Bail Agent’s Guide to Understanding Domestic Violence
- by Jesse Black
Domestic Violence related charges are some of the most common bonds bail agents will receive calls about. This category of charges tends to have significantly higher misconceptions, questions, and emotions than other charges bail agents typically encounter.
Below is a crash course in the basics of Domestic Violence for Bail Agents:
The difference between standard battery or aggravated assault charges and domestic violence is the presence of an intimate partnership (old, new, family-linked, undone, or one-sided). Domestic violence can occur outside the home, but if proven that the relationship was perceived as a partnership by one side or the other, and even if the relationship has been legally severed any mental or physical abuse can slip into this category. Most cases of Domestic Violence are the result of intimate partners under stress and heightened by the presence of substances (alcohol or drugs) and a need to dominate the more submissive partner. It is not always man over woman, or man over man, or woman over woman, nor do the effects confine themselves to a single victim and by no means is a single reported or police recorded event the proof that it was contained to one incident. Most domestic violence is ongoing, and the reportable recordable situations represent the times when it rose loudly enough to surface and warrant outside party complaint.
According to most sources on domestic violence, the top reason for staying in a relationship that is harmful to at least one party is FEAR. Some examples are fear of reprisal, fear of a partners’ fury, fear of bodily harm, fear of being outed for their preferences or perceived weaknesses, fear of harm to a family member, fear of being hunted or stalked, or fear of never being able to be an individual with any independence. Fear is what prevents people from pressing charges, escaping, or confiding in someone else about their need for help. For victims, know that the prison of abuse won’t change without action.
In some cases, domestic violence is a charge faced by both parties in an isolated incident (public or private) resulting in both parties in jail. In other cases there is a single arrest and an abuse victim who now must decide whether to fight or stay; that decision is made by factors that set deep into the psyche of the individual:
- Will they have the support of their family in this action (cultural/religious)?
- Will they be able to survive without the support of the incarcerated (enslavement)?
- Will they be able to achieve a normal life should this extend past sentencing, rehabilitation, and possible reconciliation?
The situations vary widely but the one certainty is that the cycle requires one or both parties in the relationship to willingly break out of the abusive or submissive postures. Further complications exist when one party is removed by language or visibility from the community and, of course, when there are children present as witnesses.
Nothing is as threatening as an ongoing physically or mentally abusive situation and most will not end without intervention. It is not a situation exclusive to women (but they are the majority of reported victims). Domestic violence ultimately affects all of society and has no exclusive group that suffers more: heterosexual couples, gay, lesbian, transgender persons, married, divorced, separated, or singles and any children who are within the realm of exposure.
Most bail agents have seen their share of arrests that occur after incidents have erupted to the point of police action. Some domestic violence arrests affect persons involved in intimate- partner relationships undergoing sudden change and others reached a breaking point after long-standing acceptance of the condition. Remember that at some time prior to abuse all parties involved in an intimate partnership relationship were drawn by a promise of something in exchange for the others’ contact. In some cases, it may be the sincere treatment of contributing factors (alcohol consumption, drug use) that can turn the violence pattern off but it requires a mutual commitment to sobriety and it has been successful.
Charges and Personal Arrest History
Domestic violence charges are considered in the legal world as a wobbler, meaning that the charge may be determined a felony or misdemeanor. The wobble toward misdemeanor usually occurs in first or second offenses and is often judged by the amount of physical injury or participation of both parties to the incident. The wobble toward felony usually occurs for anyone who has a history of violent arrests or if a weapon was used in the act or whether or not substances (alcohol or drugs) were present during the arresting offense.
Stay or Leave
For the 55% of the population in the United States that has never suffered any form of relationship abuse (on record), the answer seems callously easy – don’t stay. Leaving any relationship brings an emotional toll. For many, it is emotionally wrenching and a financial impossibility. The answer “leave” means moving, having a place to move to, having the financial resources or support to accomplish that (deposits, application fees, background checks, etc.) in addition to the will to face the unknown without a partnership. Existing dependency on an individual’s income or stability seems to outweigh the single or patterned outburst of ongoing anger and often influence the decision to press charges. Codependency is often intertwined with pattern abuse and becomes accepted as a bizarre normalcy, and this is not the outcome desired for anyone involved in such a relationship. The impact of the abuser’s income might be more than the victim can bear to lose, and in the event of children in the relationship, separation promises ongoing confrontation under visitation privileges. Severing ties between two adults who share any considerable time together (positive or negative) requires ongoing strength and can’t necessarily be achieved without the support of family, church, peer group, or outreach service.
Staying in any consistently abusive relationship means that the threat of ongoing incidents will continue unless intervention occurs. Again the support groups that can participate in healing such a situation are family, clergy, peer group, or outreach service. Isolation is part of the threat to the victim of abuse and empowering to the abuser. Incarceration is a catalyst for more hostility and provides only a temporary reprieve with the possibility of repercussions.
Part of the arrest and subsequent bail or bail bond process allows the parties time under observation of the court system to make arrangements and even reach a reasonable understanding. If FEAR remains a factor, the abuse victim can choose to file the necessary paperwork for one of three types of restraining order available in California:
Temporary Restraining Order – This must be legally served to the named individual and copies filed in appropriate departments with the specific complaints. The order is not official until the person to which the complaint is being made has been identified and served with a legal copy.
Stalking Restraining Order – This must be served to the named individual and copies of the complaint filed to departments with specific complaints or alleged offenses. This can be served on anyone who allegedly follows or contacts the complaining party through persistent mail, phone, email, text, or by other means of presence (following, spying, leaving messages, delivering unwanted gifts or items).
Domestic Violence Restraining Order – Special requirements for this order are that there must be an identified relationship between the complaining party and the individual being served. This relationship must be identified as blood relation, marriage relation, former spousal relation, a former intimate partner who cohabitated in the same space (home, apartment, townhouse), a parent of children in an existing or former marriage, in-laws (current or former) or step-children are included as a qualified relationship.
A permanent restraining order may be granted depending on the integrity of the documentation, witnesses, and any prevailing issues that warrant concern regarding the welfare of the parties involved. This is the net result of proper handling of the temporary orders and evaluation of the circumstances.
Domestic violence leaves an evidence trail even when it goes unreported. Arguments between people are audible and don’t result in visible bruising or disappearance of a member of the set for a few days. It is the nature of politeness that prevents people from keeps people from prying into neighbors’ business, but behind every fourth household door in ten, there are problems with the potential to escalate to physical abuse.
Look for isolated spouses (by language or lack of social contact), look for children acting out with violence, listen for consistent arguments with one voice dominating, investigate or report signs of neglect, abuse, or substance abuse (including alcohol). Interfere by complaining or calling authorities. It’s not your business, but it is, and the results may well become everyone’s burden of guilt or social cost until the cycle stops. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, statistics suggest that 1 in 15 children are exposed to the results of domestic violence and of them, 90% are eye-witnesses to the event(s).
For all parties involved directly in a domestic violence incident where an arrest is made, it’s wise to investigate support groups and literature that help explain the options available to victims and abusers if they are distinguishable. See the Domestic Violence Resources Checklist below. Some of the services are also requirements of probation or sentencing. If domestic violence has come to the attention of the police and resulted in an arrest, it has now reached a point where it must be dealt with in a manner that provides the best long-term security for parties involved.
Domestic Violence Resources
Free services as listed available to all:
National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence www.ncadv.org
National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center: 1-866-USWOMEN (879-6636)
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
National Center for Victims of Crime: 1-202-467-8700
Jesse Black is the office manager for Mr. Nice Guy Bail Bonds Inc. based in Orange County, California.