Nothing like a widely-televised, ultra-public trial that probes deep into the intimate personal lives of beloved celebrities to bring a country together, right? Is that how the saying goes? If you’ve been anywhere near the internet in the past few months, you have undoubtedly heard (pun unintended…mostly) of the defamation trial between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. Even if you haven’t been watching the YouTube compilations (and you shouldn’t, because they’re weird and creepy), you’ve seen them, or you’ve scrolled past some articles, or you’ve watched your friends post about watching it live. The famous ex-couple has been publicly fighting through the bitter end of their relationship for a couple years now, and boy, have the accusations been flying all the while!
Of course, that’s how defamation suits happen. When you falsely accuse someone of something as serious as domestic assault, and that accusation ruins their reputation and life, you don’t get to just get away with that. The accused can go after you legally and demand financial damages for the pain you caused. This public trial has shined a light on what a case like that looks like on a large scale. So, if you’re going to be forced to watch it, you should at least understand what’s happening and how it could happen to you, here in Maryland or elsewhere.
What can the accused learn from the Depp/Heard trial?
Relationships can be extraordinarily messy and complicated, so legal cases that involve personal relationships in some way naturally are as well. Domestic violence cases can be especially convoluted. When one party is uncooperative or dishonest, it can mess up the trail of truth and confuse everyone involved. The Depp/Heard case is an example of just that.
Let’s break it down. Do you remember when Amber Heard first accused Johnny Depp of assaulting and abusing her? Do you remember how quickly the general public turned on him, even without any due process or evidence? Not only did all his fans turn against him, but so did some of his own friends and family — not to mention pretty much the entire entertainment industry. He lost everything before anything even happened.
If you’re wondering why you should care, it’s because that sort of reaction is exactly what everyone accused of domestic violence experiences, even if on a smaller scale. This is the first lesson. You — yes, you — can be falsely accused of hurting your partner, and you can lose your job, your friends, your reputation, and even your home before you even get to trial. The law says “innocent until proven guilty” but abuse accusations can take that away from you in a heartbeat. Accusations of assault and domestic violence are salacious, and they will make the rounds among your friends, your family, your coworkers, and more. And because people are always the center of their own universe – and because memory is a fickle, fickle thing – you may be shocked to see how many people in your life suddenly “remember” you being abusive, even though you were not.
So Heard accused Depp, and spends a couple years accusing Depp, but then Depp actually takes her to trial for defamation and now she has to prove she didn’t make it all up and/or act out of malice. (Spoiler alert: she fails to do both things.) There are three additional lessons to be learned from this outcome:
- If your case goes to trial, the trial will be public. Will it be 6 weeks of unrelenting television coverage public? Probably not. But trials are a matter of public record – and so are their outcomes. So the single best thing you can do for yourself if you are accused of domestic violence is to lawyer up IMMEDIATELY. The faster I can get to work, the better the chance I can keep the situation from snowballing and ruining your life.
- Proving a negative is tough, especially in Maryland. Our laws are designed to protect victims of abuse, and that’s a good thing. But it makes it very difficult to get a truly fair outcome if you try to face them alone.
- Heard never went to the cops or filed a report about the alleged abuse – but that doesn’t matter. If the person accusing you declines to press charges, it doesn’t matter. The State is who files charges, not the accuser. Even if they retract their statement, you can still face charges.
Maryland domestic violence charges should be taken seriously
Domestic violence is a form of assault in Maryland, and that means you could be facing charges that will follow you forever if you’re convicted. Frankly, just facing the charges is a stain on your reputation. Part of the point of defending yourself in court is to prove your innocence (or prove that you need mental health assistance and not prison). The other part of the point? If you’ve been accused of a first-degree assault level of domestic violence, you’re facing over two decades in prison if you’re convicted. We want to avoid that however possible.
So, even if you’re innocent, and even if you feel like the other side doesn’t have anything on you, get an attorney. Specifically, get an attorney with experiences in domestic violence cases (ahem) who knows how to handle situations this delicate and important. The sooner you hire representation, the sooner they can get started building your defense. This isn’t just doing paperwork, either. For example, I take the time to interview witnesses, examine any and all physical evidence, and conduct my own investigation of the facts to understand them better than the other side.
Not to toot my own horn, but that’s what a good criminal defense attorney does. This is your whole future on the line, after all. And, unlike Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, you likely don’t have millions of dollars to spend on lawsuits for the next decade or so, and you’ll likely feel any fines or loss of wages a conviction brings. Any type of domestic violence charges must be taken seriously — by your attorney, and by you.
If you’re in Annapolis or Ellicott City, and you’ve been accused of domestic violence, I know how to help. At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, I work as an aggressive and thorough domestic violence defense attorney to protect the rights of every client I take on. Let me answer your questions. Let me get started on getting you out of this. Reach out to me today at 410-271-1892 or via my contact form. Take a deep breath. There is always hope as long as you don’t stop trying.
And remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew!