They are quite serious. In Arizona, there are three different classifications of misdemeanor crimes, and domestic violence offenses, typically, are charged as the most serious of misdemeanor offenses. So technically speaking, under the law, if you are convicted, you can be charged or sentenced up to six months in jail, with fines of $2,500 plus surcharges. You may be required to take a very extensive number of domestic violence classes, sometimes up to 52 hours of classes or 52 sessions of classes, which can take six months to a year to complete.
A domestic charge can have very serious penalties: you could be placed on probation, and there may be escalating penalties if you have one or more of these types of convictions. If you get a second domestic violence conviction, the prosecutors usually ask for considerably more jail time. If you get a third domestic violence conviction, you will likely be facing felony charges. So it’s out of the realm of misdemeanor and escalates to becoming a felony.
Does An Alleged Victim Need To Be Injured For Domestic Violence Charges To Be Made?
No, they do not. Domestic violence does not require any physical injury. It can escalate from a criminal damage or a disorderly conduct situation. So by criminal damage, we’ve seen cases where a couple gets into an argument, or a parent and the child get in an argument, and somebody will break something, which can be classified as criminal damage; but because there is that domestic relationship, it’s also criminal damage/domestic violence. In that situation, there is no physical injury to the victim; but because of that criminal damage and the domestic relationship, it’s considered a domestic violence offense.
The same type of situation applies to disorderly conduct: there doesn’t have to be any physical contact at all in that type of situation. If a couple in a domestic relationship are arguing at an apartment complex and are disturbing the neighbors, the police can respond and say, “This is disorderly conduct. You are disturbing the peace of other people around here; and because of your relationship, we’re going to charge you with a domestic violence offense.” In this situation, there’s really no physical contact at all, so the victim doesn’t have to be injured.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make In Domestic Violence Cases?
It’s very common for people to think that they can talk their way out of the situation. They think that when the police arrive, they can say, “Look, this was an argument; there was a physical altercation, but everything has settled down now, and we’re asking you to basically leave us alone.” They think that by being forthcoming with the police, that’s going to get them out of their situation, but in reality, that doesn’t happen at all. The police take that as an admission of committing a crime, which results in an arrest being made and charges getting filed from there.
Most of our clients are first-time offenders, who have never been in trouble before; these are people who have really no experience with this type of situation, and oftentimes these types of altercations are very minor. The police show up, listen to our client’s statement and suddenly have enough evidence to make an arrest.
There is another very big misconception that it’s up to the victim whether or not to pursue charges. Many people will think that because they reconciled with their spouse or their loved one and that person is choosing not to charge them, it’s all going to go away. In reality, it’s not up to that person anymore. Once the police arrive and charges are filed, the charging entity becomes the prosecutor, whether it’s the state prosecutor or a city prosecutor. Even if the victim wants to drop all charges, it doesn’t matter; it’s not up to them: it’s up to the prosecutor whether or not to do that, so people will proceed in these cases as though it is going to all go away just because they’ve gotten back together with the involved party, but it doesn’t work that way.
Can The Prosecution Introduce Evidence Of Prior Domestic Violence Or Assault In A Case?
They can’t introduce the evidence of a prior conviction to prove that someone has the propensity to commit the current offense, meaning they can’t say, “Okay, because this happened a couple of times in the past, this leads us to believe that there’s a tendency to commit this offense.” Most of the time that evidence is not coming in. When these cases proceed, we’re taking it as an isolated incident where they are introducing evidence about exactly what happened in this specific case only and not other cases.
Now, if there is a conviction or if at the conclusion of the case the client enters a plea of guilty, then the prosecutor may be able to come back and say that their recommendation for sentencing is going to be based on the fact that there are prior convictions. So they can say, “This is the defendant’s third offense. Based on that and based on the severity of those prior offenses with the same victim, these factors should influence the sentence recommendation.” But in terms of using any priors to prove a current case, that’s very rarely admissible.
For more information on Severity Of Domestic Violence Charges, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (480) 400-1355 today.