Family Violence Battery is a misdemeanor crime under Georgia's criminal laws and the Georgia Family Violence Act. Our teat at Zeliff | Watson has represented hundreds of people charged with family violence battery and we know exactly how to prepare your best defense no matter the circumstances. Chronologically, here's what to expect in your defense of a family violence allegation:
Family Violence Bond Conditions- No Contact Bonds, No Violent Contact Bonds
Oftentimes, a judge will set special bond conditions, in addition to a cash bond, in family violence cases. Bond conditions can include no contact or no violent contact conditions. A no contact bond can have devastating effects, especially when a family with children is involved. Typically, the partner charged with the family violence has to vacate and remain away from the home, usually with only a one-time, police escorted trip home to grab some belongings. This no contact bond will remain in place until the case is finalized, unless you are able to have the court agree to change it. Our defense team typically files for bond modifications within hours of taking on a new family violence case- especially where a no contact bond is in place and all parties wish to have the condition removed. Additionally, we are able to get the initial incident reports and establish contact with the victim advocate and prosecutor's offices about the case and to open up discussions about your situation and the reality of returning home, even while the case is pending.
Georgia Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP)
Under Georgia's Family Violence Act, judges have the power to order participation in a family violence intervention program, even before court, and as part of bond conditions. Family violence, or FVIP, courses are generally mandated with probation for family violence cases and in protective orders that involve family violence. These family violence programs are 24 weeks long and generally cost $25-30 per class, weekly. Depending on your provider, you may only miss a certain amount of courses before you must start over. FVIP courses advertise reductions in repeat family violence and distinguish themselves from anger management therapy. Speak to us about whether proactively beginning a family violence / FVIP will benefit your case or end up being court ordered.
Temporary Protective Orders (TPOs)
Temporary protective orders in Georgia can be applied for without you knowing or being entitled to a hearing beforehand. Under Georgia's family violence law one may apply for a protective order by giving a sworn statement that alleges an act of family violence has occurred. Often, law enforcement will advise a party to obtain a family violence order if an arrest is made after an incident of suspected family violence. While the core of a family violence protective order is usually a no contact provision, these orders can provide more comprehensive protection such as the non-transfer of assets, keeping all utilities in place and current, temporary child support and other basics. Within 30 days a judge must have a hearing where both parties attend to decide whether to extend the protective order; usually to 12 months. This hearing is a lot like a trial; you can subpoena evidence and witnesses as well as cross examine the other side. Of course, if you are the defendant (or respondent) for this hearing, you do not have to take the stand and testify. These protective order hearings can last a few hours to upwards of all day and can be handled by a criminal defense attorney, a divorce attorney, or both. Some judges will allow a consent order to be entered in lieu of a hearing, as along as the order adheres to their standards. The benefit, if allowed and agreed to, is that a consent order or "mutual stay-away" does NOT get transmitted to the Georgia registry, making it a somewhat less formal option. Finally, if you are going through a divorce, many attorneys will file for these protective orders as a way to expedite the hearing of issues in your divorce case. Of course, with a typical 30-day timeline, these hearings will have to be dealt with well in advance of your divorce action.
Family Violence Counseling, Therapy, & Being Proactive
Depending on the nature and circumstances in your case, we will almost always work with you to take a proactive approach to seeking therapy that the court will consider when we go before a judge. 1-1 counseling or therapy, either joint or individually, as well as more formal groups are both options to explore. Whether or not you and you and your partner decide to engage in therapy is totally dependent on the facts and situation you are in. There is no one size fits all, so this is something we would discuss after learning more about your situation.
Georgia Pretrial Diversion Program
Pretrial diversion is a program, more less a handshake, with the prosecuting attorney on an agreement to dismiss your case. Because these programs end with an excellent outcome- the dismissal of your case and restriction (sealing) of your record, they are a highly sought after outcome. However, the details are subject to negotiation. In a pretrial diversion program, you should expect to pay a program fee, usually anywhere from $500-$1000, as well as attend classes, including FVIP, and do some community service. These programs seldom require more than one office visit a month, though you are responsible for attending and logging your other requirements. Again, the biggest benefit to pretrial diversion is the ability to clear your record as much as the law allows, and sparing you anywhere between 15-25 hours typically spent in court going through the process.
The Court Process
Every criminal case in Georgia is on one track: to go to trial. At your first court date, the judge will ask how you plead and assign you either a date for a bench trial (where the judge hears the evidence and rules on your guilt or innocence) or a jury trial date. If you opt for a jury trial, there maybe more hearings beforehand, like a calendar call, which is primarily used for scheduling purposes. Our law firm takes every single case with the presumption it will go to trial. We want you to be prepared for trial and if the prosecutor offers a resolution or plea beforehand that you accept, then your case can be resolved without trial. However, we are not the lawyers to take your case and then immediately convince you why a trial is not necessary or why you are otherwise guilty as charged. Plea lawyers, as they are endearingly known, are cheap and easy to come across; that is not us.
Why Zeliff | Watson's Team for Family Violence Defense?
At Zeliff | Watson, our team has been defending criminal cases to include family violence allegations for 39 combined years. Both Peter and Evan have an intimate knowledge of the court systems in Forsyth, Fulton, and surrounding counties throughout Georgia. If you want sound legal advice, a team that cares, and the best outcome should your case proceed to trial, look no further and give us a call today to get the process started.