Domestic Violence and Spousal Immunity

The Common Domestic Violence Encounter

A very common call for any police officer is what they often refer to as a domestic disturbance. Individuals living together, in relationships, married, etc… often get in fights. When that happens they may even get loud or even violent. Neighbors or one of the individuals in the fight will then call the cops and they are dispatched on a domestic disturbance.

When officers arrive they normally separate the individuals and start to ask questions. The answer to these questions often determine who, if anyone, will be cited and/or arrested. Additionally, these conversations with law enforcement are the foundation for what will happen at court when the charges are prosecuted. Some common outcomes that result from officer investigation are as follows:

  • If officers believes that the fight was mutual and they can not pick an aggressor then they will often cite both parties with disorderly conduct.

  • If officers determine that one party broke furniture or other possession during the fight then they will likely cite that individual with criminal mischief.

  • If officers find signs of physical abuse, such as red marks, scratches, bruising, blood, etc… then they will often believe the individuals story who has those injuries and cite the other individual with assault.


Spousal Immunity

Very often in domestic violence cases the alleged victim does not want to participate in the prosecution and does not want to testify against their significant other. There may be many different reasons for this but the reality is that a lot of people change their mind or have a different story from when the cops initially made contact with them. In cases where the alleged victim and the defendant are married there is a way that the alleged victim can refuse to testify.

Normally in criminal cases the prosecution can issue subpoenas to witnesses to force them to testify under the threat of being held in contempt. However, in the case of one spouse testifying against the other spouse there is something called Spousal Immunity that protects spouses from being forced to testify against each other. This protection is not something the defendant can use to keep their spouse from testifying but instead a protection the alleged victim can use to refrain from testifying if they so choose.

Domestic Violence Consequences

Domestic violence charges are very serious and if convicted you could be facing the loss of your ability to own and possess firearms. Additionally, domestic violence charges are enhanceable, meaning if you are convicted and subsequently charged with domestic violence again in the future you could be facing a more serious charge with harsher consequences. For these reasons you should not take any domestic violence charges lightly, even if you think your case is “an easy one.” Call a criminal defense attorney today and make sure you are protected.