Alleged Victims on the Stand in DC Domestic Violence Cases

When a prosecutor decides to charge a defendant with a crime in the domestic violence court, not every one of those cases is going to result in the matter proceeding to a trial. A trial is a hearing like what many people think in lawyer TV shows where they see a person take the stand and the prosecutor asks questions and then the defense can call their own witnesses and potentially call the defendant to testify and at the end a judge or a jury would issue a verdict of guilty or not guilty.

Putting an alleged victim on the stand in a DC domestic violence case can present unique challenges which an experienced lawyer can help you confront. The role of a defense attorney is to represent their client, working to build a strong defense as well as guiding and advising along the way as to the best course of action at each juncture. Having to face alleged victims on the stand in DC domestic violence cases, as well as refute their potentially damaging testimony, is a task best undertaken with the help of a seasoned professional.

What to Expect at Trial for Domestic Abuse Cases

Most criminal charges do not proceed to a trial, eliminating the risk of alleged victims on the stand in DC domestic violence cases. Instead, most of them result in plea negotiations or some other kind of negotiated resolution, short of taking the case to a trial. However, there are some cases in which negotiations do not produce a resolution short of a trial. That could be because the prosecutors are not willing to offer a favorable resolution or because the defendant is uninterested in accepting any negotiated resolution and would like to hold the prosecutors to their burden of proving them guilty at a trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

In the event that a case does proceed to trial, then ultimately the decision of whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty rests with a judge or a jury. Most domestic violence misdemeanor cases will be heard before a judge not before a jury, but this depends on the maximum penalty that a defendant is facing as a result of their charges.

Complaining Witnesses in Domestic Violence Trials

When a prosecutor has to present their case in order to prove a defendant guilty, there are a lot of factors that have to be considered when determining which witnesses to call, but in most domestic violence cases, the case of the government would rely heavily on the testimony of an alleged victim or the person referred to as the complaining witness.

This is because many domestic violence cases do not have additional witnesses beyond the defendant and the complainant. Many allegations of domestic violence take place inside a home or in a private area where there are very few other people watching, there are rarely security cameras, and often no other person is around to see an alleged incident of domestic violence which took place. In those situations, the entire case for the prosecution may rest only on the testimony of a complaining witness. In those situations, the prosecutor would have little choice but to put the complaining witness on the stand to testify.

Impact Of Witnesses and Role Of Evidence in DV Cases

A prosecutor may not have additional evidence besides the testimony of a complainant. That fact alone would not necessarily mean that a defendant is incapable of being convicted. Sometimes the defendant could be convicted solely on the testimony of a complaining witness if the judge believes that the complainant is credible to such a high degree of confidence that the judge would have no reason to doubt the presented version of events.

That is a burden that the prosecutor bears. In most of these situations, a prosecutor would have to put a complainant on the stand in order to prove their case. In some situations, that may not be possible, because in some situations a complainant may decide that they do not want to testify, or they may be able to assert some kind of privilege against testifying such as a marital privilege.

In those situations, a prosecutor may have to decide whether there is additional evidence that they could use to prove their case; it is not whether that case is capable of being proven at a trial. It would be the responsibility of a defense attorney to challenge the ability of the prosecutor to prove a case without the testimony of a complaining witness.

Challenges of Putting an Accuser on the Stand

Whenever a prosecutor puts any witness on the stand, that witness is subject to cross-examination by the defense attorney. When a prosecutor puts a witness on the stand, the witness would first be questioned by the government prosecutor.

There is no way around subjecting a complaining witness to cross-examination, it is a constitutional right for any defendant to be able to challenge a government witness and cross-examine them on the stand in order to address any problems, or any gaps, or holes in that witness’s testimony.

Anytime a prosecutor puts either a complainant or any other witness on the stand, it is always important to subject that witness to defense cross-examination which is why it is important to have a defense attorney who can skillfully and aggressively cross-examine the complaining witness in order to be able to challenge that witness’s testimony.