Of all assault-related cases, domestic violence cases are often some of the most difficult—for everyone involved. Not only are you facing criminal penalties that are often harsher than those for a basic assault offense, you also have to deal with the unrest in your personal life, the damage to relationships, and long-term repercussions that charges like these carry.
Domestic assault laws vary widely from state to state. In some states, they are treated virtually the same as regular assault crimes, with similar penalties and the additional potential for a protective order being issued. However, in other states, the penalties for assaulting a family member or loved one are increased simply because of the nature of your relationship.
And it is surprisingly easy to be accused of a domestic charge, particularly if you are involved with an unstable person, and defending yourself. If you are a man, and there is a fight with a woman, the police are very likely to arrest you based on any evidence of a fight and what she says.
Consulting with a local attorney will help you understand the unique differences in domestic assault charges in your particular state.
Domestic Relationships & Assault Laws
In most states, a domestic relationship includes those people in your immediate family, as well as anyone you might be living with. You could be facing these charges if you are accused of assaulting:
- Spouse or ex-spouse
- Someone you share a child with
- Child or step-child
- Parent or step-parent
- Brother or sister
- Aunt or uncle
- Grandparent or grandchild
- Roommate or ex-roommate
In some states, the domestic violence laws apply to people you have a romantic relationship with. In others, this is only true if you share a child or a home with that person.
In many domestic violence cases, the police are able to make an immediate arrest when they are called out. This means if your spouse calls the police and alleges an assault, they can come and arrest you if there is any physical evidence that such an assault took place. Bruising, red marks, and lacerations would justify your arrest. Regardless of how they might have gotten there, or who initiated any fight.
Essentially, the police have a requirement to take action and potentially prevent further abuse or violence based on any thin evidence or a past or continuing threat.
After you are arrested, a judge or magistrate will determine if you can be released on bail until your upcoming court date. The decision to issue bail will depend on a number of factors, the most important of which being: the charge you are facing, and the potential danger you might pose to your alleged victim.
If the judge has reason to believe you will contact or harm the victim, they may deny bail. A defense attorney may be able to help you convince the judge that you are not a safety risk.
Emergency Protective Orders
In most states, when a domestic violence arrest is made, an emergency protective order is issued until you can go before a judge. This is the state’s way of ensuring you don’t contact the alleged victim in the meantime. The exact terms of the order will vary by case and by state but typically forbid any contact. If you live with the alleged victim, the police may accompany you to the home to get some of your things.
But, regardless of your opinion on the legitimacy of the case, you can not violate the terms of this order without risking another immediate arrest and additional criminal charges.
Domestic Assault Penalties
The legal penalties you face for a domestic violence charge depend on the facts of your case and the jurisdiction in which you are charged. Many domestic violence charges are considered felonies. This means they can carry multiple years in prison if you are convicted.
In addition to jail or prison time, you could face penalties including:
- Anger management classes
- Community service
Most states immediately require a domestic violence defendant to turn over any weapons they may own. This means you may no longer lawfully possess a firearm in most states.
Defending A Domestic Assault Charge
Domestic charges can be some of the trickiest to fight in court. Even if the evidence against you is extremely weak, prosecutors are rarely willing to drop the charges or cut you a break. District attorneys are afraid of being accused of being “soft on domestic violence”, and if an accused person was ever let go, but later committed a violence act, it would look bad on them politically. So they are often willing to fight and lose rather than make a reasonable decision that is fair to the defendant based on the evidence available.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t options. If you are charged with domestic assault, it’s not too late. Though the laws are most often designed to protect the victim, you also have rights. Consulting with a defense attorney will help you understand those rights and your options under the law.
From plea bargains to getting the charges dismissed, an experienced local defense lawyer understands your local laws and what can be done to minimize the effects of these charges on your life.
Call now to speak with a local criminal defense attorney who can help you with a domestic violence accusation today.