Criminal Defense: Domestic Violence

The law defines domestic violence as criminal acts committed by a family or household member against another. A “family or household member” is defined as persons who are now or have been married or lived together, who have been or are involved in a dating relationship, and people who have a child, or children, together. Additionally, parent/child relationships and sibling relationships are included in the family or household definition.

A domestic violence charge can be a misdemeanor or felony charge. the Misdemeanor offenses include the following: assault, property destruction, harassment, intimidation with a weapon, reckless endangerment, and violation of no contact orders. Felony domestic violence offenses may include violation of no contact orders involving assault, a third violation of a no contact order, assault with a deadly weapon, along with other offenses.

An individual can be arrested for domestic violence if a police officer responds to a domestic incident and finds probable cause to believe that a person committed an assault against a household or family member. The police officer will then fill out a police report even if an arrest does not occur. Thereafter, the prosecutor’s office will review the police report and determine whether or not to file charges. The alleged victim becomes a witness for the city or state and has no authority to “drop the charges”. In many cases, the prosecutor will continue to prosecute a case even if the alleged victim refuses to testify.

A person charged with a domestic violence offense may be charged with a separate crime of interfering with the reporting of domestic violence if that person interferes with or tries to prevent the alleged victim from calling 911 or reporting the alleged crime.

No contact orders prohibit individuals from contacting or communicating with another by phone, third parties, email, texts, and often times a defined distance between the parties must be maintained. A no contact order remains in effect while a criminal case is pending and often times is imposed as part of a sentencing conviction. A no contact order issued by a judge is enforceable even if it is not signed by the defendant.

A civil protection order can be applied for by an individual against another and may not involve the police or criminal charges. A civil protection order may prohibit contact between parties, remove an alleged abuser from a shared residence, grant temporary custody of children and set visitation schedules, and order an alleged abuser into treatment or counseling.