The challenge of fighting domestic violence charges is daunting enough, but when every news cycle features yet another gritty mugshot and sensationalized details of an alleged assault, society is injected into the process.
When your domestic violence charges are tried in the media and the minds of the public, can you ever hope to get a fair trial?
How the Media Represents Domestic Violence Charges Today
For decades, the subject of domestic violence was taboo in the media.
In fact, no one talked about it anywhere, let alone in a public forum. All the while, victims suffered in silence, and few reported intimate partner violence or abuse. In the last 20 years, however, the pendulum has swung the other way. And that has created a problem for the accused.
In Utah, law enforcement officers are compelled to make an arrest or issue a citation if they have a reasonable belief that an incident of domestic violence has occurred. And once an arrest is made, the alleged perpetrator’s information can be picked up by the media.
The Challenge of Fair Treatment for Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence is a serious subject and a serious problem in the United States. But not every person who is arrested or charged with this crime is guilty.
From a legal perspective, media coverage can taint the jury pool and make a fair trial difficult to get.
Even if the alleged victim does not want to press charges, prosecutors can — and typically do — pursue a conviction nonetheless. Convictions on assault or domestic abuse charges carry harsh mandatory minimum sentence requirements as well as significant social stigma.
Strategies for Avoiding Conviction on Domestic Violence Charges
Once arrested, your options for avoiding conviction are limited. Exposure in the media increases public outrage and elevates the pressure on the prosecution to seek justice, even in a weak case. In Utah, domestic abuse charges cannot be dropped simply because the accuser requests it. The prosecutor has the final say in whether the matter goes to trial.
The prosecutor may agree to lesser charges, or the accused may enter a plea in abeyance. Under a plea in abeyance, the defendant agrees to plead guilty (or no contest) to the charges if the prosecution agrees to hold the conviction for a set period of time.
During that time, the defendant may be ordered to seek anger management counseling and perform community service. As long as the accused meets the obligations of the plea and is not accused of any further crimes, the conviction is never entered into the record.
Failure to meet the terms of the deal, however, means an automatic entry of the conviction into the record, followed by sentencing.
If your case goes to trial, the credibility of both the defendant and the accuser will influence the outcome, but the decision can come down to one person’s word against the other’s. An experienced criminal defense attorney can locate potential witnesses and other evidence to substantiate your innocence.
The experienced criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of David Paul White & Associates assist clients throughout northern Utah. With offices in St. George, Murray and Salt Lake City, Utah, we can move quickly to assist you in mounting an effective defense in response to domestic violence charges.