The Role of Character Witnesses in Domestic Violence Defense: Palmdale and Lancaster Considerations

In recent decades, survivor advocacy groups have brought the somewhat taboo topic of domestic violence into the national spotlight. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents of domestic violence and assault increased substantially, with The National Domestic Violence Hotline reporting that it received more than 74,000 calls, texts, and chats in the month of February alone—marking the highest monthly contact volume in its 25-year history. California legislators have worked hard to establish some of the strongest legal protections for survivors of domestic violence in the nation. Consequently, law enforcement and prosecutors take allegations of domestic violence seriously, seeking severe punishments for those found guilty of such offenses. While acts of domestic abuse can and do happen, exaggerated or downright false allegations are an unfortunate reality. Sadly, the mere accusation of domestic violence can derail someone’s life, causing irreparable harm to their familial relationships, professional reputation, and standing within the community. If you are facing domestic violence charges in Palmdale or Lancaster, former Deputy District Attorney and former Judge Pro Tem David M. Wallin is prepared to fight aggressively on your behalf to secure the best possible outcome, given the specifics of the case. Let’s take a look at what steps you can take after your arrest to maximize your chances of keeping your future bright. 

What Constitutes Domestic Violence in California?

Before we start exploring some strategies for defending yourself against domestic violence charges, it’s helpful to take a look at how California law defines these types of criminal offenses. First, it’s important to recognize that the specific crime of “domestic violence” does not appear in the California Penal Code. Instead, there are two primary statutes that address criminal acts relating to incidents of domestic violence.

Domestic Battery

Under California Penal Code 243(e)(1), battery may be “committed against a spouse, a person with whom the defendant is cohabitation, a person who is the parent of the defendant’s child, former spouse, fiancé, or fiancée, or a person with whom the defendant currently has, or has previously had, a dating or engagement relationship.” Most instances of domestic battery are considered misdemeanor offenses, punishable by up to one year in jail, a $2,000 fine, and probation. An act of battery need not inflict substantial physical harm; in order to convict a defendant of domestic battery, prosecutors must prove that the defendant willfully touched an intimate partner (or other domestic partner or family member) in a harmful or offensive manner—broad terms that leave room for a wide interpretation.

Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Cohabitant

Another statute that prosecutors bring against those accused of domestic violence is explained under California Penal Code 273.5. When the accused person “willfully inflicts corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition” upon a current or former spouse, dating partner, cohabitant, or relative, law enforcement may arrest them. Prosecutors and judges may consider bringing this charge as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Since these types of domestic violence offenses apply to instances in which the alleged victim suffers some form of physical harm, the penalties tend to be more severe and lasting than those for domestic battery crimes.

Legal Defense Strategies Against Domestic Violence Charges

It can be disorienting and daunting to face accusations of domestic battery or corporal injury to a spouse. However, before your mind assumes the worst, reach out to former Deputy District Attorney and former Judge Pro Tem David M. Wallin to discuss the specifics of your situation. Together, you can develop a sound legal defense strategy, which may include the use of credible character witnesses whose testimony can establish a positive image of you, challenge negative portrayals, and provide valuable insight during the legal proceedings.

When to Offer Character Witnesses as a Defense Strategy

For the most part, prosecutors are not allowed to use “character evidence” against you. This means that prosecutors generally cannot bring up a long list of previous infractions or testimony from disgruntled individuals in your life who do not have high opinions of you when making their case in court. However, under California Evidence Code 1103 EC, the defendant may use character evidence to “prove conduct of the victim in conformity with the character or trait of character.” So, if the person accusing you of domestic violence has a known and documented history of making false claims, you and your attorney may use character witnesses to suggest that these new allegations may be meritless. It’s important to recognize that once you decide to attack the other party’s credibility, prosecutors have the right to present their character evidence about the alleged victim to counter your argument.

Using Character Witnesses to Defend Your Reputation

Although prosecutors may introduce character evidence in cases involving domestic violence, child abuse, and elder abuse offenses, they may not refer to any incidents that occurred more than ten years ago. If you are concerned that character witnesses may paint you in a negative light, you and your attorney can present character evidence to combat this portrayal. You can introduce a credible character witness to attest to your upstanding reputation and calm demeanor. Sometimes, using character witness testimony to show how much you have changed over the years through therapy and other healthy coping mechanisms can go a long way in shaping a more positive perception of you. No matter what the specifics of your case may be, you can trust that Former Deputy Attorney and Former Judge Pro Tem David M. Wallin will help you identify the most strategic path forward to keep your future bright. 

If you have been arrested for a domestic violence-related offense in Palmdale or Lancaster, call the Law Offices of David M. Wallin right away at (661) 267-1313 to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable and trusted criminal defense attorney. Former Deputy Attorney and Former Judge Pro Tem David Wallin is prepared to defend your legal rights and keep your future as bright as possible. We offer a variety of payment plans, so please contact us today to get started.