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  • Most Common Defenses to Domestic Violence Allegations

    Posted on by JACK MKHITARIAN

    Man Arrested for Domestic AbuseAllegations of domestic violence are extremely serious. Regardless of what actually happened leading up to an arrest, prosecutors tend to cast defendants in New Mexico domestic violence cases as “monsters.” However, the reality is that these cases often rest on extremely thin evidence, frequently coming down to one party’s word against another’s. In many cases, the incident did not occur as the alleged victim says it did.

    The fact that the evidence in a domestic violence case comes down to only the alleged victim’s word does not detract from the seriousness of the situation. Thus, it is crucial to take these cases seriously, regardless of the lack of evidence in the prosecutor’s file.

    When it comes to defending against a New Mexico domestic violence offense, it is important to understand all aspects of the case, including witness credibility, the applicable evidentiary rules, as well as the specific elements of the charges brought against you. Before getting into the defenses, it is also important to understand what constitutes domestic violence under New Mexico law.

    What Counts as “Domestic Violence” in New Mexico

    New Mexico law defines domestic violence as certain offenses that are committed against a “household member.” However, the definition of a household member is quite broad and does not require the defendant to live with the alleged victim. Under New Mexico Statutes section 30-3-11, a household member can be a spouse, former spouse, parent, present or former stepparent, present or former parent-in-law, grandparent, grandparent-in-law, co-parent of a child, or a person with whom the defendant had a dating or intimate relationship.

    The most common types of New Mexico domestic violence charges include:

    •   Aggravated assault against a household member
    •   Aggravated battery against a household member
    •   Assault against a household member
    •   Battery against a household member
    •   Contributing to the delinquency of a minor
    •   Criminal sexual contact with a minor
    •   Harassment
    •   Kidnapping
    •   Rape
    •   Sexual abuse
    •   Stalking

    While some of these offenses are strictly crimes of domestic violence, others may be considered to be a domestic violence offense if they are committed against a household member. Domestic violence cases present unique issues because the parties know each other well and, often, involve a lot of emotion. That said, common defenses such as misidentification will not typically work in these cases. However, there are still several ways of defending against New Mexico domestic violence cases.

    Attacking Witness Credibility

    A woman being abused by her husband.Perhaps the most common defense in a New Mexico domestic violence case is attacking the witness’s credibility. When a witness takes the stand, they swear to tell the truth. However, not all witnesses do so, especially in domestic violence cases. An alleged victim may falsify allegations to put themselves in a more favorable position in child-custody determinations or make up a story after finding out their partner was unfaithful. While this may seem beyond common decency for many, the reality is that these things happen every day.

    However, attacking a witness’s credibility in a domestic violence case is not always as easy as it may seem. Often, witnesses in a domestic violence case are portrayed by the government as sympathetic victims. Thus, in some cases, aggressively cross-examining a witness can backfire if it makes the defendant come off as uncaring or cold. Instead, a skilled New Mexico criminal defense legal team must cater their style according to the specifics of each case in order to expose the witness’s biases and falsehoods without turning the jury against the defendant.

    Keeping Bad Evidence Out of the Eyes of the Jury

    Prosecutors in domestic violence cases routinely try to introduce a defendant’s every bad deed. For example, the government may attempt to present prior allegations of abuse, past criminal convictions, or past text messages or phone calls between the parties. This evidence can carry a lot of weight in the mind of the jury, even though it may not have any bearing on whether the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged. Thus, an experienced attorney can file a pre-trial motion in limine to exclude evidence of prior bad acts, ensuring the jury does not hear irrelevant and prejudicial evidence.

    Other evidence, including a defendant’s statement or any physical evidence, such as a weapon, may be kept out of the jury’s consideration if the police or detectives violated the defendant’s rights in obtaining it.

    Other Defenses to a New Mexico Domestic Abuse Crime

    In any New Mexico criminal case, the prosecution must prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution fails to meet its burden, the court must enter a not guilty verdict. Thus, challenging the state’s substantive case is an effective way to beat domestic violence charges. There are also other defenses that can help prove a defendant was innocent of the charged crimes. These include the following:

    •   Establishing an alibi;
    •   Proving the defendant acted in self-defense or in defense of another person, such as a child; or
    •   Showing that it was an accident.

    While domestic violence allegations are incredibly serious, there are ways to beat these charges. An attorney at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices can help those facing domestic violence charges in creating a compelling defense in hopes of clearing their name.

    Reach Out to a New Mexico Criminal Defense Legal Team

    If you face domestic violence charges in New Mexico, contact the dedicated criminal defense legal team at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices for immediate assistance. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients for over 22 years, and look forward to seeing how we can help you. From the moment we begin working on your case, we will aggressively pursue every available defense. We are both skilled negotiators and litigators, meaning we can help you whether you want our help in securing a favorable plea agreement or if you want to take your case to trial. To learn more about how we can help you, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our Albuquerque domestic violence defense legal team, give us a call or contact us through our online form.