There are a number of situations in which domestic violence charges may be filed. The most common forms of domestic violence occur between couples who are married, formerly married, residing in the same household or used to reside in the same household. Domestic violence charges may also arise out of child involvement or between siblings and others related by blood. The first thing you want to do is fight your charge to reduce the impact of these potential criminal consequences.
If you go to the Pima County Jail at 8 pm every night, you would see the initial appearances. An initial appearance is the first time an arrested person sees the judge. The accused gets told what he or she is charged with and release conditions are set. Release conditions can be bond, release to pretrial services (an arm of the court), no conditions, or some combination of conditions such as no return to the incident location and no contact with the victim. It is at the initial appearances that you see most the people are charged with domestic violence offenses. Why is this?
My answer is that the volume of domestic violence arrests has to do with grant money. When I began practicing in Pima County years ( I do mean 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. It isn’t just the Pima County Attorney’s Office, it is also Oro Valley, Sahaurita, Tucson City, Marana, South Tucson, Green Valley-all the local courts. Police agencies get extra training in this area. A mere verbal argument becomes disorderly conduct domestic violence and someone gets booked into the jail. All local police agencies have a policy of booking a DV accused into the jail.
The net for domestic violence offenses has been very wide. If you get caught in this net, please realize the gravity of a misdemeanor offense and what can be done.
Understand the law you are charged with violating! Remember, it is just an accusation. You have every right to have a trial, even it the charge is a misdemeanor. Trial for a misdemeanor will be a bench trial or judge alone trial and not a jury trial. Please do not think you cannot win these and be aquitted. You can! It happens all the time. The State has to prove the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt. Frequently, there will be defenses. Self defense, defense of others and defense of property are common for a domestic violence allegation.
You do not have to be accused of hitting or making physical contact with another person for a domestic violence charge to come about. The domestic violence allegation is a tag that can be attached to almost any offense. The DV tag tells the court about the nature of the relationship between the alleged victim and the accused. For example, if a woman argues with her neighbor and tells the neighbor, ” I will kill you.” The woman will likely be charged with threats. If a woman tells that same phrase, under the same circumstances, to her live in boyfriend, it becomes threats with a DV allegation or tag. If the nature of the relationship between the victim and the accused is a family one like parent and child, cousins, brother and sister or an intimate partner relationship currently or in the past, then you can expect a DV allegation.
Sometimes people believe that simply speaking to the judge and prosecutor can make the case go away and the charges will be dismissed. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Prosecutors have to justify that grant money. Generally, prosecutors gain nothing when they dismiss. Even if they go to trial and lose, they get to tell their bosses they at least tried to hold someone accountable. Taxpayer dollars? You want to argue that prosecution is a waste of hard earned taxpayer dollars. Such arguments fall on deaf ears. The prosecutors have to be in court or the office everyday. They don’t get paid less for dismissing cases.
Please realize who is who in this situation. The prosecutor does have the power to dismiss the case. The judge does not. Ultimately, the judge can say “not guilty” or “guilty” at a trial. The judge, however, cannot dismiss a case prior to trial.
What can be done? A full and complete investigation of the facts to help persuade the prosecutor to dismiss the case or help you win at trial. Also, plea negotiations can occur. Most prosecutor’s offices have a diversion program. Diversion is where an accused undertakes a course of counseling and in exchange the charges are dismissed. For domestic violence offenses, the counseling must be 26 sessions at a court approved counseling provider. The number of classes is what the law requires if you were to be convicted. Convicted means you either plead guilty to the judge or were found guilty by the judge after a trial.
The diversion programs vary in what kinds of requirements they have and their requirements change frequently and rapidly. The prosecutor gets to offer diversion or tell the accused nope, plead guilty or go to trial. If a cop tells you not to worry, the case will be dismissed, maybe check it out a little more. Cops are not always up on who gets offered diversion and why. Tucson City Court is generally generous with diversion, although not a generous as it was a few years ago. Pima County is not generous with diversion at all. It just depends on the unique circumstances of your case, your lawyer and your prosecutor.
If you plead guilty or you are found guilty, the consequences of a domestic violence offense can be life changing. Most DV convictions will make a person unable to lawfully own firearms and ammunition. Active duty military people or those in a reserve component of the military will likely lose their employment and retirement opportunites. The same is true of law enforcement people, correctional officers, anyone who must carry firearms as part of their job. Exceptions are hard to come by.
The charge can affect current and future employment and professional licensing. The Arizona Department of Public Safety issues people a fingerprint clearance card. Most health professionals, teachers, real estate agents, and others have this card. A domestic violence charge (not a conviction) will trigger the suspension of the card and make the card holder unable to work if work requires the card.
Immigration can also be seriously affected by a domestic violence charge. Deportation and removal are at stake. If you are not a citizen and you are charged with any offense, you should seek the counsel of an experienced immigration attorney.
It doesn’t end there! Let’s say you had a trial and were found guilty of a DV offense, such a conviction may hurt your position in another matter, like child custody and visitation issues.
Clearly, it is important to do everything you can to get the charges dismissed. There are many attorneys out there who say they handle domestic offense cases. They have catchy phrases like marines fighting or freedom ringing. Please interview several attorneys before picking one. It is important you feel comfortable with your attorney. Most importantly, you need and deserve the personal attention of the attorney you hire. You don’t want to get passed off to a younger, less-experienced attorney or be unable to reach the actual attorney after hours. You want and deserve personal attention.
State vs. M.B.
Father of teenaged daughter charged with assault when daughter showed up at law enforcement’s door with visible injuries to her face and back and claimed dad hurt her. Client acquitted at trial where I cross examined daughter and her mother.
State v. A.S. – Pima County Superior Court
Client charged with prohibited possession of guns and felony narcotics. After a traffic stop, police searched client’s car and found the prohibited items. After several lengthy discussions with the prosecutor about the bad traffic stop, charges dismissed.
- Disorderly Conduct Domestic Violence
- Contempt of Court and Interfering with Judicial Proceedings
- Domestic Violence: Child Abuse