There’s no question that domestic violence is a serious issue. According to the CDC, every minute an estimated 20 people are physically abused by an intimate partner. In 2019, there were 76,203 law enforcement calls for domestic violence incidents in Ohio alone. Although these laws are strict for a reason, the unfortunate reality is that many people are falsely accused of domestic violence.
Domestic violence charges in Ohio can turn ordinary lives upside down. One spiteful phone call to the police can trigger a series of distressing and seemingly irreversible outcomes: criminal charges, problems making bail, an upcoming court case, and the prospect of a lifelong criminal record.
At Engel & Martin, LLC, we know how rapidly such charges can disrupt your future. As former prosecutors, we understand the process. This is why we provide clients who have been falsely accused of domestic violence with the support and representation they need to challenge the allegations and obtain the best result for their case. If you’ve been charged or believe you are about to be, call a domestic violence defense lawyer at our firm immediately.
Ohio Domestic Violence Laws and Penalties
In Ohio, domestic violence occurs when someone commits or threatens to commit violence against a family member or someone in the same household. This crime may be categorized as a felony or misdemeanor depending on the circumstances, the extent of the victim’s injury or injuries, and the offender’s prior convictions.
An act of domestic violence that harms another person is a 1st-degree misdemeanor unless the defendant has one or more prior convictions for such an offense or knows the victim is pregnant. In these instances, they can be charged with a 3rd, 4th, or 5th-degree felony, depending on the number of prior convictions and whether an unborn child is harmed.
- Up to three years in prison (felony) or six months in jail (misdemeanor)
- Fines ranging from $500 to $10,000
In cases where the defendant knew the victim was pregnant, the court must impose a minimum sentence of six months or one year depending on whether the incident involved a threat or actual harm and whether the victim’s unborn child was harmed.
When you’re convicted of domestic violence, it becomes part of your permanent criminal record. Your opportunities can be limited when you apply for a job or try to rent an apartment or house. In addition:
- Certain felony convictions can result in the loss of professional licenses.
- If convicted of a felony, you lose the right to own firearms, vote, or hold public office.
- In the event that you are convicted of another crime later, the court might consider your prior conviction and impose a tougher sentence.
What You Need to Do Immediately After Being Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence
If you are the victim of an unfounded accusation, take the following steps to protect yourself.
Do Not Speak to the Police
Be civil, but refrain from giving a statement to the police. The arresting officers will typically read you your rights, which include the right to remain silent and avoid saying anything that could be used against you.
Contact an Experienced Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
Consult a criminal defense attorney who has handled cases similar to yours. You will need experienced advice and guidance to prove your case and clear your name.
While the specific strategy used by your Ohio criminal defense attorney will depend on the facts of your case, your attorney may seek to discredit the accuser by showing them to be consistently inconsistent, unreliable, or implausible in their statements. They will also likely assemble evidence that demonstrates your good character and shows that you have no history of committing domestic violence.
Do Not Discuss The Matter On Social Medai
Though you are innocent, it may still be difficult to escape the stigma of the accusation. You want to keep family and close friends informed about your situation. However, since anything you say could be used against you, stay off social media and tell them anyone who asks that your lawyer advises not discussing what happened and your version of the events. They will
Gather Evidence — Carefully
Create a list of people who can verify your version of events and provide you with a good character reference. Provide this list to your attorney, who can contact them and verify your information. You should also save copies of emails and messages with the alleged victim and provide those to your attorney. Your attorney can decide what should be turned over to the prosecution and what is privileged — but give your attorney everything.
Follow Conditions of Release
You probably were taken to jail and may have been held until you could appear before a judge. If you are granted release, the judge may impose conditions such as a requirement to stay away from certain family members or, even, electronic monitoring. Make sure you follow the conditions! Be warned that your spouse, partner, or family member may try to get you to breach your bail conditions by communicating with you. Don’t respond, and be sure to let your attorney know.
Change all of Your Login Passwords
Change the passwords to all your social media accounts, credit card statement logins, electronic devices like phones, laptops, and tablets, email accounts, and online shopping sites, as the information they contain can sometimes be misused by the person accusing you.
Common Reasons Why False Accusations of Domestic Violence are Made
Many Americans face false accusations of family violence or abuse, and for a variety of reasons.
While a lot of divorces are by mutual agreement, that doesn’t go for all of them. If your spouse doesn’t want the marriage to end, they may accuse you of abusing or assaulting them in order to “get back” at you. If you insist on going forward with the divorce, they may use the allegations to seek a more advantageous divorce settlement.
Child Custody Issues
When it comes to child custody proceedings, one party may make false claims of domestic violence in order to gain legal leverage over the other. This is perhaps the most common reason for making such claims.
For example, if you are divorcing or separating from your child’s other parent, they may falsely accuse you of domestic violence in order to subvert legal proceedings and gain an advantage. If you can’t disprove the allegations, you risk losing custody and even visitation.
On a similar note, accusers often make false allegations to turn children against the other parent. Even if their claims are later discredited, the relationship between the children and the accused parent may be irreparably damaged.
You’re divorcing and your spouse wants a bigger share of the property, but you disagree. Accusing you of domestic violence may be a way to take revenge on you or threaten you into giving in to their demands. It’s a petty motive that can lead to disastrous consequences.
You May Face a False Accusations Restraining Order
Ohio courts can issue protection orders if there is an allegation of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, or other criminal conduct. You don’t even have to be charged with a crime to be subject to a civil protection order, which is issued in response to allegations of domestic violence.
Violations of a protection order are punishable by jail time. Even if unproven, allegations of a violation can lead to jail time under Ohio’s “preferred arrest” law. With so much at stake, don’t face domestic violence allegations without guidance and representation from the restraining order lawyers at Engel and Martin, LLC.
Let Us Help You Protect Your Future
If false accusations of domestic violence have been made against you, you must act immediately to safeguard your future. Consult an experienced family law attorney to learn your legal rights and develop a strategy to make the strongest possible case.
At Engel & Martin, LLC, we aggressively fight for our clients. We will present your side of the story and ensure that your rights are protected in court so that you receive the best possible legal representation. Domestic violence charges can destroy a person’s personal and professional life, but we will fight to prevent that from happening to you. To learn more, call 513-445-9600 or fill out our online contact form.