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Common Defenses to Domestic Violence Allegations


The courts take domestic violence allegations seriously—and they should, considering the severe emotional and physical distress it leaves behind. Men and women can be victims of domestic abuse, although male domestic abuse does not get as much attention. In California, 32.9% of women and 27.3% of men experience some kind of domestic violence in their lifetimes. When someone unjustly or mistakenly accuses another person of domestic violence, the defendant’s personal and professional lives are at stake. It is crucial to hire an experienced defense attorney who understands the following common defenses.

Lack of Proof

In many domestic abuse cases, the defense can show the court holes in a plaintiff’s story. Poking holes in the story can sometimes be enough for the court to let the defendant off the hook. The prosecutor must meet the required burden of proof. If he or she cannot meet these requisites thanks to the defense, the court has no choice but to find the defendant innocent. The defense can gather a lack of proof argument by investigating the case closely.

Deliberately False Accusations

It is not uncommon for men and women to falsely accuse a spouse of domestic violence on purpose. This may happen in divorce and child custody cases to sway the court’s decision in one direction or the other. It may also occur out of spite. An attorney can defend against this type of allegation by finding inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s story that prove he or she is lying. This can include comparing police reports against eyewitness accounts.

Wrong Suspect

In some cases, victims of domestic abuse identify the wrong subject, either by mistake or on purpose for their own reasons. When this happens, the defendant claims that someone else was responsible for the abuse. The defense attorney must gather evidence as to the whereabouts of the alleged defendant at the time of the abuse and develop a strong alibi that proves he or she could not have been at the scene of the crime.


Sometimes the defendant claims that he or she acted in self-defense at the time of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries. This may be to defend children on the scene or to simply protect themselves from injury. A self-defense claim may work if the defense can provide proof that he or she perceived an imminent threat and had an appropriate response. The defendant must also prove that he or she did not initiate the fight.

Questions Your Defense Attorney Should Ask

In any type of domestic violence case, a good defense attorney looks at the initial police report and asks certain questions. These questions immediately begin to vet the plaintiff’s allegations for holes and inconsistencies and to gather any potential information that could work in the defendant’s favor. Questions may include:

  • Does the 911 tape support or discredit my client?
  • Does my client have a history of violence?
  • Were there witnesses on the scene? Do their statements help or hurt my client’s case?
  • What is the victim’s emotional state? What is my client’s emotional state?
  • Does my client have fresh injuries or other signs of a struggle?
  • Is there physical evidence that undermines my client’s claims?
  • Are there signs that either party was intoxicated at the time of the alleged violence?

Asking the right questions can help a defense attorney build a case supporting the defendant’s innocence. A skilled San Diego domestic violence attorney will decide the best angle to take, and then he or she will gather evidence to support the defendant’s stance and work closely with the client to develop a strong case. If someone has accused you of domestic violence, it is of the utmost importance to hire an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney who can make sense of your specific situation and provide advice.