Women are also charged with domestic violence, though not nearly as often as men. However, the consequences of pleading no contest or guilty to domestic violence in cases involving women are even more catastrophic.
A True Case
Ms. Ramirez (not her real name), college graduate, teacher and mother of 3 beautiful children was tired of her philandering husband beating her and abusing her 3 children. Despite being only 5 feet tall, she gathers the courage to verbally confront him about him slapping their eight year old daughter in the face. Her husband doesn’t like what he hears and a physical confrontation ensues. Although she was much smaller, she won the confrontation. The husband, his ego bruised and face scratched, decides to call the police and report her as being the aggressor. The deputy sheriffs, seeing scratches on the husband and no scratches on the wife, arrest her and put her in jail. Being in a jail for the first time, Ms. Ramirez was fearful. Fearful for her safety, her children’s safety and she wanted to make sure her criminal record stayed clean as she valued her job. Besides, she heard the stories of women being beaten and raped inside the jails by other inmates. Being a school teacher with no criminal record, she was no match for the seasoned criminals she’d be forced to live with. To make matters worse, she was arrested on a Friday meaning that she’d have to spend the entire weekend in jail. Her arraignment would be in the Compton Courthouse that Monday. Her family had no money to bail her out and she didn’t have the money to hire an attorney. At her arraignment she went with the court-appointed attorney who “very quickly” read the police report, told her that she must plead guilty to get out of jail.
The court-appointed lawyer was very busy with other cases, took no time to listen to her defense, did not argue for reduced bail and took no time to tell her the parade of horribles that awaited her if she pleaded guilty.
She takes his advice and (1) the judge orders her to stay away from the house that she owns, where her clothes and personal belongings are, (2) restrained from seeing her young school-age children, (3) order to take a 52 week domestic violence class, (4) pay fines, (5) the children are taken out of her home by social services and placed in foster care, (6) her husband moves in his new girlfriend into their house, (7) they begin to sell her items at a garage sale, (7) she is forced to live at motels and with family members, (8) she loses her job because of the conviction, and (8) the husband files for divorce and uses the domestic violence conviction to better position himself to get custody of the children and (9) the house goes into pre-foreclosure as the husband refuses to pay the mortgage. The end result from the over-worked attorneys bad advice is that Ms. Ramirez had to attend Criminal Court proceedings, Family Court proceedings and Dependency Court proceedings.
She tries to go back to criminal court to withdraw her plea of guilty, but the request falls upon deaf ears. The Dependency Court allowed her to have ‘monitored’ visits with her children while she rented a room in a local apartment. After over a year of classes and court appearances in criminal court, dependency court and divorce court, she finally has her children back with her in her house.
Tragically, this could’ve all been avoided had she had an aggressive and caring attorney with her at her 1st court appearance.
Having an experienced attorney who doesn’t have a stack of cases to handle with you at the arraignment in domestic violence cases is critical.