What Is the Burden of Proof in a Domestic Violence Case?If you are arrested and charged with domestic violence, it is not an open and shut case. While such a charge may seem difficult to defend, the defense may actually have the easier job in some cases. The prosecution has what is called “burden of proof,” which almost always requires more than just circumstantial evidence.

There are several defenses available for defendants when it comes to domestic violence charges that can lead to a mistrial or not-guilty verdict. It is not up to the defendant to prove his or her innocence, but providing the jury with any factual evidence that can help poke holes in the prosecution’s arguments is a good way to show that there is more than a reasonable doubt that the charge against you is less than solid.

What is “burden of proof,” anyway?

You’ve likely heard this expression before if you’ve ever watched any courtroom drama tv shows before, but there is a lot that goes into it that those shows do not go into detail about. According to the Legal Information Institute, “burden of proof describes the standard that a party seeking to prove a fact in court must satisfy to have that fact legally established.” In a civil case, it usually falls to the plaintiff to prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence, which basically means that enough evidence is provided to convince the judge that there is more than a 50% chance that their claim is true.

In a criminal case, such as a domestic violence case, the burden of proof lies on the prosecutor, and they must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is different than having a preponderance of evidence. Proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt is much more difficult to do, and requires that not only enough evidence is provided, but that the persuasion of the argument must also be strong enough to convince the jury that there is no doubt that the defendant is guilty.

If there is any doubt, and the jurors agree that there was not enough evidence or the case was not persuasive enough, the trial can be acquitted.

What type of evidence will the prosecution use in a domestic violence case?

As with any criminal case, the prosecution will rely on circumstantial evidence and physical evidence. Types of physical evidence include:

  • Photographs of broken property, and of wounds or bruises on the victim taken at the time of the report. Photographs are some of the strongest pieces of evidence for the prosecution.
  • Objects found at the crime scene such as a weapon, torn clothing from the victim, and broken furniture.
  • Medical reports from hospitals or doctors concerning the injuries of the victim. A doctor can report certain physical injuries to law enforcement if they suspect they were caused by domestic abuse.

While physical evidence is a strong weapon for the prosecution, many domestic abuse claims do not have such evidence at hand and must rely solely on circumstantial evidence.

So, what’s circumstantial evidence?

Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence that does not necessarily prove guilty, but can be used to supplement an argument. It is also evidence that is not drawn from direct observation. Examples of circumstantial evidence include:

  • Convenient timing
  • Witness’ testimony of hearing (but not seeing) the crime
  • Witness’ testimony of seeing someone run from the scene of the crime
  • Evidence of possible motive
  • Evidence of opportunity
  • Evidence that the accused had the items that could have been used at the crime

Circumstantial evidence, while convincing, is not necessarily damning, and alone usually cannot convince a jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, in many domestic abuse cases, the burden of proof is not met by the prosecution.

Do I need an Annapolis defense lawyer if I’m facing domestic violence charges?

Uh, yeah – yeah, you do. One of the worst parts of any domestic abuse charge is that if information about the charge is made public, then the Court of Public Opinion is going to weigh in. Just a whiff of violence can be enough to cost you your job or your education. The police are going to confiscate any firearms you have because of Maryland’s red flag laws. You might lose the ability to see your kids, too.

An experienced and skilled Annapolis criminal defense lawyer will have no difficulty in fighting against charges made from circumstantial evidence, especially if there are a list of defenses at hand for the defendant to rely on. Many victims actually recant their accusation after the initial call to law enforcement; however, if the prosecution thinks they have any chance of winning, they will proceed with the case. Whether the defendant is guilty or not, the prosecution has the burden of proof that they must meet. If you have been accused of domestic violence, it is imperative that you hire a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer will know how to poke holes in the prosecution’s arguments, and will do everything possible to convince the jury that there is enough to doubt.

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, our knowledgeable Annapolis domestic abuse lawyer has been fighting for the rights of the accused for 18 years. Our legal staff will work tirelessly to inspect every aspect of the prosecution’s case, and find their weak points. If there is any reasonable doubt, we will exploit it. For help defending domestic violence charges, call us or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We maintain offices in Annapolis and Ellicott City.

Just remember: Keep Calm – and Call Drew.