How Important is it to Preserve Evidence In A Domestic Violence Case?
Far too often as a New Jersey Divorce Attorney, my cases involve some semblance of NJ domestic violence. When folks finally come to consult with my office regarding such terrible situations, I always ask if they have preserved any “evidence” (I frequently ask the same question in a New Jersey Child Custody case). During a New Jersey Final Restraining Order trial, the old “he said, she said,” scenario almost always raises its ugly head. This is the case in most domestic violence trials. Simply put, it is extremely rare for a witness to be there when domestic violence occurs. A vast majority of New Jersey domestic violence incidents occur inside the home. Therefore, obtaining and safeguarding evidence is crucial. The “he said, she said” dilemma is virtually eliminated in a restraining order trial when this New Jersey Family lawyer has hard evidence to introduce to the Superior Court of New Jersey. Let’s explore further.
In 2009, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that a case is only as strong as its evidence. Therefore without evidence, arguments become opinions, causing cases to be viewed as he-said she-said ones. If you are the victim, it is important that any and all evidence is preserved no matter the situation so that your argument is stronger and can directly prove the truth of the matter asserted. In cases involving domestic violence, it is especially important to preserve evidence if you are the victim because you might be responsible to bear the burden of proving your case.
In a domestic violence case, the following are standard pieces of evidence that I recommend preserving:
- Threatening text messages
- Harassing phone calls
- 911 call recordings
- Witness statements
- Prior restraining orders
- Harassing Facebook posts
- Pictures of bruises or property damage
- Medical records
- Police reports
- Anything in writing from the abuser i.e. a letter
The more evidence you can save, the better chance you have of winning the case. If tried before a jury, whatever evidence is admissible will be presented to the jury to strengthen your case. If the evidence is relevant to the case and doesn’t violate a rule of evidence, it will likely be admitted. For example, if you have been attacked by your spouse and have pictures of the bruises, save them. These pictures will likely be admissible because they are highly relevant to your case. They also will help your attorney prove that you are a victim of domestic violence and therefore should prevail in court.
Preserving evidence is also extremely important because it will help lawyers win more cases on behalf of victims of domestic violence. There are countless instances in which abusers walk free of any charges because there is no concrete evidence to show they have in fact abused their wife or husband. It is a proven fact that when evidence is introduced, it is more likely for a victim to win the case. This is true because evidence is tangible and not coming directly from the mouth of the victim. The victim might be scared to testify, fearing that he or she might be attacked again if the abuser was found innocent. Since the lawyers are the ones introducing the evidence in the first place, it places more emphasis on their role in the case as opposed to putting the victim in the spotlight.
Even if you have once been abused once, it is vital that you save any proof of the incident. Domestic violence is rarely a one time occurrence. It follows a distinct cycle. While your spouse might apologize and promise that he or she will never act up again, it is important to be skeptical of this and not to fall into the domestic violence cyclical trap. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact my office today. Thank you.