Interviewer: Let’s say I’ve been through this situation where I’ve been charged with domestic violence. What are some things that would be able to help my case that you would recommend to me?
Paul Tafelski: Obviously, the first thing is meeting with the attorney and kind of reviewing the case step-by-step through the whole night. One of the best defenses is self-defense, and so gathering evidence that may exist to help show that the other person started it and you were just using the force necessary to keep them away from you. That’s a big one. The second one would be that the parties both just mutually started fighting or hitting or pushing or shoving, and that it was both people doing it.
The third thing would be if there are any statements that could be obtained from the victim or the complaining witness by your lawyer to sort of recant the accusation in the police reports. The fourth thing might be just what kind of visual evidence is out there, whether it be photographs or, like you said, tape recordings of some sort – just any kind of circumstantial evidence that would help to show that what you’re being accused of is not accurate and that it’s false. Those are the big things I can think of off the top of my head.
Interviewer: Now like counseling or anger management, for instance – how will the court or a jury look at that as something that could help someone’s case? Will they look favorably on that?
Paul Tafelski: No. You would never introduce that to a jury, because in a way that’s sort of admitting that you had some kind of problem in just saying that took care of it. That is the kind of thing that sometimes can impress to the judge the fact that you are being a responsible person and acknowledging there’s a problem and dealing with it, but that’s not usually something we recommend for the clients if their defense is that they are innocent.
Notable Domestic Violence Cases
Interviewer: What are your more favorite victories in regards to domestic violence cases? Just give an example of how one of these cases would begin and end.
Paul Tafelski: One that comes to mind is I had a case with a client who was on probation for a felony road rage case. While he was on probation, his ex-girlfriend accused him of getting in a fight with her and pointing a gun at her and threatening her. Then he was charged with felonious assault. He denied it all along, said he didn’t have a gun, said she made it up. His position was basically that she knew he was on probation and she knew he would go to jail or prison for violating his probation if he got convicted of another crime involving a gun and that she made up that allegation.
We ended up having to go to trial on that case. The whole case basically came down to being able to impeach the girlfriend. In that case, she had a 911 call. There was a tape recording. She had a written statement to the police and she had a verbal statement to the police. Then she had her testimony in court at the preliminary examination. We had basically her telling the story four different times. By being able to demonstrate all the inconsistencies and the differences in those four versions of events, we were able to get a not guilty verdict for him. Therefore, he beat his violation of probation as well, which was time to prison.
That particular case was a good example of how just gathering as much evidence as you can regarding the whole incident was the most useful thing, because she never took back her story. She still tried to get him, but she had some significant inconsistencies in her different versions of events. That worked against her and to our advantage.
Choosing an Attorney
Interviewer: For someone that’s seeking out the assistance of an attorney, what are some things that they should be looking for very specific to domestic violence?
Paul Tafelski: I think general experience defending people in criminal charges is one good thing. Particular experience in the court you’re looking at is something else. Someone who you can relate to and who you feel like you can communicate with is really important because they have to understand you and you have to understand them. That’s an important aspect.
Then just consider their specific experience dealing with domestic violence cases. They are a little bit unique to other things because they carry these stigmas. There’s politics involved. Every court’s a little bit different in how they handle them. The way you go about it can make a big difference in the final outcome, so particular experience to domestic violence cases is very important.