Have You Been Charged with Domestic Violence?
If you have been arrested on a domestic violence charge, the consequences can be severe. To avoid being a victim of the system, you need an experienced Phoenix domestic violence attorney on your side. When you are arrested in Arizona for domestic violence, you will likely also be served with an order prohibiting contact with the complainant. So even before your case is heard, there will be restrictions on what you can do and where you can do it. Your case may have been a domestic argument, and your arrest may have been based merely on statements that were made which might be completely false. Nevertheless, you may now find yourself on the wrong end of a criminal charge, with people, including family and friends, assuming you are guilty without having a chance to respond.
At The Feldman Law Firm, PLLC, we understand what you are going through. We also understand that the police often make mistakes in domestic violence cases, and arrest the wrong person in a rush to judgment in order to diffuse a potentially difficult situation. In these situations. Domestic violence lawyer, Adam Feldman, as a former prosecutor, understands these charges, and knows how to develop an intelligent defense strategy. In the process, you will be provided with the best opportunity for a dismissal, a reduction in charges, or a not guilty verdict.
What is Domestic Violence in Arizona?
Domestic violence in Arizona is a function of two distinct factors. First, there are certain crimes that fall within the general definition. That list is extensive, and includes a host of offenses in addition to those such as assault. Second, to come within the definition, the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim must likewise be specified under the statute. As in the case of the possible crimes that can support a domestic violence charge, the relationships go well beyond spouses, parents and children.
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Domestic Violence Offenses. The following acts are specified in A.R.S. 13-3601 as possible domestic violence offenses:
- Dangerous crimes against children. These crimes include sex offenses (sexual exploitation, sexual assault and others), aggravated assault, child abuse, kidnapping, etc.). The distinguishing factor that places the crimes in this category (dangerous crimes against children) is that they involved a minor under the age of 15.
- Homicide. First degree and second degree murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide all fall within this category.
- Assaultive offenses. Assault, aggravated assault, endangerment, and criminal threats.
- Unlawful restraint. Within this group, in addition to kidnapping, are unlawful imprisonment, and custodial interference.
- Sexual assault.
- Trespass. Criminal trespass of the first degree, second degree and third degree can all support a domestic violence charge if the other elements of domestic violence are present.
- Criminal damage. Damaging or destroying the property of another, including, in some cases, writing graffiti on someone else’s property.
- Interfering with judicial proceedings. This can include disorderly conduct in a courtroom, disobeying a court order, and other acts.
- Disorderly conduct. Domestic violence can include fighting, making unreasonable noise, using offensive or abusive language likely to provoke retaliation, or recklessly handling or displaying a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.
- Preventing telephone use. Intentional interference with the use of a telephone by another person in an emergency.
- Harassment and similar offenses. This includes simple harassment (for example, anonymous communications, following another person without a legitimate reason after being asked to stop, improper surveillance, making false reports, etc.), aggravated harassment (harassment with a prior domestic violence conviction, or in violation of a court order), stalking, and surreptitiously taking photos or videos of another person.
- Child abuse and vulnerable adult abuse.
The above listing sets forth many, but not all, of the offenses that can provide a basis for a charge of domestic violence.
Relationship between the parties. The other central aspect of a domestic violence charge is the relationship between the parties. It obviously includes spouses, parents, children, step-children, and similar relationships. But the scope of the possible relationships is actually much broader than many people might believe. It is not necessary that you be related to the other party, that you live together, or that you have any current relationship at all. Here are the basics of the relationships that may lead to a particular act being charged as a domestic violence offense:
- Present or former spouses.
- People who reside or resided in the same household.
- People who have a child in common.
- Where either the defendant or the alleged victim is pregnant by the other person.
- Blood or other relations. This includes a blood relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim (parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister) as well as relations through the spouse of the defendant, and other in-laws.
- A child who has resided in the same household as the defendant and is a blood relation of a former spouse of the defendant or of a person who resides or resided in the same household as the defendant.
- The defendant and the alleged victim have or had been involved in a romantic or sexual relationship.
Most of these categories are rather straightforward. The final grouping, however, is open to interpretation. Just what is a romantic or a sexual relationship? The statute goes on to state that the determination on that issue involves a number of factors, including the type of relationship in which the defendant and the alleged victim were involved; the length of the relationship; the “frequency of interaction” between the two; and, if the relationship is over, the length of time since it was terminated.
What are the Penalties for Domestic Violence?
Under A.R.S. 13-3601, a domestic violence charge carries the same classification as the underlying offense. For example, an assault that causes serious personal injury to another person is classified as aggravated assault, a class 3 felony, unless the victim is under the age of 15, in which case it is a class 2 felony. If the alleged victim happens to be the spouse, former spouse, or romantic partner of the defendant, the classification of the offense will not change, nor will the basic sentencing scheme under the statute. However, the classification of a crime as a domestic violence offense will affect the scope of the sentence, as well as impact significantly on the defendant in the event of a conviction. Here are some of the effects that can come into play depending upon the nature of the offense, prior domestic violence history, pregnancy, age of the victim, and other factors:
- Additional jail or prison time.
- Mandatory minimum sentences.
- Restrictions on probation and parole eligibility.
- Attendance at (and payment for) a domestic violence offender treatment program.
- Restrictions under protective orders.
In addition, if you are arrested for domestic violence, and have two or more prior convictions for domestic violence (within 84 months), you can be charged with aggravated domestic violence, itself a class 5 felony. For purposes of the 84-month lookback period, the date of the commission of the offense is determinative.
Domestic violence is a broad area of the law, which overlaps numerous other segments of the criminal statutes. Penalties can be harsh. But mistakes are not uncommon, including the mistaken arrest of an innocent party. Remember that the police are under increased pressure to diffuse what they see as potentially violent confrontations among spouses, romantic partners and others. This can result in hasty decisions being made which turn out to be incorrect.
Adam Feldman has successfully conducted jury trials involving serious domestic violence charges, including obtaining not guilty verdicts in cases of alleged child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor. If you have been charged with domestic violence in the greater Phoenix area, call us today for a free consultation, and find out how Mr. Feldman can make a difference in your case.