By: Tyler Schwenke
Despite our best efforts to maintain a happy, healthy living environment, its not usual for conflict to arise or for things to boil over in ways that we never wanted or expected. In these instances, where things get out of hand, it is possible for charges of domestic violence to arise.
What qualifies as domestic violence?
A common misconception about domestic violence is that it is its own crime. In Arizona, domestic violence is not an enumerated crime, but rather a designation that is attached to other crimes. For example, a person is not charged with the crime of “domestic violence” in Arizona; instead, a person could be charged with the crime of “assault” with a domestic violence designation attached.
So, what does it mean for a criminal charge to be designated as a domestic violence offense? Crimes are designated as domestic violence offenses when one “family or household member” commits a criminal act against another family or household member. What you may notice is that domestic violence charges are not limited to only include family members. Because the definition of a domestic violence offense extends to household members, it also includes current or former spouses, stepchildren, in-laws, significant others, and roommates. These crimes do not have to be committed in the home or in a shared space, so long as they are committed against someone that falls within the definition of “family or household member” they can be designated as a domestic violence crime.
What crimes can be charged as domestic violence?
The list of crimes that can be charged as domestic violence is quite long and covers a wide variety of crimes. Of note is that not all crimes require any sort of physical injury. Crimes such as harassment, criminal damage, and criminal trespass can all be designated as domestic violence offense although none of the crimes requires actual violence or physical contact with an individual. The important thing to remember when asking whether a crime will be designated as a domestic violence offense is only who the offense is committed against. With that, the list of potential domestic violence influences includes:
- Photographing, taping, or recording in a private place
- Unlawful imprisonment
- Criminal Trespass
- Criminal Damage
- Any homicide crime
- Abuse of a vulnerable adult or child
Potential Penalties/Aggravated Domestic Violence
The penalties for domestic violence offenses varies just as widely as the number of crimes that can be designated as domestic violence offenses. Because both misdemeanors and felonies can be designated as domestic violence offenses, the sentencing ranges will vary based on the class of crime being alleged. There is one domestic violence offense that is considered its own crime, called “Aggravated Domestic Violence”. A person can be charged with aggravated domestic violence if they are found guilty of three or more domestic violence offenses in a four-year period. Aggravated domestic violence is a Class 5 felony. Regardless of the crime, a domestic violence offense will always come with mandatory domestic violence counseling as a part of the sentence, as well as victim restitution if applicable.
Can a victim drop the charges?
This is another common misconception when it comes to domestic violence cases. Because the charges are brought by the State and not an individual, the victim has no say in whether the case moves forward or is dismissed. The State can press charges with or without the support of the victim and can even proceed to trial without the victim present.
What to do if you have been charged with a domestic violence offense?
The most important thing to do in any criminal case, but especially in case involving the added designation of domestic violence, is to make sure you have good representation. Your attorney can work with you to put forward the best defense possible. Additionally, your attorney can present mitigation to the prosecutor to try and negotiate a better plea offer on your behalf. If you are looking for representation, our office offers free one-hour consultations where you can meet with an attorney to discuss the details of your case and the best route moving forward. Please reach out to our office at 602-675-4508 if you are looking for an experienced attorney to assist with your domestic violence case.
*This information is correct and up to date as of the day this article was written.