Have you been charged with domestic violence in Chicago, even though you were simply defending yourself? In this post we’re going to explain the double-edged sword of self-defense – how it can sometimes lead to charges, and how you may be able to use it to fight back against your charges in certain circumstances.
How Self-Defense Can Lead to an Illinois Domestic Violence Charge
If you act in self-defense, it should always be justified—right?
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes an individual will be charged with domestic violence for the wrong reasons.
Sloppy police work
It’s possible that the police failed to report the details with accuracy, which could lead to a misplaced charge.
Perpetrator’s misunderstanding of the situation
Since incidents of domestic violence often happen in mere moments, the alleged victim may have misinterpreted your actions because there was not enough time to think them through.
Lack of immediate threat
The use of self-defense is predicated on the presence of, or the belief in the presence of, imminent danger. If there is not enough evidence to show imminent danger, this defense may not work.
Lack of rational response
A judge and jury will measure your behavior against a standard of what a reasonable person would do in the same situation. If your response is not in line with that standard, your defense may not hold up in court. Reckless or overly aggressive behaviors are usually not applied to self-defense actions.
The Act of Self-Defense
Domestic violence cases are complicated. Often, they are he said/she said cases without a witness, so it can be difficult to know who is telling the truth.
When self-defense is used correctly, it can help you get your charges reduced or dropped altogether. However, you need the knowledge and skill of an experienced Chicago criminal attorney to effectively argue your position. He or she will have to provide evidence that you were protecting yourself and not trying to harm the other person.
It starts with having your lawyer look at the details of your case to see if self-defense will even work as a defense for you. Details like the amount of force used and the situation in which the act occurred will play into the decision.
Unfortunately, many people try to use this defense when it doesn’t really fit their case. This is why the court typically brushes off self-defense without the help of a skilled attorney.
The Thin Line between Self-Defense and a Chicago Domestic Violence Charge
When the police make an arrest in a domestic violence situation, they are trained to identify the predominant aggressor. This person is the one they deem primarily responsible for the acts of violence.
How do they come to this decision? It typically includes at least some of the following elements:
- Demeanor of both individuals—either fearful or controlling
- Emotional abuse
- Patterns of violent actions
- Victim isolation
- Patterns of overreaction
- The likelihood of future injuries
- Type and degree of injuries
- Signs of strangulation
- Body weight and size of all individuals
- Prior assault convictions
- Any orders of protection currently in effect
- Statements from witnesses
The police will look at the injuries and assess whether they corroborate with the statements of the alleged victim, perpetrator, and any witnesses.
Complex details are frequently at play, and it’s not always easy for the police to know the truth. Some victims act in self-defense to lower the level of domestic violence or to prevent harm to another person or animal. The police, however, can only go off of what they see and are told. Sometimes, mistakes are made.
Why You Need to Fight Your Illinois Charges
Simply put, being convicted on a domestic violence charge is a big deal. It can result in severe consequences, such as:
- A prison sentence
- Restitution costs
- Loss of child custody
- Loss of housing
- Loss of right to bear arms
- Loss of voting rights
Additionally, a conviction goes on your permanent record. You could have trouble finding a job, and you may not be eligible to receive licensing for certain jobs. Your credit could also take a hit, which could affect your overall quality of life. Finally, your relationships might suffer, and you may become depressed.
If you can effectively argue that you were simply defending yourself or another, you may be able to get your charges dropped or dismissed. Or you might be able to negotiate a plea bargain that requires you to get counseling or complete a treatment program instead of being incarcerated.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.