Domestic Violence Charges – Standard vs. Aggravated
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Domestic Violence Charges in Arizona
In Arizona, domestic violence is treated seriously by the courts. Domestic violence is not a separate crime but is instead a sentence enhancer that can apply to multiple other charges. An offense can be designated as a domestic violence crime when the defendant and the alleged victim have a qualifying type of relationship.
Some common examples of domestic violence offenses can include the following:
- Assault with domestic violence
- Criminal damage with domestic violence
- Disorderly conduct with domestic violence
- Trespassing with domestic violence
- Interference with judicial proceedings with domestic violence
- Unlawful imprisonment with domestic violence
- Preventing the use of the phone in an emergency with domestic violence
Many other offenses can also be charged as domestic violence offenses. If you have been accused of a crime with a domestic violence designation attached, you should talk to an experienced domestic violence lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta.
Arizona Domestic Violence Laws
The domestic violence statute is found at ARS 13-3601. Under this statute, a criminal offense can be considered an act of domestic violence when the defendant and the alleged victim have one of the following relationships:
- Current or former spouses
- Currently or formerly lived together
- The alleged victim is pregnant with the defendant’s child
- The defendant and alleged victim are biologically or legally related
- The defendant lives in the same home with a child victim and is related through a former spouse or by blood
- The defendant and alleged victim are, or were previously, sexually or romantically involved
To determine whether a domestic relationship exists, courts consider the following factors:
- The type of relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim
- How long the relationship has lasted, or did last
- How frequently the defendant and the alleged victim interacted with each other
- Whether the relationship has ended or is ongoing, and if it has been ended, how much time has passed since it ended
After considering these factors, a prosecutor might add a domestic violence designation to the criminal offense that has been charged.
A domestic violence enhancement can increase the penalties that someone might face and add additional requirements if the person is convicted.
Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses
Many domestic violence-designated crimes are class 1 misdemeanors. This is the most severe classification of misdemeanor offenses. However, certain domestic violence offenses can be classified as felonies.
For example, if your charged offense involved serious bodily injuries, a weapon, or if the victim was a child, you can be charged with a felony.
If the victim is a child, the offense could also be considered a dangerous crime against children (DCAC) with serious penalties, depending on the alleged victim’s age and the specific offense.
For a conviction of a class 1 misdemeanor domestic violence-designated offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Up to 6 months in jail
- Up to $2,500 in fines
- Surcharges and fees
- Probation for up to 3 years
- Mandatory counseling and domestic violence classes
Some domestic violence offenses are class 2 misdemeanors. If you are convicted of a class 2 misdemeanor domestic violence offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Up to 120 days in jail
- Fine of up to $750
- Surcharges and fees
- Probation for up to 2 years
- Domestic violence counseling and classes
If you are convicted of a class 3 misdemeanor domestic violence offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Up to 30 days in jail
- Fine of up to $500
- Surcharges and fees
- Domestic violence counseling and classes
- Up to 1 year of probation
A domestic violence conviction will also suspend your gun rights, meaning you will not be able to possess a firearm.
The penalties you might face for a felony domestic violence crime will depend on its classification and your criminal history.
Some examples of felony crimes that can be charged as domestic violence offenses include the following:
- Criminally negligent homicide
- First or second-degree murder
- Aggravated assault
- Sexual assault
- Sexual assault of a minor
- Criminal damage
- Child abuse
- Criminal trespass
- Custodial interference
- Disorderly conduct
- Vulnerable adult abuse
- Threatening or intimidating
- Unlawful imprisonment
- Surreptitious photography
- Unlawful disclosure of images
- Interfering with judicial proceedings
These types of offenses can result in sentences to years in prison. In the case of sexual assault of a minor who is 12 or younger, a domestic violence conviction for this offense could result in a sentence of life in prison.
Aggravated Domestic Violence in Arizona
Under ARS 13-3601.02, you can face aggravated domestic violence charges if you are convicted of a third domestic violence-designated offense within 84 months. You can be charged with a class 5 felony even if the underlying offense is normally a misdemeanor.
For this offense, you will face the following penalties:
- Minimum mandatory four months of jail with probation and up to a maximum of 2.5 years in prison, if you do not have any prior felony convictions
- Mandatory domestic violence counseling and classes
- Not eligible for probation until after serving at least four months in jail
- Fine of up to $150,000
If you are convicted of aggravated domestic violence and you have previously been convicted of three or more domestic violence offenses within the last 84 months, then you will face the following penalties:
- Minimum mandatory eight months of jail with probation and up to a maximum of 2.5 years in prison, if you do not have any prior felony convictions
- Mandatory domestic violence counseling and classes
- Not eligible for probation until after serving at least eight months in jail
- Fine of up to $150,000
If you are convicted of aggravated domestic violence and you have a prior felony conviction, you will face a range of 1 to 3.75 years in prison. If you have two or more prior felony convictions, then you will face a range of 3 to 7.5 years in prison for a class 5 felony aggravated domestic violence conviction.
What Happens if the Alleged Victim Wants to Drop the Charges?
Many alleged victims of domestic violence later regret contacting the police and try to ask the court or prosecutor to drop the charges. However, the alleged victim in a domestic violence case does not have the authority to dismiss criminal charges, and prosecutors generally will not agree to do so.
Prosecutors can also compel reluctant victims to testify in court through subpoenas. So, if a victim in a domestic violence case wants to drop the charges, the prosecution will typically continue.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Most domestic violence cases involve allegations made by one person against the other when they are involved in a relationship. A couple might have an argument, and either a neighbor or one of the people will call the police. When the police respond, someone is likely to be arrested. In most cases, the only people who witnessed what happened are the two people involved.
If the alleged victim makes statements to the police officer at the scene, those statements may be be considered inadmissible hearsay unless he or she testifies in court.
If there is no other evidence, and the alleged victim does not come to court, the prosecutor might be forced to dismiss the case since the victim’s statements cannot be introduced without his or her direct testimony.
Unless an exception applies, out-of-court hearsay statements are not allowed to be admitted at trial because the defendant would not have the ability to cross-examine the alleged victim about the statements.
Other potential defenses that might apply can include the following:
- False allegations
- No criminal intent to cause injuries
- No domestic relationship
Some people falsely accuse others of committing acts of domestic violence to get revenge or to get the defendants out of their homes. For example, if the couple is going through a divorce, one party might falsely accuse the other of domestic violence to secure a restraining order against the accused spouse. This type of order can prevent the accused spouse from coming to the home. A lawyer might want copies of the divorce paperwork and interview other witnesses to raise this type of defense.
In some cases, a person might be accidentally injured without the defendant’s intent to cause injury or harm. Property might also be damaged without intent to cause the damage or without a reckless act.
If the defendant lacks the required intent for the underlying offense, the prosecutor may be forced to dismiss the case when it is an element of the crime.
Self-defense is another common defense raised in domestic violence cases. This type of defense might be available if you were defending yourself against the alleged victim when he or she was the actual perpetrator.
Why it is Important to Hire an Experienced Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges that have been designated as domestic violence, getting immediate help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer is critical. Criminal cases involve complex evidentiary rules. People who are charged with crimes of domestic violence also face harsh penalties if they are convicted.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you to understand the court process and the rules that apply to help you with your case. In many cases, a good domestic violence lawyer can secure a much more favorable resolution to a case than a defendant might secure on his or her own.
People who try to represent themselves are at a disadvantage when they try to negotiate with the prosecutor.
The prosecutor might try to take advantage of a defendant’s lack of legal knowledge and experience to get them to enter into a plea agreement by threatening harsher penalties if they do not accept the offer.
A lawyer can thoroughly investigate your case and look for issues in the state’s case against you. He or she can also gather all the evidence that the state is using against you, including recordings, police reports, body cam footage, victim impact statements, 911 calls, witness statements, and others.
Reviewing all the evidence that the state is using against you can help your attorney to find any weaknesses in the state’s case so that you can be placed in a better position.
Some people make the mistake of thinking that they can talk their way out of criminal charges. You should never make this mistake.
The police and prosecutors can use anything that you say against you. Even if you think that you are helping yourself, you should instead invoke your right to remain silent and to have an attorney represent you. Your lawyer can help you to avoid making critical errors that could harm your defense case.
Finally, defense lawyers have completed years of education and keep current with new court decisions and other changes in the law. Your attorney can use his or her legal knowledge and litigation skills to secure the best possible resolution in your case under the facts and circumstances.
Get Help from an Experienced Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer
If you are facing a charge involving an allegation of domestic violence, you should talk to an experienced domestic violence lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta. We are experienced lawyers who have defended many people who have been charged with crimes involving domestic violence. We understand the stakes that might be involved and are focused on helping you to secure the best outcome possible.
Your lawyer can appear in court on your behalf and will keep you updated on everything that occurs in your case. We can also ask the court to modify any mandatory restraining order that has been issued.
To learn more about how we can help you, call us today at (602) 825-2500.
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