When someone reports a potential case of domestic or spousal abuse, the police will almost always be sent to conduct what is known as a domestic violence “well check.” What the police document in their report will be used as evidence against the defendant when and if charges are actually filed. Even if you have already been charged with domestic violence, it can be beneficial to know what police are looking for and what typically happens at a domestic violence well check so you can tell your domestic violence defense lawyer if a procedure was bypassed or something out of the ordinary happened at the time of your arrest.
The 9-11 Call
Whether a call is made by the alleged victim, a concerned neighbor or a witness to violence, the call will be recorded and this can later be used as evidence both in a restraining order hearing and in the criminal case. This is important to know not only because what the person on the call says can be used against a suspect, but also background noises or conversation as well. It will also be on the record if the call is disconnected early or if one of the people involved attempts to convince the operator not to send the police, and depending on the circumstances, these facts could be used by the prosecution or the defense.
The Domestic Violence “Well Check”
Police always investigate domestic violence reports. In most circumstances you must let the police enter your residence on a well check. People often mistakenly think the police need a warrant but in an exigent circumstance or emergency, which a 911 call of domestic violence would be, the police have a right to enter the residence to ensure the safety of the occupants.
When police show up for the domestic violence well check, they will speak with the people involved in the dispute as well as any witnesses, talking to each person individually, usually in a separate room, if possible. If police observe any serious injuries, any blood splatters, any damaged furniture or other property, they may process the area like a crime scene and photos will be taken, evidence may be collected and more. The police will usually record statements from everyone involved and if they cannot make audio recordings, they will ask those involved to write down their statements.
The police will then write a report based on what they witnessed, documenting any broken property or visible injuries, and the statements of everyone involved. They will then ask if either party feels they need medical attention. After fully investigating and documenting the scene, the police will arrest the person they feel is the aggressor. As part of the domestic violence well check, the police will also help the alleged victim get an emergency protective order against the alleged aggressor.
Things to Look Out For
While police should try to impartially identify which person is the victim, this isn’t always easy because domestic violence cases often involve both parties acting in an aggressive manner. If they believe one person to be the aggressor from the beginning because the other party called 9-11, they may not properly document the “aggressor’s” injuries. This is why attorneys agree that it is a good idea to photograph your injuries every day after for at least a week after the incident occurs to document the progressive appearance of bruises. This can be particularly beneficial if you acted in self defense.
You should refuse to speak to police without your lawyer present because all too often people who are actually victims of domestic violence are actually accused of being the aggressors at a domestic violence well check and everything they said to defend themselves can end up being used against them. If you didn’t have an attorney present, you should at least try to write down what you said to the police as soon as possible because if you change your story after they fact, this may be used as proof that you are guilty.
If you have been accused of assault or battery against a spouse or other romantic or sexual partner, please call Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050. He offers free consultations in his office, which is located directly across the street from the Vista jail and courthouse.
Image by Geralt