Interviewer: And is this a separate charge in addition to other charges, or is it that the charge just becomes this other kind of thing called domestic violence?
Eric: The charge itself just becomes and is handled in the Domestic Violence part. There is no penal law charge for a domestic violence. There is no added penalty for being accused of a domestic violence type of case. It just is handled in that Domestic Violence scenario, with the District Attorney’s Office who usually has DAs assigned to that particular bureau.
Frequently, there are specific judges assigned to a courtroom who handle these cases all the time. Although you don’t get treated differently, you do get treated differently.
Interviewer: You can be convicted of assault, but it’s charged in the Domestic Violence Court, or for stalking, or aggravated harassment. You’ll be charged for these kinds of crimes, but they’ll just be heard in a separate court, and against the label of domestic violence will be applied to it, is that right?
Eric: Correct, and then depending on the attitude of the prosecutor’s office and the judge in those parts, you ma, for example, is facing an assault charge that is not in that domestic violence part, as strange as that may seem.
Somebody who is in the courtroom right next door for the exact same charge may be penalized far less severely than you than you, or may be punished more harshly than you because of the attitude of the prosecutor or the judge in those particular parts.
When a Witness Wants to Recant Testimony
Interviewer: Do you have chances where, let’s say, the spouse of the victim wants to recant and says, ‘No, nothing happened. I don’t want to press charges. I want to just drop it’?
Eric: Yes, that happens. Over the course of the last twenty-seven years I’ve seen that happen. In the 1980s it was prevalent where, and usually was some man, the male, would hit or threaten or hurt the female, whether it was his spouse or girlfriend, and then she would come to court and say, “I changed my mind. I don’t want to press proceed. I don’t want to press charges. He said he’s sorry.”
The court system would usually take the stance, “OK. You understand you’re not entitled to an Order of Protection.” They would educate this particular individual about the perils of what can happen about not proceeding. Now, it’s a lot more difficult for one of the parties to not cooperate with the authorities.
Certainly, the authorities can never force a witness to do anything. However, the District Attorney’s Office, many times, will be a little bit less forgiving, a little bit less cooperative, to allow somebody to put somebody through the whole system and then later on just say, “Oh, well, forget it. I changed my mind.” This is because it turns the system into that sword and shield and allows people to use the system for wrong purposes. Decades ago, it was easier to drop the charges than it is now.
Interviewer: For example, someone like Tina Turner would have been better off now days, right?
Eric: Yes, she would have been.
By Eric Sachs