Physical Evidence and its Role in a California Domestic Violence Criminal Threats Trial

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Physical Evidence and its Role in a California Domestic Violence Criminal Threats Trial

California has a number of laws concerning crimes that, when committed against one’s intimate partner, will fall under the category of domestic violence. Intimate partners are married, divorced, living together, dating or were formerly dating and include people who have children together. Intimate partners are both heterosexual and same-sex partnerships. Making criminal threats against one’s intimate partner is an example of one crime that will result in a domestic abuse charge.

“Criminal threats” may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances that surrounded the allegation. An individual may be charged with this crime if he or she threatens to commit a crime against his or her intimate partner that will result in death or serious bodily injury to that partner. The threat can be verbal, written, electronically communicated or even made through a third person. Whether the accused actually intended to carry out the threat is irrelevant, as the only thing that matters with criminal threats is that the intimate partner reasonably feared for his or her safety or for the safety of his or her family. This offense is punishable by up to one year in the county jail or state prison.

Intimate partner abuse cases can be difficult to prove, as many are based on “he said, she said” allegations. Physical evidence of the crime is therefore critical if and when it exists. Without it, an aggressive criminal defense lawyer may be able to have the charge either reduced or dismissed due to insufficient evidence. With it, an attorney will have to know what arguments to make to have it excluded or will have to downplay its significance if it is admitted.

Physical evidence is evidence that one can see, hear or touch and helps to convict or acquit a defendant. Examples of physical evidence include injuries, DNA, documents or records and audio or visual recordings. In a domestic abuse case and, more specifically, in a case where the defendant has been accused of making criminal threats against his or her intimate partner, common types of physical evidence include letters written to the intimate partner (either on paper or sent through an e-mail or text message), messages that are recorded on the partner’s voicemail or answering machine, injury to the accuser and damage to personal property.

In a domestic violence trial, physical evidence can be a gift to the prosecutor. In a D.V. case, many jurors are looking to convict the defendant for the alleged abuse and this type of evidence makes it that much easier to do. When this type of evidence exists, it is up to a skilled defense attorney to try to either exclude it if it is damaging or to ensure that it gets admitted if it is favorable and clears his or her client of the charge.

In an effort to cover all the bases, the attorneys at The Kavinoky Law Firm work with private investigators and expert witnesses to carefully examine physical evidence. Private investigators take photos of the crime scene, including injuries that were sustained by the intimate partner, damage that was done to the home or to personal property, and of anything else that they feel is appropriate. They interview everyone who was involved in or witnessed the charged incident. Expert witnesses analyze physical evidence to determine if it is authentic. They examine handwriting on a letter, the voice on a recording and injuries to make sure that they are genuine and weren’t fabricated in an effort to falsely charge the defendant. The attorney then gathers the information he or she received from the defense team and devises the most effective defense strategy possible.

The experienced attorneys from The Kavinoky Law Firm know how to exclude or refute physical evidence, as they receive ongoing training in intimate partner violence law and on the evidentiary issues that frequently arise in domestic abuse trials. They understand the critical role that physical evidence can play in a criminal threats case and know ways to respond to it so that it favors their client. A knowledgeable defense lawyer can explain the role of physical evidence in a California domestic abuse case during a free consultation.