Although there are many instances in which police and defense attorneys have an adversarial relationship in court, there are also times when they must work together.
Domestic Abuse cases are very often one of those times.
Abuse cases can be extremely complicated to sort out, and most police officers agree; domestic disturbances are their least favorite call to respond to. The atmosphere will be charged and highly emotional at best, and at worst, involve unspeakable violence and even death.
Neither party is usually interested in being reasonable when the police arrive, so just getting the facts straight can be a real challenge. As the first responders in those situations, the police report and testimony is vital to an attorney. It is critical that they can work together in a situation where children may be at risk as well.
Tragically, the vast majority of Domestic Violence is perpetrated on women. Battered women shelters have become a norm in our society. Most of these women live in fear for their lives, and even the lives of their children. But violence is only part of the problem.
Many abusers know the law– well. Remember the character played by Robert DeNiro in the film, “Cape Fear”. He stalked and taunted the family in ways that stayed within the letter of the law, leaving police unable to arrest him. He even went as far as provoking his victim into responding in such a way that HE appeared to be the victim!
Unfortunately, this is not a scenario limited to the imagination of a Hollywood writer. It is a situation which is all to real to many abused women.
Consider the story of “Peg”.
Caught up in an increasingly abusive relationship, “Peg” eventually fought back, injuring her tormentor, who promptly called police and had her arrested! He then had a “Protection From Abuse” (PFA) filed against her. A PFA is meant to protect the victim from their abuser by making it a crime for them to have any contact with them or to be near them within a certain distance in public.
Her abuser would then stalk her by purposely going places he knew she was and provoking her, thereby making it seem as if she had violated the PFA. This situation went on for a while, eventually landing “Peg” in jail for 13 days. Fortunately for her, by this point, the police were aware of what was going on and worked with the prosecution to correct the situation. Had “Peg” been working with an attorney, chances are it would have never gotten that far.
An attorney fighting on her behalf would work with police and the District Attorney’s office to arrive at a just solution, eliminating what can often be a limited, arbitrary legal interpretation of an otherwise obviously unjust scenario.
Next time, we’ll talk to a police officer about Domestic Abuse.