Stage Three: Arraignment and Pretrial Hearings
Process of a Domestic Violence Case
The first court date will be an arraignment. This is a relatively simple hearing where we plead not guilty, set new dates, and address issues of bail, including the bail amount and the protective order. Good character, limited criminal history, and ties to the community in the form of steady employment and family support will influence the judge’s decision in lowering the bail and modifying any protective order.
After the arraignment will be a series of hearings called readiness conferences, where your attorney negotiates with the prosecutor and the judge to resolve the case prior to going to trial. Domestic violence cases are the hardest cases for a prosecutor to prove. Your attorney must push for trial from day one of the negotiations in order to obtain the best possible deal. The investigation must be thorough and complete prior to negotiating the case to give the prosecutor an idea of the difficulties they will face in proving their case.
In felony cases, there will be a preliminary hearing. This is when the prosecutor puts all of their evidence on to show that there is simply enough reason to take the case to trial. The prosecutor needs to show that it is simply more than likely that the crime occurred. The preliminary hearing is the most important hearing in a felony case.
Your attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine the victim to expose any lies or embellishments that may be included in the police reports. A discredited victim serves as an extremely valuable in tool in negotiations. The conduct and injuries will also be examined at the preliminary hearing, which weighs heavily on whether the case should proceed as felony or a misdemeanor.
Your attorney may make a request at the preliminary hearing for the judge to deem the charge to be a misdemeanor, above the prosecutor’s objection. If the evidence has been properly investigated, challenged, and negated at the preliminary hearing, the case may be resolved for a greatly reduced charge, or even dismissed in the subsequent negotiation stages before trial.