Hartley, Maxwell, & Castellano Attorneys at Law
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Let Us Help You. Call Today. 805-919-8346

Defending Domestic Violence Accusations

Defending Domestic Violence Accusations

My partner, Patricia Lamas, has pulled off three successful defenses to false domestic violence claims in the last month. And by that I mean, three IN A ROW. All three cases kicked off at the beginning of the 2019 calendar year; all three went to trial in the last 30-40 days. All three cases involved clients who came to us after the Temporary Restraining Order was issued by the Court. All three cases involved clients who swore their accuser was lying. All three cases looked like losers when the clients signed with us, in that - apparently - the accusing party must have gone down a list of bad actions and alleged our client had done each and every one of them. The declarations were, quite frankly, harrowing.

A lot of people think that he-said, she-said means that, at trial, the Judge cannot issue a restraining order. That’s incorrect, for a number of reasons:

1. Testimony is, when all is said and done, evidence on which the Court can rely. In a “He-said/she-said scenario, the Court has to make findings of credibility. Who did the Court find more believable?

2. In a trial proceeding under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (DVPA), the burden of proof born by the party seeking the restraining order is merely “preponderance of the evidence.” That means the Judge merely needs to find that it is “more likely than not” that the bad acts occurred - not that the bad acts actually occurred as described. This is a fundamental misunderstanding that trips up many, many DVPA defendants, because they simply don’t understand the interplay between the low burden of proof and credibility findings.

3. Courts feel tremendous pressure to err on the side of caution. I don’t think any judge is sitting on the bench thinking in terms of this, but the pressure is there. Is THIS going to be the case where the restraining order is denied, and then the victim ends up dead? No judge wants that on his or her conscience.

Considering the stacked deck against DVPA defendants, I am incredibly impressed by my partner’s results in these three hearings.

. In all three, she did a fantastic job of preparing our client for the worst, in preparing our client for his testimony, and in working with our client, and staff, to find hard evidence - videos, documents, third-party witnesses - to contradict opposing party’s testimony. And, in all three, once she got opposing party flustered by some of that contradicting evidence, she was able to tear apart the complainant’s story sufficiently that the Court - each time, before different judges, mind you - denied the request for permanent orders.

THAT is some good lawyering.

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Hartley, Maxwell, & Castellano Attorneys at Law