Crimes concerning domestic violence are taken very seriously by prosecutors. Defendants charged with a crime of domestic violence will often be at the forefront of a prosecutor’s case files.
What is a crime of domestic violence?
A crime involving a domestic violence misdemeanor varies from state to state, with each state having its own unique statutory interpretation. Generally, a crime of domestic violence occurs when one family member or household member threatens to commit or commits violence against another family or household member.
This broadly defined class of victims can encompass more than just direct-familial relations, including roommates and significant others. The phrase domestic violence (DV) is broadly construed to include verbal and emotional abuse.
Are there first-time offender provisions?
A DV conviction may entail jail time and/or a monetary fine. Some states offer first offender status pertaining to domestic violence. These first offender provisions allow the defendant to plead no contest to the charge of DV, the charge is then taken under advisement for a variable period of time, and if certain qualifications are met, the charge may be dismissed.
The qualifications typically include some form of counseling and a period of good behavior. Good behavior means that the defendant has no new law violations. Violation of the good behavior provision will most likely result in active incarceration for the defendant.
A conviction for domestic violence has lifelong consequences.
The defendant may lose custody of his children or at least have his visitation rights augmented and the defendant may have difficulty finding future employment with a misdemeanor domestic violence crime on his record. Federal law prohibits any individual who has been convicted of DV from owning a gun. There is currently no viable Federal mechanism for having gun rights restored if lost because of DV.
What if a defendant is falsely accused of DV?
Unfortunately, DV charges are often abused and used as a tool to wear down opposing parties in domestic disputes. Prosecutors will vet the situation, but if charged with a DV misdemeanor it is always best to have an effective advocate.
Typically, a lawyer familiar with the jurisdiction from whence the charge arises is the best solution. While this lawyer will not receive any special consideration, his experience may allow him to work out an acceptable plea agreement with the prosecutor or possibly get the charges dismissed by presenting the defendant’s side of the story.