Domestic Violence affects not only heterosexual partnerships but it is also a common problem in the LGBT community.  Researchers have found that domestic violence occurs at equal rates between gay/lesbian couples as it does with straight couples.  In fact, 1 out of every 3 same sex relationships has suffered from domestic violence.[1]  (Center for American Progress)  In the past, homophobic attitudes amongst law enforcement resulted in many of these cases going unprosecuted.  However, public pressure and the legalization of same sex marriage has put pressure on police and prosecutors to handle such cases more aggressively.

 As a result of increased vigilance on the part of law enforcement, members of the LGBT community may be falsely accused or improperly charged with domestic violence.  This is because law enforcement casts a general umbrella over all disputes occurring between same sex partners.  They do this without the understanding that relationship disputes often get of control for a variety of reasons and without knowledge of the working dynamics of same sex relationships.  As a result, it is important to understand the nuances of domestic violence charges as they apply to same-sex marriages:

Domestic Violence may involve an act or threatened act of violence.  It does not matter if the violence occurred between a straight couple or a same-sex couple.  If someone is physically injured, then a charge for domestic violence may be made.  Charges may be brought even if one partner was acting in self-defense or if only property or harassment occurred (such as sending a partner a barrage of text messages).

There must be a mandatory arrest:  If the police believe there was probable cause of domestic violence, the police are required to make an arrest.  As a result, if a partner, neighbor, or any witness calls the police, it is very likely that an arrest may follow.

Domestic Violence cases focus on the victim’s rights.  The alleged victim will get an opportunity to talk to the prosecutor before any potential plea bargains or sentencing offers are made.  Regardless of the status of the relationship, the victim’s statements can significantly impact the legal possibilities.

A protective order may be issued.  A protective order requires the person charged with domestic violence to stay away from the purported victim.  This may include not entering the home you share with your partner.  You may even not be allowed to have contact with children you share with the victim.  Additionally. a protective order may go beyond just physical contact and prohibit texting, emailing, or phone calls.

A conviction for domestic violence can result in prison time.  Whether between a straight couple or a same-sex couple, a domestic violence conviction can result serious jail time.  A court may also order a defendant to enter a domestic violence treatment program or pay heavy fines.  Also, it is important to keep in mind that a conviction of domestic violence will result in a permanent criminal record that can affect employment, housing, and loan opportunities for an entire lifetime.

Because of the potentially disastrous consequences, it is important to take domestic violence charges seriously.  If faced with charges, it is critical that you immediately contact an experienced and trustworthy attorney who is knowledgeable about the particular issues involved with same-sex domestic violence.  The right Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can walk you through the specific circumstances of your case and help you build the strongest possible legal defense.