In the last several years, the number of domestic violence charges has risen tremendously. Prosecutors have obtained funding to expand their staffs to include specialized attorneys, investigators, and victim advocates. The law has expanded to include many more ways to charge people. And once a charge is brought, it is very hard to get it dropped.
If you are charged with domestic violence, here are a few things you should know:
Understand what “domestic violence” means
The term is very broad. There need not be actual “violence.” What makes it “domestic” is the relationship with the alleged victim. It is generally a family member or intimate relationship. The underlying offense could be a threat or a trespass. But the “domestic violence” label is critically important. If convicted, your ability to possess a gun is severely impacted. You may be ordered to participate in weeks of domestic violence, or, “batterers” counseling, at your expense, even if the offense was not violent. Finally, an employer may view this type of conviction as grounds for termination.
Consider hiring a lawyer in the early stages
A lawyer can help you sort out the charge, the collateral consequences, and the defenses. In addition, a lawyer may hire an investigator, who can potentially (and legally) contact the alleged victim, determine whether they want to have contact, and document any statements that may be helpful in negotiating or trying to defeat the charges.
Beware of the bail order
Almost every domestic violence case includes a bail order prohibiting you for having any contact of any sort with the alleged victim. You need to understand what you can and can’t do under the order. If you violate the order, the prosecutor can ask the judge to revoke your bail, meaning you will stay in jail until your trial, which is likely many weeks away. Even if the alleged victim invites the contact, if the order is in effect, it is you who risks arrest and incarceration. New Hampshire is small; everyone knows everybody. Don’t think that you won’t be caught. Only a judge can lift the no contact order.