Technically, a class 1 misdemeanor can be up to six months in jail. But very often it’s not going to be that aggravated. Most of the time when our clients are arrested, they’ve already spent a night in jail; so when they see a judge, the prosecutor will not ask for additional jail time, especially if it’s their first offense. If it’s a second or a third offense, the penalties can be very severe, but for a first-time offender with no criminal record, usually, they’re looking at a day in jail, some fines and domestic violence classes that will educate them about anger control.
If there’s alcohol involved, there may be an alcohol class, but the penalties tend to not be much more severe for a first-time offender. The problems really come into play when somebody gets a domestic violence conviction. You can have what we call collateral consequences, which means it can have effects on a person’s job, including the ability to get certain licenses. It can also interfere with their ability to own a firearm; and if they are changing careers or applying for jobs, a potential employer may see a domestic violence conviction as a pretty bad stigma. For this reason, what we try to do for a lot of our clients is see if we can get them enrolled in a diversion program.
In a diversion program they take the classes but, in exchange for doing so, they don’t get a conviction, they can get all the charges dismissed outright, which obviously puts them in a much better position at the close of the case. But there are many other defenses that we use to avoid all those penalties.
Does Pre-Trial Counseling Mitigate A Domestic Violence Case?
It can make a difference. Most of the time it’s not going to hurt a case because we go through a process that’s called mitigation where we do a legal review of the case to see what actually happened, what evidence the state has, what can they prove and what they can’t, and what witnesses were around. However, there’s also the human side where we want to talk about our client: their lack of a criminal record, their good job, their good family, their recognition that they made a mistake and are doing what they can to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. In those types of situations, a lot of the time, the prosecutor will be appreciative of those facts.
They’ll like to see that our client is being proactive and taking steps to make sure that a situation like this doesn’t ever happen again. That being said, we tend not to have our clients jump into counseling too heavily at the outset of the case because it very well may not be necessary. It may be something that we can avoid altogether just based on the facts of the case. We certainly understand that when they go through this process, it can be very traumatic for them, and a lot of the time they want to be proactive and start going to counseling right away, which is fine. If they need that, it’s going to be beneficial for them, and we highly encourage that, but in terms of resolving the criminal case, we tell our clients to hold off on that until we’ve got our bearings and can determine whether it’s going to be beneficial or not for the case at the end of the day.
What Steps Should Someone Take If They Are Involved In A Domestic Violence Case?
As soon as there’s any police interaction at all, our advice would be to stop talking. So if the police want to do an interview with you and talk about the situation, you need to tell them that you’d like an attorney and then get us onboard as quickly as possible. Generally, what happens right after our clients are charged is they see a judge, and then they’re released, usually within 24 hours. Most of the time when our clients see a judge, they are told that they can no longer speak with the victim, and they cannot return to the scene of the crime, which in many cases, is the client’s residence.
So if the judge says that they can’t go home, they need to figure out where else they can go, whether it’s a hotel or to a family member. Then they need to figure out, practically, what their next steps are in terms of getting back to work and creating some sort of normalcy in their lives again. What we would then recommend is to determine whether or not it’s possible for the two parties to reconcile. If the situation was an anomaly, where there was really no physical injury and was something minor, with no prior history, then we can file a Motion to Modify the release conditions.
This would allow the client to reestablish contact with the victim and potentially even return home; they can coordinate exchanging some clothes, some property and some financial matters, including, perhaps, care for their children. These types of practical day-to-day activities could be resumed if we can get an order from the judge allowing the parties to communicate with each other again. To make that happen, we need permission from the other party involved, who would need to be willing to come forward and allow it to happen, and our client, of course, will want to have that happen as well. Otherwise, there will be an order that the parties cannot communicate throughout the entirety of the case. So those are really the two most pressing things that happen right away after somebody’s charged.
We certainly recommend that our clients do not violate any no-contact orders: do not return home, do not text the other party and do not call the other party. Otherwise, violating a no-contact order could be a separate crime. When you get an attorney involved, they can reach out to the state and to victim services to possibly facilitate a reunion while the case is progressing. Normally, what we do is obtain a different type of release order. Instead of being a release order that says, “Absolutely no contact,” it’s a no-harassing contact or a no-threatening contact so that they can communicate back and forth; but if it escalates again, then it’s going to be a problem.
Most of the time, the courts will allow this type of contact because they do understand that our clients have lives, and most of our cases are between people who are married or have long-term relationships. So they recognize that something needs to happen to create that sense of normalcy again so that the case can move on.
For more information on Penalties For Domestic Violence Charges, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (602) 737-2437 today.