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Prosecution of Domestic Violence in DC

After a case has been investigated by law enforcement and probable cause has been established to arrest the accused for a domestic violence crime in DC, the case will be forwarded to the prosecutor to decide whether or not to file the charges in the court. A prosecutor may decide to bring a criminal case if he or she believes there is enough evidence to show that the accused committed a crime.

The prosecutor will review the evidence, which will include any statements or information provided by witnesses as well as physical evidence that may have been collected as part of the investigation, such as photographs that may have been taken at the scene of the incident or any injuries. If a prosecutor believes enough evidence exists, and is considering filing a criminal case, he or she may also take into account the safety of the complaining witness and others who may be affected if the domestic violence continued.

Elements of Proof for Prosecutors

The prosecutor will have different elements to prove, depending on the specific crime that is charged. For example, if a person is charged with simple assault, the government is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

1) The accused, with force or violence, injured or attempted to injure another person

2) At the time, intended to use force or violence

3) Had the apparent ability to injure the other person

Another type of assault, intent to frighten assault, requires the government to prove that the accused committed a threatening act that would reasonably create fear of immediate injury in another person, that the accused intended to cause injury or create fear, and at the time the accused had the apparent ability to injure the person.

Evidence-Based Prosecution

“Evidence-based” prosecution is a way of prosecuting a crime without the aid or involvement of the alleged victim. It focuses on using other types of evidence, such as the testimony of other people who witnessed the incident, photographs taken of any injuries, and any admissible statements of the alleged victim (such as “excited utterances”) without actually putting the alleged victim on the stand.

In an evidence based prosecution, a lawyer will be able to defend a domestic violence charge through ways other than cross-examining the alleged victim. A lawyer can still challenge the other evidence and argue that there is a lack of evidence to believe that the crime occurred beyond a reasonable doubt and that the defendant actually committed the crime.

Using the Alleged Victim as a Witness

For the person accused of a crime in DC, it can be challenging when a prosecutor puts the alleged victim on the stand, especially because he or she can often evoke sympathy, depending on the facts of the case. However, the individual’s lawyer will be given the opportunity to cross-examine the alleged victim and expose any bias or credibility issues.

For example, if the alleged victim told law enforcement one story and then embellishes the story when he or she testifies, this may benefit the accused individual because the alleged victim could come across as untrustworthy and inconsistent.

Relationship with Local Prosecutors

It is important to have a lawyer who has an on-going working relationship with local prosecutors. This will aid in negotiations and working out a resolution to the case or litigating the case if the case is set for trial.

It is also helpful to have an attorney familiar with how these cases are prosecuted and what the possible alternatives are in the event that the client wants to resolve the case without a trial.

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