Almost all domestic violence charges in Cobb County are domestic battery charges. However, prosecutors have a number of other options. Many of these options don’t require proof of physical contact, let alone proof of physical injury.
Prosecutors often file stalking and other such charges if police officers investigated the mater, sympathize with the alleged victim, but don’t uncover sufficient evidence of an assault. Since police and prosecutors often don’t play on the same team, prosecutors are anxious to keep officers happy. Otherwise, when they need evidence for court on short notice, police officers may not be of much help.
A Marietta criminal defense lawyer can usually erode the alleged victim’s credibility in these matters. If jurors don’t believe his/her story, or take it with a grain of salt, they usually return a not-guilty verdict. Prosecutors know the drill as well, which is why they’re usually willing to offer favorable plea deals if the evidence is weak.
Usually, harassment is a series of communications, generally text messages, calculated to harass the alleged victim.
Assume Harry and Sally separate. Over about a five-day period, Harry sends about two dozen texts to Sally during “quiet hours,” which are usually between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Usually, the texts have an ostensibly legitimate purpose, like checking on the kids. However, given the volume and time, Harry arguably intends to harass Sally.
Harry might have a defense if he had a reason to be concerned. Perhaps Sally ignored a child’s health problem or didn’t seem to care if their grades were slipping.
Harassment could also be a one-time contact, such as a physical shove or abusive language in a text message. These harassment cases are more difficult to defend.
If that abusive language includes a threat of severe physical violence, like a death threat, prosecutors could also press terroristic threat charges. Usually, these charges hold up in court if the alleged victim reasonably believed the defendant had the means and ability to make good on the threat.
Conditional threats, like “I’ll do this unless you do this,” may not hold up in court. Technically, the defendant didn’t make an immediate threat of physical harm. S/he simply implied that s/he might do something later.
This offense is closely related to terroristic theat. However, instead of making a violent threat, the defendant threatens to hurt someone else, commit a crime, accuse someone else of committing a crime, expose a secret that would damage the alleged victim’s reputation or credit, testify or not testify in court, or do anything else to damage the alleged victim’s health, safety, career, or personal relationships.
Coercion is unlike terroristic threat in that conditionality (I’ll do this unless you do this”) is an element of the offense.
Contrary to popular myth, stalking isn’t necessarily a personal crime, like following someone. Courts broadly define stalking to include a wide range of activities, such as “any communication including without being limited to communication in person, by telephone, by mail, by broadcast, by computer, by computer network, or by any other electronic device.”
“Harassing and intimidating” conduct, another key element, is “a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes emotional distress by placing such person in reasonable fear for such person’s safety or the safety of a member of his or her immediate family, by establishing a pattern of harassing and intimidating behavior, and which serves no legitimate purpose.”
Violating a Restraining Order
This offense might be the most common non-battery domestic violence offense. Prosecutors don’t have to prove intent.
If Harry follows Sally to the supermarket, he could argue that they were simply going to the same place at the same time and there was no willful and knowing course of conduct designed to cause emotional distress. If Sally has a restraining order, Harry’s intent is irrelevant. He’s in a prohibited place, so he’s going to jail.
Defendants commit this offense if they’re in a prohibited place (the defendant was told to leave or stay away) or they stealthily and unexpectedly watch someone.
The aforementioned restraining orders often include language barring the defendant from the alleged victim’s home, workplace, and other places. This verbiage usually serves as a criminal trespass warning. A locked door might also be a criminal trespass warning, but that’s in a gray area.
Warning or no warning, peeping Toms are trespassers as well, as are individuals who set up hidden cameras or peepholes in bedrooms and other unexpected places.
You probably didn’t expect to see this offense on this list. This offense sometimes overlaps with stalking. For example, if Harry sends Sally a lewd picture, he might have the intent to harass her, or he might have the intent to gratify himself.
Usually, domestic violence kidnapping is taking people somewhere they don’t want to go. That “somewhere” could be a party, a relative’s house, or marriage counseling session.
Domestic violence kidnapping bucks the trend in that, in most cases, police officers aren’t directly involved. Instead, the alleged victim usually files a complaint with the police department or with local prosecutors. Therefore, these cases rarely hold up in court. Your word against mine could be sufficient in civil court, because the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). But the burden of proof is much higher in criminal court.
Kidnapping is taking people where they don’t want to go, and false imprisonment is forcing people to remain where they don’t want to be. This offense, like the others on this list, doesn’t require proof of a physical injury. Common examples include blocking a doorway, taking the car keys, and maybe disconnecting the phone.
An abuser who intentionally (not maliciously) breaks the alleged victim’s belongings may be guilty of criminal mischief. That property could be individually or jointly owned. Tampering with property could be criminal mischief as well, if that tampering endangers the alleged victim or that property. Common examples of criminal mischief include someone keying a car, punching a hole in the wall of a home, or breaking a cell phone.
Domestic violence doesn’t necessarily have to be “violent.” For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. Virtual, home, and jail visits are available.