Advocates say that more immigrant women are keeping quiet about domestic violence incidents because of the current political climate, although the decline is not as dramatic here as it is elsewhere.
Local advocates say that, largely because of immigration fears, reports of domestic violence among Hispanic women were down 5 percent in the first three months of 2017. Ema Medina, program coordinator at Voces Latinas in Queens, said that some Latina women are also afraid that law enforcement will collect their personal information and forward it to immigration officials, even though police officers do not make such reports. However, Ms. Medina stressed, many Latina women are afraid of the unwelcome scrutiny and also afraid to leave their homes in the current environment. Officials at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst said they were handling fewer Hispanic domestic violence cases, but they refused to speculate as to why.
In March 2017, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said that Latino domestic violence reports have plummeted 25 percent in the last few months.
How do prosecutors handle non-witness domestic violence cases?
For various reasons, domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes in the Penal Code. Additionally, many alleged victims agree to press charges at first, and then subsequently withdraw their consent, once again for various reasons.
Most criminal cases that rely on lay witnesses, such as homicides and other violent crimes, collapse if those witnesses are not available. But domestic violence cases are different, largely because of the excited utterance rule. When police officers arrive at a domestic violence scene, they take statements from both the alleged victim and the defendant; the alleged victim nearly always says something like “he hit me.”
If alleged victims refuse to go forward with the cases, prosecutors can either drop the matters or force the alleged victims to testify against their will, but both of these approaches usually involve some unwanted negative publicity. So, many offices in the New York City area take a middle ground: Lawyers for the state try to admit the out-of-court statements in the police report (such as “he hit me”) as an excited utterance.
Under this hearsay exception, out-of-court statements are admissible if the declarants made them concerning a startling event while they were still under the stress of that event.
Domestic violence assault certainly qualifies as a startling event, but typically, officers arrive some time later, when the stress has dissipated. Therefore, a Manhattan criminal defense attorney can argue that the exception is inapplicable, and most courts agree.
For a free consultation with an aggressive criminal defense attorney in Manhattan, contact Merchant Law Group, LLP. Call us today at 212-658-1455. We are here for you twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. Our experienced lawyers will fight to protect your rights.