Actor Johnny Depp made headlines recently for all the wrong reasons. Accusations of domestic violence, made by his wife of a year, overshadowed the opening of his latest movie.
Though his wife declined to press charges and police officers determined no crime occurred, the actor will still find himself facing a judge after a restraining order was issued against him.
In the heat of an argument, anyone can find themselves accused of domestic violence. Even if police decide no crime occurred, as in the case of Mr. Depp, the accusations can still result in costly litigation.
In Washington State, domestic violence means causing physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm. It also includes sexual assault and stalking.
When an accuser or a bystander calls 911 to report a domestic disturbance, police respond and interview those involved. If they decide there is probable cause to believe domestic violence occurred, they will make an arrest and take the accused to jail. The officers do not have to definitively prove domestic violence occurred. They merely have to decide there is sufficient reason, based upon known facts, to believe a crime has been committed. However, if the officers determine a false report was made, it could be the accuser who is arrested.
Once an arrest is made, the accused can be jailed for up to 72 hours without charges being filed. The arresting officers do not decide whether to file charges. They send a report to the prosecutor's office for review. If the prosecutor decides charges will be filed, the defendant will make his or her first appearance in court during arraignment. At the arraignment, a judge informs the defendant of the charges and the defendant will enter a plea. Because of the serious nature of domestic violence, at the arraignment, a judge often will issue a no-contact order whether the accuser wants it in place or not. The no-contact order will end if the defendant is acquitted or the charges are dismissed.
The arraignment is followed by a pretrial conference and motion hearings during which the prosecutor and defense attorney appear before a criminal court judge to make determinations about what evidence should be allowed, who can testify and whether the case should be dismissed. If the attorneys cannot agree on a resolution to the case, it will go to trial.
In Washington State, a defendant in a criminal case can have a jury trial or the outcome can be decided solely by a judge. In either scenario, it is imperative a defendant is represented by a capable attorney.
Domestic violence is a serious issue. Defendants who find themselves facing a judge on charges of domestic violence have a right to the best defense. If you have been arrested, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.