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Part II

First Line Criminal Justice Advocacy

A. Sources of Criminal Justice System Information
B. Know Your Client's Rights
C. Domestic Violence: Police Response and Investigation
    If Your Client Has Not Yet Reported to the Police
If Your Client Has Already Made a Police Report
  FORM I: Form for Evaluating the Police Response to a Domestic Violence Call
FORM II: Form for Evaluating the Domestic Violence Police Report
List of Domestic Violence Related Crimes and
their Codes
Other Official Police Documents Generated in
Domestic Violence Cases
Common Police Errors in Responding to Domestic Violence
Getting Corrections Made to the Police Response or Police Report
Advocating for Domestic Violence Victims Who
Have Been Arrested for Domestic Violence
D. Sex Crimes: Police Response and Investigation
A Typical Rape Case Police Investigation
The Easy ABC of Ditching a Rape Case
Advocating for Rape Victims during the Police
Form for Evaluating Police Rape Investigation
Common Abuses in Sex Crime Cases
E. Arrest and Arraignment: Domestic Violence and
Sex Crimes
  If the suspect has not been arrested
If the suspect has been arrested
  Criminal Protective Orders
Advantages of Criminal Protective Orders
Disadvantages of Criminal Protective Orders
How to Obtain a Criminal Protective Order
Sample Letter to the Judge
Has the District Attorney Filed Adequate
Charges in the Case?
F. The District Attorney and Prosecution of Violence Against Women
    Preliminary Notes
Common Charging Abuses
Plea Bargaining
G. Court Hearings and Trials
    Victim Testifying
The Preliminary Hearing
The Victim and the Judge
H. Pre-Sentencing Probation Reports and Victim Impact Statements
I. Probation and Parole

A. Sources of Criminal Justice
System Information

No matter how much experience you have advocating for victims of violence against women in the criminal justice system, most every case will present you with new and challenging questions.

* A police officer tells you he couldn't make an arrest because the word ‘co-habitant' in the domestic violence criminal code doesn't cover two people living under the same roof if they don't have an intimate relationship. Is the officer giving you correct information or is the officer blowing smoke in order to avoid the work of making an arrest?

* A prosecutor says you can't come into his meeting with the victim because that will make you a witness in the case. Is the prosecutor giving you correct information or is the prosecutor blowing smoke in order to split you off from your client?

* A rape victim says the detective demanded that she turn over her diary, but she doesn't want to. Does the victim have a right to say "no" to the detective? Or does the detective have the right to demand the victim's diary?

In order to advocate effectively for your clients you'll need to be able to get answers to literally hundreds of questions like these. And usually you'll need to find the answers quickly. Fortunately, there are many sources of criminal justice information. Some of these sources will take you some time and experience to develop, but others are available to you right now.

Here's a list of sources of criminal justice
system information:

Your Active Curiosity: Don't wait until your client's life hangs on unanswered questions. Educate yourself daily by constantly formulating questions as you work your clients' cases. Keep a list of the questions at your side, and then dig up the answers at every opportunity. Watch your knowledge grow, and along with it, the power of your advocacy to liberate women's lives.

Own and Read the Penal Code: Your state penal code is the criminal justice system bible. If you are a victim advocate you should own an up-to-date copy of your state's penal code. And you should read and refer to it often. (The companies that publish state codes are often willing to donate free copies to non profit organizations. Ask, and you'll likely receive.)

When you first begin reading the penal code you'll probably find the language to be difficult and unfamiliar. But it won't take long for the legal language to smooth out and come into focus. The penal code will quickly be extremely beneficial to yourself and your clients. A good way to begin making the penal code your best friend is to look through the index for topics that interest you and start reading.

In addition to the Penal Code, there are a number of other state codes that have sections that are relevant to the work you do with victims of rape, domestic violence and child abuse; such as the Evidence Code, the Family Code, the Government Code, and others. On the occasions when you need these, you can find them at your local law library and now, most every state has their full set of legal codes on the internet in searchable form.

Your Local Law Enforcement Domestic Violence Written Policies: Most states require that local law enforcement agencies have written domestic violence law enforcement policies. In fact, not only are these requirements spelled out very clearly in many state's penal codes, the penal codes usually also specify in detail what must be included in the written policies.

It's invaluable to have copies of your local law enforcement agency's written domestic violence polices on hand. These policies are usually clearly written and comprehensive. They set the local law enforcement standards of the procedures, laid out in step-by-step format, that the agency expects their officers to follow when responding to domestic violence calls. Not only are most of these policies a good education on modern police practices. As an advocate, these policies are invaluable for you to point to when officials fall short in their responses to your clients.

Some jurisdictions also have similar law enforcement policies covering sex crimes. And some jurisdictions have law enforcement policies covering district attorney response to domestic violence and rape.

Any and all of these polices are public documents and, as such, your police agency or district attorney must give you a copy of these polices when you request them. It's the law. Who says? Look in your state's Government Code for your state's public information act or freedom of information act.

In addition to your own local law enforcement policies, it's very worthwhile to look at the law enforcement policies of a couple of the most progressive law enforcement jurisdictions who have written model policies and put them on the internet. One of these is the San Diego law enforcement domestic violence policies that can be found at www.sandiegodvcouncil.org/sddvc.html (click on library.)

Another pertinent model policy is the International Association of Chiefs of Police model policy for responding to law enforcement officers accused of domestic violence at www.theiacp.org/documents/pdfs/Publications/

Case Law: Though the state codes contain the laws as written in your state, they won't be able to answer every question you have. No matter how well a law is written there are always going to be gray areas that require further interpretation. These further interpretations are handed down by your state's appellate court in what's known as ‘case law'.

For example, returning to the question we started with in which an officer tells you he can't make an domestic violence arrest because the man who lives in the apartment with your client isn't a co-habitant under the meaning of domestic violence criminal law. The Penal Code clearly won't help you here, since the penal code doesn't define all the possibilities of who's a co-habitant and who's not. The answer to the question of who's included and who's not included in the meaning of ‘co-habitant' is to be found in the case law.

At some point an individual (a roommate, not an intimate) is convicted of domestic violence. The man says, "How can I be convicted of domestic violence? I'm not in any relationship with this woman, I'm just a roommate." So he appeals the case up to an appellate court. The appellate court agrees with the man and the decision of the appellate court now becomes part of a more finely tuned definition of who is and who is not included in the meaning of 'co-habitant' in the criminal domestic violence law.

As you can imagine, searching case law is arduous, especially if you don't have a legal education. But don't despair. Here are some great short cuts, not just for obtaining case law, but for all the many other questions you may have.

800 - VICTIMS: California and many other states have established public phone banks to answer victims' and advocates' legal questions. In California, this service is staffed by law students whose job it is to do the legal research for you. Your taxes paid for this excellent service. Use them. Use them over and over again. In California the number to call is 800 - VICTIMS.

Just pick up the phone, and ask them, "Does the word ‘co-habitant' in the penal code domestic violence law include two people who live under the same roof but who don't have an intimate relationship?" Ask them any other of a million questions that may arise in your client's case.

If you don't know if your state has a similar service, call a state legislature's office and ask one of the aides to look up whether or not your state has established a victim's rights answer line.

Individual Experts in Your Community: (People Worth Their Weight in Gold) Believe it or not, it's virtually guaranteed that there are many people in your community who know the answer to your every question. All you have to do is know which person to call and when. As long as the individual is not involved in the case you're calling about, most will be flattered by your request for legal information.

So here's a short list of the people we find most helpful: veteran crime reporters on the local paper, the county law librarian, legislative aides, city attorneys, and local police, prosecutors, probation officers, and judges not associated with the case.

And there's one other set of people you've probably never thought of asking, but who know the criminal law inside and out: criminal defense attorneys- especially public defenders who deal with legal fine points of domestic violence and sexual assault on a daily basis. It's their bread and butter. So strike up a professional friendship with some of the defense attorneys in your town. They are generally very willing to give you information. And unlike police and prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys aren't usually suspicious that you're trying to bolster your stance against another officer's action.

Another way to go if you have a question which has the potential of getting a local official in trouble is to call officials in another county. In fact, it's a very good idea to connect with officials who are national leaders in the field, such as prosecutors or police sergeants who head progressive domestic violence or sex crimes units in large metropolitan areas. When you do this, make sure you look for people in your own state to assure they are working with the same body of law as you.

Internet email lists and web sites: There are a number of excellent internet resources for victim advocates. Two outstanding searchable document banks on violence against women are CAVNET at www.cavnet2.com and MINCAVA. at www.mincava.umn.edu. There is also an invaluable web site designed to answer your specific case questions via email communication with their own bank of experts. This site can be found at www.vaonline.org.

There are also a number of lively email lists dedicated to violence against women. FIVERS and the Spanish language Mujeres en Red are among the best at this writing. Putting your question on one of these email lists is certain to get you a broad range of multiple responses.

Law enforcement Field Guides: Most state Attorney General's Offices produce and annually update a field guide for law enforcement officers - ‘everything a police officer needs to know to enforce the law'. These field guides are tight packed, well organized, low priced, and very easy to use. Ask your favorite officer where to get a copy.

Your Local Criminal Justice Record System: Though your local criminal justice system records departments are unlikely to be able to answer your legal questions, they are a gold mine of invaluable information on individual cases. Through your local criminal justice record systems you can obtain: perpetrator histories, statistics, money trails, arrest records, court files, arrest warrants, booking records, lawsuits, dispatch records, and much more. It's essential that you learn your way around these records, and how to obtain them, especially when they don't want to give them to you.

Fortunately, this isn't too difficult. Most of these records are public record documents. And if one clerk won't help you find them, another will. And if for any reason, you're refused access to a document, the one person in your community who you can almost always depend on for knowledgeable help is the crime reporter on your local newspaper. Remember, crime reporters are digging through these records on a daily basis for background on their stories. Call them when you get in a bind.


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Copyright © Marie De Santis,
Women's Justice Center,


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