How Domestic Assault Charges Are Dismissed: Cynthia Sherwood
Timestamped Text Of Audio:
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:00:00] Hi my name is Cynthia Sherwood with Sherwood Boutique Litigation. Today I want to share my thoughts with you about how to get a domestic assault charge or some other domestic violence-related charge dismissed in the state of Tennessee. I’ll give you a very specific example of one way we got that done a bit later, but first I want to talk about the five general defenses I look at in every domestic violence case to see if we can use one of them to get the case dismissed.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:00:26] The first thing I look for to get a domestic violence charge dropped would be the “Accidental Defense.” In the “Accidental Defense,” I want to show that my client did not have the intent to put his or her hands on someone else. Any unwanted contact was simply the result of an accident.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:00:37] The second would be “Self-Defense.” Here, I need to show that although my client very intentionally put his or her hands on someone else, my client did it to protect themselves.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:00:46] In the same vein as “Self-Defense,” we also have the “Defense of Others” strategy. Again, my client had the intent to put his hands on someone else, but he did it to defend another loved one or someone else.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:00:56] Then there’s “Defense of Property.” People in Tennessee have every right to use force (reasonable force) to defend their own property.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:01:05] Lastly, we sometimes have to straight-up show that the (false) allegations are the “Work of Fiction.” Here we construct a timeline of events using supportive evidence such as texts, social media posts, voicemail, witness statements, and any other relevant facts to prove the domestic assault or domestic violence allegation is purely fictional.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:01:13] Now, I want to move onto the specific example of the time we used the “Self-Defense” strategy to successfully get a domestic assault charge dropped.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:01:18] Recently, a young man came into my office. He had been charged with domestic assault. Specifically, the charge was for assaulting his much older, and much smaller, mother-in-law. It didn’t seem like a good start for him, but that’s often the way it looks at the beginning of these cases.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:01:32] Next, I dug into the facts. As I was looking through everything I could get my hands on, I uncovered a statement that the alleged victim had previously made. In this statement, she admitted that on the night in question, she hit my client first.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:01:46] With that information, among other things, I was ready to meet with the DA. On the day of the preliminary hearing, I let the DA give me her narrative of the story. She conveniently left out the part about the mother-in-law admitting to hitting my client first on the night in question. I didn’t mention it either … yet.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:02:04] I went and spoke with the victim before showing my cards to the DA. Yes, I (the defendant’s attorney) have every right to speak to the victim if he or she is willing to speak to me. And they almost always are.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:02:13] The victim did agree to talk with me, but the domestic violence advocates came out with her. During my conversation with her, they seemed intent on keeping me from uncovering the very simple fact I was after. After clearing up the confusion on who I wanted to answer my questions, I got it. The little woman did hit my client first that night.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:02:25] After that interview, I went back to the DA. I presented her with the written statement that the woman had made about hitting my client first and her verbal admission during that interview. The DA still refused to dismiss the case.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:02:38] My client was not eligible for diversion. The only offer the DA would give my client was six months to serve in jail and a domestic assault conviction on his record for the rest of his life.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:02:52] So we fought.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:02:53] We had a preliminary hearing, which is a terrible standard for defendants. The judge only has to determine two things at that hearing:
- Whether a crime might have been committed; and
- Whether it might have been my client who did it.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:03:06] During the hearing, I was able to successfully cross-examine the alleged victim about the statement that she hit my client first. She had to admit that on the stand. I had her prior statement in my hand.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:03:20] At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge agreed with us.
Cynthia Sherwood: [00:03:24] The judge found that my client acted in self-defence and that he had no duty to retreat inside his own home. She dismissed the entire case. Next time we’ll talk about those other defenses. But remember, you don’t have to fight this alone.