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Why are domestic violence cases so common?

April 6, 2016

Tucson courts are absolutely filled to the brim with domestic violence cases. I’ve thought a lot about why this is— as well as whether or not it always been this way— and I’ve discovered that the answers to these questions are not simple ones. So before we explore the long answer, I’ll give you the short one: grant money!

Grant money from the federal government is something all prosecutors want because it means that they don’t have to dig in their own budget to pay for employees and services. For example, in January 2015 Tucson City Court judges and prosecutors were overjoyed to learn that $5 million in grant money was allocated to Tucson City Court to prosecute domestic violence cases. Courts use grant money to create a special judge who handles all of the court’s domestic violence cases and allows prosecutors to generate policies pertaining to the cases. For example, in Pima County Justice court domestic violence prosecutions all cases that are sent to the special domestic violence court must contain supervised probation in their pleas, because this is what was promised in the grant.

When I began practicing in Pima County many years ago, domestic violence offenses were not so prevalent. The increase in grant money to prosecutor’s offices in Pima County to pursue these cases has increased, and this doesn’t just apply to the Pima County Attorney’s Office either. It is also Oro Valley, Sahaurita, Tucson City, Marana, South Tucson, Green Valley— all the local courts. In addition, the officers from these police agencies have received extra training in this area. A mere verbal argument can easily become vdisorderly conduct domestic violence, meaning that someone gets booked into the jail. All local police agencies have a policy of booking a person accused of domestic violence directly into the county jail.

Despite the fact that it happened here in Tucson, grant money being given to a specific court for a specific offense is rare. You don’t see it being given for DUIs or even sex offenses or child abuse, but for some reason, in this instance we see it being applied toward domestic violence cases. This means that Tucson courts have more money and resources to prosecute domestic violence cases compared to other types of cases, and as you can see from this article about a domestic violence sting that netted 53 people, the grant money is already being well spent toward this purpose. Last year, domestic violence arrests numbered over 2,000 in Tucson alone, and with the $5 million dollars in grant money, that number is sure to rise.

What does this mean for you if you are accused of a domestic violence offense? It means the police and prosecutors are more experienced and specialized in seeking a conviction, and have more motivation to gain that conviction. (In this case, a conviction is defined as when you plead guilty to a judge or are found guilty by a judge after a trial.) In turn, these convictions generate more grant money, which allows the experience and specialization to continue to strengthen and develop.

The net for domestic violence offenses is cast very widly and continues to get wider. If you get caught in this net, please realize the seriousness of a misdemeanor or felony offense as well as how you can fight your way out of it. Remember, until you are convicted it is just an accusation. You have every right to have a trial, even if the charge is a misdemeanor. Trial for a misdemeanor will be a bench trial or judge­alone trial and not a jury trial. Please do not think you cannot win these and be fully acquitted: you can. It happens all the time. The State has to prove the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt, and frequently, there will be convincing defenses. These include self-defense, defense of others and defense of property, all of which are common.

Even though Tucson’s courts are going out of their way to prosecute domestic violence, you still have a fighting chance of beating the case if you do one simple thing: figure out a legal strategy with an attorney! An experienced domestic violence attorney can help assist you in avoiding the conviction and the harsh consequences that come along with it. Tucson criminal defense attorney Janet Altschuler is a former prosecutor and JAG and has been successfully defending clients for over 20 years and knows the system well enough to win. Don’t leave it up to chance: contact Janet today!

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