Domestic Violence

Domestic violence in Arizona is a very broad term and can be applied to a number of different charges.

The term “domestic violence” is not by itself an independent crime. Instead, other crimes are alleged have a domestic violence designation attached.

This is often confused and people think they are charged with “domestic violence” when in reality, they are charged with a particular offense, like disorderly conduct, assault, threatening or intimidation with a domestic violence designation.

Some common examples we see:

  • Assault / Domestic Violence
  • Disorderly Conduct / Domestic Violence
  • Interference with Judicial Proceedings / Domestic Violence
  • Preventing Use of Phone in Emergency / Domestic Violence
  • Unlawful Imprisonment / Domestic Violence
  • Threatening / Intimidating / Domestic Violence
  • Criminal Damage / Domestic Violence
  • Trespassing / Domestic Violence

These are just a few examples. In reality, most misdemeanor or felony offenses involving another person can be designated domestic violence.

What are the domestic violence laws in Arizona?

As previously explained, the domestic violence indicator can be added to underlying offenses are present. Under the Arizona Revised Statutes, 13-3601, a crime can be considered a domestic violence offense when any of the following apply:

  1. The people who were involved were married or formerly married or live or lived in the same household.
  2. The people involved have a child together
  3. The victim is pregnant with child of the person who is being charged
  4. The person accused of the offense are related either by blood or by law
  5. The person charged lives lives in the same residence as a child victim and is related by blood or a former spouse
  6. The alleged victim and the defendant were involved romantically or sexually

Many times, deciphering what this means is not as easy as it may sound. Relationships end, people move on, and it is hard to define what is romantic or sexual in certain circumstances.

In those cases, the law provides indicia or certain factors that the court can consider when determining whether there is a domestic relationship. They can include:

  1. The nature of the relationship between the person being accused of the crime and the alleged victim of the crime
  2. The length of time of the relationship, if current, or how long it went on if not current
  3. How often the person accused and the alleged victim interacted with one another
  4. Whether the relationship is ongoing or if it has been terminated, and if it was terminated, how long since the relationship ended

Based on these factors, prosecutors may decide there was a domestic relationship and tack on the domestic violence designation on top of other offenses.

When this happens, this can increase penalties and impose additional limitations during the pending case.

What are the penalties for a Domestic Violence conviction?

In most situations, domestic violence crimes are Class 1 Misdemeanors, the highest level misdemeanor crime in Arizona.

However, domestic violence cases that include severe injury, a weapon, or threats to children or an unborn child can raise in severity drastically and become various classes of felonies or what are considered to be “Dangerous Crimes Against Children” or DCAC. The penalties for these offenses are extremely serious.

More often, domestic violence misdemeanors involve a minor amount of jail time, fines and fees, counseling and domestic violence classes and a period of probation.

However, the maximum penalty for a class 1 misdemeanor domestic violence conviction can be up to 6 months in jail, fines and fees of $2,500 plus surcharges, 52 hours of counseling and domestic violence classes, a term of probation up to 5 years.

The vast majority of people we represent ultimately have their domestic violence charges dismissed at some point of the case, either through a domestic violence diversion program or by voluntary dismissal by the government prior to trial.

I was charged with domestic violence, now what?

In most situations, being charged with domestic violence involves being arrested, locked in jail overnight, and being required to see a judge to discuss release conditions.

In most situations, the Judge will prevent you from returning to the scene where the incident occurred and from communicating at all with the victim.

This can be very problematic, as often you live at that residence, share property, or have children in common.

A domestic violence case can take months to resolve, it is not reasonable to ask the person charged to stay elsewhere, either with friends, family or at a hotel.

It is often not possible to have no contact at all with the other party, as their are issues that need to be resolved regarding schedules, children, or finances.

To open up contact, one of the first items our firm files is a motion to modify release conditions.

This is asking the court to change the original terms to allow the people involved to communicate or return to their residence.

Often times, the judge and the prosecutor will want to hear from the victim.

This can take time, and this is why it is so important to start this process quickly.

What if the other person wants to drop the domestic violence charges?

This is very common. Most domestic violence situations arise out of an argument that require no police involvement.

One party calls the police and then later regrets having done so.

They decide to contact the prosecutor, write a letter to the judge, or contact the victim’s department to ask them to dismiss the case.

Will they? Unfortunately, almost always the answer is No.

The person who is deemed the victim has no authority to drop or dismiss the charges. This power is with the prosecutor.

As a matter of policy, most prosecutors will refuse to dismiss domestic violence charges on the basis that the victim wants the case to be dismissed.

Their rationale is that dismissing the charge will encourage people charged with domestic violence to put pressure on the victim to drop the case, which is not good public policy.

Instead, they very regularly prosecutor cases that were nothing but simple arguments or misunderstandings.

What are defenses to Domestic Violence charges?

In most domestic violence cases, the allegations are made by one person against another, usually by two people involved in a romantic relationship.

In our experience, what often happens is a couple gets into an argument, one of them or a neighbor calls the police, who respond and blow the entire situation out of proportion.

If there was noise, one person is charged with disorderly conduct / domestic violence.

If there was some form of touching, one person is charged with assault / domestic violence.

If there was something broken, like a glass, door or wall, one person is charged with criminal damage / domestic violence, and so on.

In the vast majority of cases, there are no witnesses to the incident and the only person who was involved is the “victim.”

This provides numerous defenses based on the Rules of Evidence in criminal cases regarding the admissibility of statements in Court.

The rule is called “hearsay” and is very complicated, but in general works like this:

In general, statements that are made outside of court cannot come into court to prove what they assert.

For example, let’s say we have a couple, Allie and Bob. Allie and Bob get into an argument and call the police officer, Cop.

When the police appear, they talk to Allie. Allie tells Cop that Bob yelled at her and they fought over something she found to be inappropriate at the time. Cop decides to arrest Bob for disorderly conduct.

As the case progresses, Allie and Bob realize that this whole situation is completely overblown. Bob has never been in trouble before and Allie realized the argument was minor and has sense been rectified. They both realize the police should never have gotten involved or been called.

Now, the government is unwilling to drop the charges against Bob, even though Allie is protesting and saying she doesn’t want to participate.

Can the government use Allie’s statements to Cop that Bob was disorderly that evening against Bob?

The answer is Yes, but only if Allie comes into court and testifies about what happened directly.

The government needs her direct testimony to establish there was a domestic relationship and that there was disorderly conduct.

What if Allie does not want to come to court or testify? Can the government use what she said to Cop against Bob without her?

No! This is hearsay. The Cop cannot go to court and tell the Judge that Allies said Bob did something.

Only Allie can do that. Otherwise, anything the Cop says that Allie said is called hearsay.

This violates due process and Bob’s ability to question the statements that Allie made out of Court. Bob can’t do that if they are coming from Cop’s mouth and not Allie’s mouth.

Without Allie’s direct testimony, the government has no case whatsoever and the case must be dismissed.

Do I need a Domestic Violence lawyer?

The example above illustrates a very important aspect of the hearsay rules in domestic violence cases, but in reality the rules are significantly more complicated.

In reality, there are over 20 different exceptions to the hearsay rules and some statements are just not considered hearsay at all (even though they are clearly hearsay).

A criminal defense attorney is needed to navigate these rules to ensure that the case is being properly prepared and a foundation is being laid throughout the pre-trial process.

Otherwise, the prosecutor will try to strong arm a person charged into taking an unnecessary plea agreement with threats of increasing penalties if they do not.

Proper preparation requires an extensive discovery phase, where our team gathers police reports, officer notes, digital recordings, dash cam or body cam footage, 911 calls, victim impact statements, witness statements, and all other materials related to the case.

After a thorough review, we can help determine what the best court of action will be moving forward to achieve your goals.

I’ve  been charged with a Domestic Violence offense and want to speak with a Lawyer.

We can help! Our defense team practices exclusively in criminal defense and we do not take cases from any other field of law (family, business, personal injury).

We have helped hundreds of people charged with crimes like disorderly conduct successfully resolve their case, protect their record and fight for a winning outcome.

Hiring our office means it is very unlikely that you will have to attend court for the majority of the case. We may need you to be present one time at the end. Otherwise, our team handles all of the preliminary hearings on your behalf and we keep you apprised of all developments along the way.

Contact our office at (480) 400-1355 to schedule a complimentary case evaluation with our team.