The Impact of a Domestic Violence Charge
You’ve probably heard of domestic violence before, but do you realize how many various types of convictions can exist under the umbrella of domestic violence? Almost any incident involving spouses, siblings, or other family members where the police are called can be cast in the net of domestic violence, even something as simple as a verbal argument. Yet, even with the huge variance in the circumstances that may surround a domestic violence charge, these cases frequently have a substantial impact on convicted individuals, who may have been convicted because of misconceptions involving the legal process of trying these cases. It is easier than you might think to get caught up in the net of domestic violence, so you will want to arm yourself with the right criminal defense lawyer as well as some basic knowledge of what a misdemeanor domestic violence charge can do to your life.
The Immediate Consequences
Right away, a domestic violence charge will have a profound impact on your life, because you may be sent to jail immediately. You’ll also have a pending court date and possible plea offers to consider. This is not something you should face alone. Your attorney will be your most essential advocate as you work with the prosecutor or present your case to the judge.
- Plea Offers – Plea offerings can sound tempting, because they may help you avoid a trial and seem like a means of quickly getting your case behind you. However, you should never agree to any plea offer without consulting a domestic violence attorney. Otherwise, you may agree to terms that have unanticipated long-term consequences, or you might face much more than the minimum punishment for your charges.
- Court Hearings – There is a general mentality of cracking down on domestic violence within Pima County’s local courts. Unfortunately, this means that many people face charges for incidents that boil down to simple misunderstandings. Not every case will result in a trial, and most are heard only in front of a judge with no jury. If your case does go to trial, know that it is possible to defend yourself and argue that you are not guilty of the accusations at hand.
- Jailtime – In Tucson and throughout Pima County, it is police protocol to book individuals accused of domestic violence into jail. Regardless of what really happened, you could quickly spend a night in jail if you are accused of domestic violence. There may be release conditions when you get out, including no contact with the victim and no return to the incident location or the home of the victim. Again, you may feel that these conditions are undeserved, but you should comply and work with a lawyer to understand the right way to fight back. Attempting to address the alleged victim directly can only lead to further charges, especially if you are violating your release conditions to do this.
- Diversion Courses – Police often attempt to reassure individuals arrested for domestic violence that their charges will be dismissed, and, while this is a possibility, it is not a given in every case. Diversion is offered as an option for some individuals, and it will require completing a series of classes and counseling sessions to get the domestic violence charges dismissed. If this is an option for you, remember that it will still require a substantial time commitment and fill completion of coursework within a limited timeframe.
A domestic violence conviction does not simply go away once you have served your sentence. In fact, it may come back to haunt you in ways you may not expect.
- Loss of Employment – If you have to go to jail and appear in court during work hours, you might build up several unexcused absences at work that can cost you your job. In addition, your employment may be threatened if you need any type of security clearance, special licensing, or if you carry a firearm at work. Military personnel and those in law enforcement are very likely to lose employment if convicted of domestic violence. Securing a new job after a conviction may also pose challenges, since many employers run background checks, and a history of domestic violence (even just a single conviction) can put you in a negative light compared to other candidates for the job. Trying to hide your conviction by omitting it from an application will likely only result in the discovery that you have lied, since there is no way to bury this information in a background check.
- Poor Community Reputation – Word of your conviction can travel fast, and that might affect your reputation in your neighborhood, at your child’s school meetings, and in other community settings. Public figures and government officials can see even more extreme consequences in this regard, because they are so closely followed in the public eye.
- Loss of Immigration Status – If you are not a permanent citizen of the United States, your immigration status may be threatened by a domestic violence charge. Deportation and removal can occur, so it is important to build the best defense possible to keep your life in order.
Strategies for Minimizing the Impact
The best legal advice that the average person can give to someone charged with domestic violence is to call a lawyer. Not only will an attorney understand the potential gravity of a conviction for your charges, but he or she will be familiar with the local justice system, as well as the courts and judges who preside over them. Each judge may behave a little differently, and domestic violence charges are often brought up in a dedicated court where there are specified plea policies that can affect case outcomes. Knowing these nuances of the court can be powerful, which is why you should never hesitate to contact an attorney when you are accused of domestic violence—even if you are certain that you didn’t do anything wrong or you think that a conviction will not have much of an impact on your daily life.
Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law, has been defending domestic violence cases in Pima County for more than 20 years. She knows the courts, prosecutors, and judges involved in these cases as well as the best strategies for building a strong defense. If you were arrested for domestic violence in Tucson, call (520) 247-1789 to schedule a free consultation where you can discuss your case.