person (may depend on what the person says)
- Use of profanity during an argument
- Unintentionally blocking the exit during an argument
- Self-defense situations
- Automatic violent reactions to pranks, nightmares, etc.
None of these situations constitute domestic violence. However, an angry, scared, or confused individual may call the police in these situations and allege domestic abuse charges. Even if the individual rescinds his or her statement, the police have to follow through with an investigation. Once someone reports domestic violence in Phoenix, law enforcement takes control of the claim. It is then the state’s responsibility to bring charges against the abuser, not the plaintiff’s. Suddenly, someone who is not guilty of domestic violence may face a conviction, fines, and jail time.
Reasons for False Domestic Abuse Allegations
There are many reasons why a person might falsely cry domestic violence. The Federal Bureau of Investigation lists five main motivations behind people who give false accusations:
- Depression or mental illness
- For sympathy or attention
- For profit/financial reasons
- To have an alibi
- To seek revenge against a person
Couples going through a divorce often find themselves in false domestic violence accusation situations sparked by a few of these motivations. One spouse may allege domestic abuse for revenge, to get more money in a divorce settlement, or to gain custody of children. No matter the reason, a false domestic abuse allegation is very serious and can result in civil and criminal penalties.
How Do You Fight a False Domestic Violence Allegation?
There is nothing worse than being falsely accused of a crime. There is often more than your reputation on the line: being charged with a crime comes with legal fees, fines, possible jail time, and possible loss of child custody. If you’re in the middle of this process, you may be wondering what your options are. Fighting a false domestic abuse allegation is possible, with the right legal approach.
Unfortunately, even if you manage to fight a false allegation, much of the damage has already been done. Others may simply fail to see you the same way after the filing of charges. If possible, take steps to defuse the situation before someone files false charges against you. If you feel someone is preparing to file false domestic violence allegations, take the following precautions:
- Talk to someone else about your concerns. Keep family members informed of your accuser’s erratic behavior, before they can turn family against you. It’s best to keep that information out in the open in case the allegation goes to court.
- Protect your valuables, including your driver’s license, birth certificate, and social security cards.
- If you are being abused, gather evidence. Sometimes, the person being accused of domestic abuse is actually the victim of emotional or mental abuse. If this applies, gather as much information as you can on your abuser. If you feel in danger, reach out to local services for help.
- Change your login information. Set a pin password for your phone and don’t share it with anyone else. There have been instances in which accusers will send threatening messages from your phone, and will tell the courts you sent them.
After the Charges: Exposing False Allegations
Even if you have been charged, there are still options for you to expose false allegations. Identifying the motivation behind the allegation is the first step in exposing its falsehood. Common examples are:
- Underlying mental health issues
- Seeking vengeance
- Looking for leverage in a child custody case
- Desire for sympathy and attention
Once you’ve established you accuser’s motivations, the next step will be exposing them in court. A domestic violence defense attorney will identify any lies during cross examination. It’s their job to attack an accuser’s credibility and provide compelling evidence for their motivation to lie. Other evidence, such as alibis, creates layers that eventually establish reasonable doubt.
What Is Reasonable Doubt?
Every criminal defense case hinges on a prosecutor’s ability to convince a jury of a defendant’s guilt “beyond any reasonable doubt.” In a legal sense, we say that reasonable doubt exists when a juror cannot say with absolute certainty that the defendant is guilty.
Does The Case Have Merit?
One of the common defenses against a domestic violence case is arguing that it does not have legal grounds. In the eyes of the law, a domestic violence complaint is only valid if it is based on one (or more) or the following:
- Terroristic threats
- False imprisonment
- Sexual assault
- Criminal trespassing
- Criminal mischief
- Criminal sexual contact
If one of these hasn’t occurred, then a judge will likely dismiss a case. You (more appropriately, your attorney) will argue that the absence of one of these crimes makes the domestic violence charges invalid.
If you’re facing a domestic violence accusation, one of the most important steps you will take is selecting an attorney to represent you. Choose someone who has a specialization in domestic violence law, and someone who has defended against false accusations in the past. Your attorney will be your partner throughout this fight to clear your name, so choose them carefully.
Consequences of False Domestic Abuse Allegations
It can be difficult for law enforcement officials to unravel a false allegation crime. The officer has to give the victim the benefit of the doubt that he or she is telling the truth while also maintaining an “innocent until proven guilty” mindset. A plaintiff only has to prove that the abuse “more likely than not” occurred. As the lowest legal standard of proof, this leaves a great deal of flexibility with the amount of evidence police need to charge someone. Sadly, this leads to many unfounded domestic violence claims ending in convictions.
An allegation of abuse can lead first to a restraining order against the alleged abuser. The courts may also impose fines or jail sentences as well as “no contact” orders that could force the perpetrator to leave a family residence and drop all contact with children. If the courts believe the defendant is guilty of domestic abuse, the perpetrator could lose rights to physical custody of children, mediation for family law disputes, and civil liberties such as being able to own a firearm. The courts may also force the perpetrator to take anger management classes or seek treatment.
If you’re facing a false domestic abuse allegation, the stakes are high. Hire an experienced Phoenix domestic violence lawyer to help you protect your rights. Craig Orent is a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in domestic violence cases and will work tirelessly to build a strong defense against any allegations you face. Don’t wait to contact Craig Orent today.