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October 25, 2016

What Are My Legal Rights When Accused of Nonviolent Abuse?

woman accusing man of nonviolent abuse
*actor portrayal

The legal system’s view of domestic abuse has evolved over time, and the courts have been proactive in combating domestic abuse and a national dialogue has helped define this complex issue. The Nevada Domestic Violence Resource Manual refers to ongoing domestic violence as “a pattern of escalating abuse in which one partner in the relationship controls the other through force, deprivation and/or the threat of deprivation or violence.”

The cases of nonviolent physical abuse tend to stretch the legal system’s ability to protect victims, but statutes and support are in place for victims. Therefore, it’s important to know your rights when you’ve been charged with domestic abuse.

What is Domestic Battery?

Like the name suggests, domestic battery is the unwanted physical contact caused by another person. It can be an assault that inflicts harm or pain or just pushing and shoving. The key component is that you don’t want to be touched, and someone is making contact physically personally or with an object. Heated arguments and angry words do not constitute battery. The second aspect is that a domestic relationship exists.

Defining a Domestic Relationship

The State of Nevada considers people to be in a domestic relationship who meet the following criteria:

  • Former spouse
  • Any person to whom the perpetrator is related by blood or marriage
  • A person with whom the perpetrator has had or is having a dating relationship
  • A person with whom the perpetrator has a child in common
  • The minor child of any of the above persons
  • The minor child of the perpetrator

Types of Domestic Violence that Aren’t Physically Abusive

Abuse is typically associated with physical violence, but there are a number of other types of situations that also fall under this umbrella. While being injured in the physical sense by a spouse or loved one can be a serious, traumatic event, nonviolent abuse can be damaging as well. Some of these instances, which might not include any actual physical harm, can be just as bad as cuts and bruises—in some cases they can be even worse. Damage caused by domestic abuse can take a great deal of time to heal even when the scars are invisible.

Despite evidence of physical abuse, one of the main concerns is that the alleged perpetrator has used methods to intimidate and create a sense of powerlessness in their partners and that this isn’t the end. Many believe that nonviolent abuse may escalate to physical assault and battery.

Claims of Nonviolent Domestic Abuse

Nonviolent domestic abuse can fall under a number of umbrellas with the main symptom being a deterioration of one partner’s self-worth and freedom. Victims in an emotionally abusive relationship assert that they feel trapped, like there’s no escape from their situation. The most common types of nonviolent abuse include:

  • Humiliation
  • Financial control
  • Intimidation and control

Verbal abuse, including threats of violence or other consequences if certain demands aren’t met, also falls under the category of nonviolent abuse.

Threatening

While threatening is not the same as battery, it is viewed in many states as similar to the crime of assault. If the victim can prove that you made believable threatening remarks or gestures toward them, there may be legitimate grounds for a criminal charge. Key components are often the victim’s ability to prove that the threats occurred and would be reasonable to fear death or bodily harm as a result. If charged, the court usually includes a no-contact order, which means you would be required to stay away during the proceedings. If you act against the court’s mandate, you could be arrested and face stiffer penalties. This may also work against you during your case.

Protective Orders

If someone feels that they are the victim of violent or nonviolent domestic abuse, the state can grant them a protective order that covers issues such as:

  • Harassment
  • Child custody
  • Physical harm
  • Trespassing
  • Entering a workplace
  • Entering a school
  • Stalking

Child Custody And Abuse

The Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence recommends that victims of abuse work closely with an attorney and gain a protective order within the family court system when children are involved. The practical wisdom is that having one file gives the judge deciding the case a more complete picture about what is transpiring in the domestic relationship. They also recommend thoroughly documenting abusive behavior. This can make an already sticky family law situation even more convoluted.

In Nevada, prosecutors cannot dismiss a charge of domestic violence unless there is insufficient evidence to support it. However, the most difficult thing is to prove such a claim. Unlike physical domestic abuse, there are no injuries to document, so a lack of evidence is what makes these cases difficult to prosecute. Since many nonviolent domestic issues come up in the privacy of a home, there is nearly always a lack of evidence to positively prove guilt. What ends up happening in court is a he said/she said scenario that pits the words of the alleged victim against the defendant, both of which have obviously different personal interests. However, some kinds of evidence may work against you if the victim can procure it. Possible items of this nature include:

  • Photos of damaged property from a threatening altercation
  • Witnesses that may be able to testify about abusive behavior

Regardless of how damning this kind of evidence may seem, it could still be fabricated or even open to interpretation. Consulting with a lawyer about your course of action for defense is the best response to this situation.

Crafting a Defense Against Nonviolent Abuse Allegations

In cases of domestic abuse, plea bargains are only permitted if it can be proven that there isn’t enough evidence to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. In matters of nonphysical abuse, things can get much trickier; it is imperative that you seek out legal counsel to help you navigate the trials ahead. If you’ve been charged with domestic abuse, contact Marchiano Law to find out which steps you should take.