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Credibility In Domestic Violence Cases
It is very common in Florida domestic violence cases for there to be credibility issues with one or both of the alleged participants. Even if you have acted in ways you should not have, it is important to try and preserve your credibility at trial, for a negative credibility finding can adversely affect the outcome if your case does not settle beforehand. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal process.
Preserve Credibility At All Costs
As one might imagine, many domestic violence cases boil down to ‘he said, she said’ situations, and sorting out the truth can be difficult, particularly if the case happens due to a domestic dispute in the heat of the moment. When a domestic violence call is made to law enforcement, Florida law allows the responding officer to use their own judgment as to who the victim is, and whether or not an arrest needs to be made – but this also means that the responding officer’s judgment and credibility findings may be in error.
If you have been arrested and charged with a domestic violence offense, it is crucial that you not only offer your consistent version of events, but also do so in a way that is logical and credible, simply because an adverse credibility finding will stay with a person throughout the trial process, should your case get to that point. This is not strictly fair – someone may look credible without being credible – but if anything, it provides a stronger impetus to avoid trial if possible.
Findings Are Final
While the facts of any given incident will be the primary pieces used in determining the truth of a domestic violence crime, credibility can also play a role, particularly in cases whether both parties allege two different sequences of events. If a defendant reaches a plea-bargain, these findings may not be entered into the record, but if a case makes it to trial, it is crucial to understand that credibility findings are effectively set in stone.
State case law from recent years makes it clear that credibility can influence whose ‘story’ is accepted, and once a credibility finding has been made by the relevant trial court, it is effectively set in stone. Lahodik v Lahodik (2007) states explicitly that “ … the appellate court does not re-weigh the evidence or the credibility of witnesses.” An appellate court will review the ruling of a lower court, but not the evidence or other factors that led to that ruling.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
If you have been arrested or charged with a domestic violence offense in Florida, it is important to ensure that you are credible, and that your version of events tallies with the facts. Credibility matters at multiple points in the legal process, for good or ill – and a West Palm Beach criminal attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help ensure you have the best chance to get a fair outcome. Call our office today to speak to an attorney.