In reviewing our results summaries, it may seem that we are bragging. That is true for most of the summaries. In some summaries, however, we offer cautionary tales or warnings that educate the reader that defending certain types of cases with certain facts can be rough, even for experienced attorneys who are frequently in the courthouse at issue.
The following summary is one such cautionary tale.
The City Prosecutors of Redondo Beach are well-known within Los Angeles County and even in Orange County, we have anecdotally learned, for treating misdemeanor cases like serious felonies. There are many reasons criminal defense attorneys give for this consistent observation, but this article is probably not the proper forum to present such theories.
What is important is educating our readers about what can happen in their case if the facts are similar.
In the following case, our client, age 41, and his wife, age 42, were returning home from a Christmas party hosted by one of their employers. The couple had consumed alcohol and were uninhibited about arguing with each other, which they did.
The argument turned physical and our client’s wife, who was five feet, ten inches tall and weighed 230 pounds, punched our client in the nose, fracturing his facial bones and causing a deviated septum. She punched him repeatedly, causing blood to pour from his nose. Blood got on the wall of the kitchen.
The wife, who competed at the Division I level in varsity volleyball and basketball in college, then ran out of the house to call the police to allege our client was beating her up. As she ran down the stairs from their Redondo Beach condominium, she fell on the stairs into the nearby bushes, scratching her face and causing it to bleed, as well as her scalp. She also tore her ACL, but due to the alcohol she had consumed, it did not feel as serious as it was.
When police asked her what injuries he caused to her, she told police that he scratched her face and pulled her hair – and that he injured her knee pushing her down.
Police rushed to the location and observed the injuries to our client’s wife. Police then entered the house and saw our client, who weighed 70 pounds less than his wife and was an inch shorter.
They immediately arrested him for felony domestic violence (Penal Code § 273.5(a)). Our client protested, explaining that he never hit, pushed, kicked or otherwise touched his client in an aggressive manner, but that it was his wife who hit punched him repeatedly in the face.
Police regarded our client’s comments as lies and uncredible, especially because his wife had such severe injuries and was very emotional.
The client contacted several attorneys, but hired Greg Hill & Associates. Greg was candid that such a case, given it taken place in Redondo Beach and given the wife’s injuries, would probably be recommended for a felony filing, but would be ultimately filed as a misdemeanor. The Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s office would then handle it, some say like a felony.
Greg’s prediction of events proved accurate, as the case was rejected for a felony filing and was then handled for prosecution by the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s office.
The Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s office first offered to resolve the case for three years of informal probation, with our client serving 120 days in county jail, enrolling in and completing the 52-week batterer’s program, making a $500 donation to a domestic violence victims fund, court fines and fees ($220) and being governed by a protective order post-conviction during probation (this would most likely be “peaceful contact,” or Level One). When Greg heard this proposed plea bargain, he realized he had never heard such an onerous plea bargain for a first-time misdemeanor domestic violence case.
The heaviest plea bargain offered that he had heard before was also from the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s office and it involved 60 days of county jail for our first-time offender in a domestic violence case.
Greg then pointed out in writing to the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s office that it was physically impossible for a person with a torn ACL to run downstairs, so the wife’s injury could only have been caused by her own decision to run down the stairs while drunk. Moreover, her injuries to her face and scalp were not consistent with the mechanism of injury she described to police. It was irrefutable. A jury would certainly see the contradictions, immediately.
Without agreeing that the facts suggested our client was really the victim and the wife was the dominant aggressor, the Redondo Beach City Prosecutor’s office lowered the terms of the offer to 45 days in county jail, with all other terms remaining. Our client accepted this new offer.
Greg and the client agreed that trial was really the only alternative way for the truth to come out, but our client did not want to put his wife through the stress of being impeached as a liar before a jury. He valued his marriage more than a victory in a misdemeanor case. This was an easy decision for him because he still loved his wife.
This summary is not meant to show great lawyering, as the change in the offer Greg caused really was not that significant. It is meant to exemplify how tough these cases can be in certain courthouses, particularly Torrance when the case arises in Redondo Beach.