bench trial domestic violence

Bench Trial Domestic Violence: A Look into the Legal Proceedings

Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects many individuals and families. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. In cases of domestic violence, legal proceedings can be complicated and emotional. One type of legal proceeding is a bench trial, which is a trial held in front of a judge rather than a jury. In this article, we will take a closer look at what a bench trial for domestic violence entails.

What is a Bench Trial?

A bench trial is a trial where a judge makes the final decision on a case rather than a jury. In a bench trial, the judge will hear all the evidence and arguments presented by both the prosecution and the defense and then make a ruling. Bench trials are common in cases where a jury trial may be too complicated or may not be feasible, such as cases where there is a lot of technical or legal information or in cases where a jury may be biased.

In domestic violence cases, a bench trial may be preferred by both the prosecution and the defense. Domestic violence cases can be emotional and complex, and having a judge make the final decision rather than a jury may result in a fairer outcome.

The Process of a Bench Trial for Domestic Violence

The process for a bench trial for domestic violence may vary depending on the state and jurisdiction. However, there are some general steps that are taken in a bench trial for domestic violence.

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Filing the Charges

The first step in a bench trial for domestic violence is the filing of charges. In domestic violence cases, charges can be filed by the victim, law enforcement, or the prosecutor. The charges will typically include a description of the alleged abuse and the specific laws that were violated.

Pre-trial Motions

After the charges have been filed, both the prosecution and the defense may file pre-trial motions. These motions can include requests for evidence, requests to suppress evidence, or requests to dismiss the charges. The judge will review these motions and make a ruling on each one.


Discovery is the process where both the prosecution and the defense exchange evidence and information. In domestic violence cases, this can include police reports, medical records, and witness statements. Both sides are required to disclose all relevant evidence to the other side.

Jury Selection

If a bench trial is not chosen, the next step in a trial is jury selection. The jury selection process involves questioning potential jurors to determine if they can be impartial and unbiased. In domestic violence cases, potential jurors may be asked if they have any experience with domestic violence or if they have any biases or prejudices that may affect their ability to be fair.

Opening Statements

Once a jury has been selected, the trial will begin with opening statements. The prosecution will make their opening statement, followed by the defense. The purpose of the opening statements is to provide an overview of the case and the evidence that will be presented.

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Presentation of Evidence

After opening statements, both the prosecution and the defense will present their evidence. This can include witness testimony, physical evidence, and expert testimony. The judge will review all the evidence presented and make a ruling on what evidence is admissible.

Closing Arguments

After all the evidence has been presented, both the prosecution and the defense will make closing arguments. The purpose of the closing arguments is to summarize the evidence and persuade the judge to rule in their favor.


After the closing arguments, the judge will make a ruling. The judge can find the defendant guilty or not guilty. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge will then determine the appropriate sentence.

Benefits of a Bench Trial for Domestic Violence

There are several benefits to having a bench trial for domestic violence. One benefit is that a judge may be more able to remain impartial and unbiased than a jury. Domestic violence cases can be highly emotional, and a jury may be swayed by their emotions rather than the evidence presented.

Another benefit of a bench trial is that it can be quicker and less expensive than a jury trial. Jury trials can take days or even weeks, and they require more resources than a bench trial. This can be especially important in domestic violence cases, as victims may want the legal proceedings to be over as quickly as possible.


Domestic violence is a serious issue that requires legal intervention. Bench trials for domestic violence can be a fair and efficient way to handle these cases. By understanding the process and benefits of a bench trial, individuals and families affected by domestic violence can make informed decisions about their legal options.

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