Intimate Partner Violence

In domestic violence cases, the prosecution will often request a special jury instruction known as CALCRIM No. 850 which explains the purpose of expert testimony about intimate partner violence. The jury instruction on expert witness testimony in intimate partner violence cases provides:

You have heard testimony from [the expert] regarding the effect of battered women’s syndrome and cycle of violence. [The expert’s] testimony about battered women’s syndrome and cycle of violence is not evidence that the defendant committed any of the crimes charged against him.

You may consider this evidence only in deciding whether or not [the victim’s] conduct was not inconsistent with the conduct of someone who has been abused, and in evaluating the believability of her testimony.

Attorney for Intimate Partner Violence in Ventura, CA

If you were charged with intimate partner or domestic violence in Ventura County, CA, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Jay Leiderman Law.

With offices conveniently located in Ventura, CA, Jay Leiderman can help you understand the charges pending against you, ways to avoid the typical punishments, and the best way to fight for an outright dismissal of the charges.

Call (805) 654-0200.

Recantation in Domestic Violence Cases

Prosecutors complain that they have a difficult time prosecuting domestic violence cases because battered women are:

  • hostile to the prosecution of the batterer;
  • deny the statements that they have made to the police (the recantation); or
  • attempt to minimize the violence.

To counteract these problems, the prosecution might try to use an expert to explain why a battered women recanted her testimony. The expert might explain that the battered women is mot honest and accurate about abuse soon after an abusive event because there has not been time for denial, repressing, or minimization.

The prosecution might call an expert to explain why women commonly recant their allegations of abuse or attmept to minimize the violence. The expert often testifies that the recationation occurs because of the following pattern:

  1. the parties are really mad at each other;
  2. the batterer portrays himself as a victim and asks for sympathy;
  3. the batterer offers an alternative narrative in which the victim is to blame;
  4. the parties have nostalgia for the good parts of their relationship; and
  5. the batterer asks the victim to recant.

The prosecution will often seek to elicit testimony about intimate partner violence from an expert. The term “intimate partner violence” replaces the previously used phrase known as “Battered Women’s Syndrome.”

Expert Testimony on the Effects of Partner Battering

Evid. Code, § 1107, subd. (a). provides:

“In a criminal action, expert testimony is admissible by either the prosecution or the defense regarding intimate partner battering and its effects, including the nature and effect of physical, emotional, or mental abuse on the beliefs, perceptions, or behavior of victims of domestic violence, except when offered against a criminal defendant to prove the occurrence of the act or acts of abuse which form the basis of the criminal charge.”

Experts on intimate partner violence will often describe the “three-stage cycle” of violence including:

  • a first stage of tension building;
  • a second stage of acute violence; and
  • a third state of contrition or remorse.

According to this theory, during the tension stage, a victim might do something to provoke a fight because the tension is “unbearable” and the victim wants to “get it over with.” After the violence occurs, the victim stays in these relationships because the victim feels at fault as the abuser begins to express contrition and remorse for the violence.

Every time the cycle repeats itself, the violence increases in frequency and severity as the third stage of contrition and remorse becomes shorter and shorter. Because of the cycle of domestic violence, the victim is fearful and takes the blame for causing the abuse. The victim might stay with the abuser because the victim feels dependent on the abuser or fears that the violence will increase if she attempts to leave.

For example, in People v. Adams, C085290, 2019 WL 2721640, at *3 (Cal. Ct. App. July 1, 2019), the prosecution called David Cropp, who testified to his background working with families and children exposed to domestic violence. In that case, the expert was permitted to testify that:

  • he had been qualified 18 times as an expert in the area of domestic violence and victim and witness participation;
  • it was very common in the criminal justice system for victims of domestic violence to refuse to cooperate with the prosecution or to change or recant their previous statements;
  • the reasons for this behavior included reluctance to be adverse to a person who may be a co-parent or “somebody they may love”
  • a victim also may fear retaliation, stalking, threats, being alone, being unable to support the children, and family or social judgments
  • he had seen in the literature estimates that up to 80 percent of domestic abuse victims refuse to cooperate with law enforcement.
  • he knew nothing about this case, had not read any police reports on it, and did not know the defendant.

In order to counteract this kind of testimony, the defense should call their own expert witness to explain why the alleged victim of domestic violence might lie or exaggerate the accusation out of spite or in order to gain an advantage in an anticipated divorce or child custody case.

The defense expert can also testify about why law enforcement officer might misconstrue the alleged victim’s statements in an attempt to build a stronger case.