Domestic violence charges are serious criminal cases, often carrying harsher penalties than when the same crime is committed against an unrelated third party. Making matters harder, guilt is often automatically presumed in domestic violence cases, even though the American legal system should assume innocence until proven guilty.
The result is often unfair cases, biased juries, and unnecessarily severe sentences.
The good news is that with an experienced attorney in your corner you can fight baseless charges, present an effective defense in court, and negotiate with the prosecutor and judge for lesser sentencing.
In some cases, that may mean having the domestic violence charges dropped entirely. In other cases, it could mean successfully defending against the charges in court, or reaching a plea agreement with the prosecutor.
What is Domestic Violence in Arizona?
Domestic violence can take many forms, including sexual, physical, emotional, and financial abuse. The common denominator is the defendant’s relationship to the victim.
Under Arizona law, there are nine types of relationships that qualify for domestic violence charges:
- Former marriage
- Individuals residing in the same household
- Individuals who previously resided in the same household
- Individuals who share a child
- One individual is pregnant by the other individual
- The victim is the defendant’s parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, step-parent, step-grandparent, step-child, step-grandchild, brother-law, or sister-in-law
- The victim is a child who resides or resided in the same household as the defendant
- The defendant and victim are/were in a romantic or sexual relationship
The actual crime behind the domestic charge can vary significantly. In Arizona, the following crimes may be considered domestic violence:
- Animal cruelty
- Assault or aggravated assault
- Child abuse
- Criminal damage
- Criminal trespassing
- Custodial interference
- Dangerous crimes against children
- Disorderly conduct
- Emotional abuse
- False representation of an emergency
- Harassment or aggravated harassment
- Interfering with judicial proceedings
- Negligent homicide
- Preventing use of a telephone in an emergency
- Sexual assault
- Surreptitiously photographing, videotaping, filming, digitally recording, or viewing
- Threatening or intimidating a witness
- Unlawful imprisonment
- Using a telephone to annoy, harass, intimidate, terrify, threaten, or offend
- Vulnerable adult abuse
Penalties for Domestic Violence in Arizona
Generally speaking, domestic violence charges carry the same legal penalties as the crime the charges are based on. For example, if the standard sentencing for a particular crime is 6-12 months in prison, the same crime in a domestic violence case would have the same 6-12 month prison sentence.
The big challenge with domestic violence cases is that the sentencing tends to lean towards the harsher end of the guidelines, with judges and juries less inclined to offer leniency.
There are, however, three situations where domestic violence charges carry a different legal penalty.
Regardless of whether the charges result in jail time or probation, the defendant must complete a domestic violence offender treatment program (commonly called DV classes).
When the underlying charge is a felony and the defendant knew the victim was pregnant, Arizona law increases the maximum prison sentence by two years.
For example, a standard class 6 felony in Arizona carries a sentence of up to three years in prison. In a domestic violence case where the defendant knew the victim was pregnant, that would be increased to five years of prison time.
Aggravated Domestic Violence
When an abuser is found guilty of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge three times in a seven-year period, they may be charged with a felony and sentenced to prison. The charge of aggravated domestic violence is a class 5 felony, carrying up to 2.5 years in prison for the first conviction.
Defending Against Domestic Violence Charges
There are a number of ways you can defend against domestic charges. After consulting your case with a lawyer, the attorney may recommend any of the following strategies:
- Asserting self defense
- Establishing reasonable doubt for or disproving the underlying crime
- Contesting that the relationship qualifies for domestic violence classification
The first example is probably the most common defense. If you can establish that the alleged victim initiated the altercation, they would be guilty of domestic violence while you were actually defending yourself. Or, at the very least, you can establish that both parties were equally guilty, which may lead to the prosecutor dropping the charges against you.
When it’s impossible to have the charges against you dropped or the case dismissed, your attorney may discuss the possibility of reaching a plea deal with the prosecutor. This is often the preferred solution when you are guilty and the prosecutor has solid evidence against you.
In a plea deal, the prosecutor may agree to lower the charges against you in exchange for a guilty pleading. For example, instead of facing a class 6 felony, the prosecutor could drop the charges to a class 1 misdemeanor, resulting in a lighter sentencing.
Can the Victim Drop Domestic Violence Charges?
Should the victim change their mind and decide against pressing domestic violence charges, it’s ultimately up to the prosecutor to drop the case.
The prosecutor is often inclined to honor the victim’s wishes. However, if the prosecutor believes they have a solid case and prosecuting is in the best interests of the public, they’ll likely continue with the case without the victim’s cooperation.
What Determines Domestic Violence in Arizona?
When responding to a domestic violence call, police must take at least one person into custody if they have any reason to believe that the situation warrants such a response. They rarely care about who started the argument or who called the cops; they are simply there to evaluate the situation and will make decisions based on what they see.
In Arizona, domestic violence can be charged when:
- the victim and defendant are married, were married or reside in the same home
- the victim and defendant have a child in common
- the victim or defendant is pregnant by the other party
- the victim is related to defendant by blood or the defendant’s spouse by blood or court order
If the relationship between the defendant and victim is over, the courts will consider the type and length of the situation, as well as the frequency of interaction between the two parties and how long has passed since the relationship was terminated.
Crimes that constitute domestic violence can range from sex crimes, assault, battery, disorderly conduct, murder, kidnapping, false imprisonment, stalking, violating a restraining order, preventing the use of a telephone, intimidation, harassment, and child abuse.
Consulting with a Domestic Violence Attorney in Arizona
Have you been charged with domestic violence? Whether you’re facing misdemeanor or felony charges, it’s important to consult with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can negotiate for your release from jail on a fair bond, protect your legal rights, and present a strong defense for the charges against you.
Police investigators often take a hardline approach to domestic violence cases, so it’s critical you have an attorney present during any interview or interrogation. You should not accept a plea deal from the prosecutor or strike a deal with the police interrogator without first speaking to an attorney, even if they tell you the deal is off the table if you call an attorney.
How We Can Help with Your Arizona Domestic Violence Case
With all our clients, we work toward the best available legal outcome. In many cases, this could be a dismissed case, reduced charge or lesser penalties. Many times, this reduction in penalties or charges can make all the difference in the way a conviction affects your life.
If, for example, you’re facing a felony charge, having that charge reduced to a misdemeanor means you can avoid becoming a felon, which can make it much more difficult to get the work, school or living arrangement you need.
At JacksonWhite, our case results speak for themselves. Our talented attorneys and legal team work diligently to obtain the best potential results for our clients.
Here’s a look at some of our most recent domestic violence case results:
- Client #1: one count domestic violence, one count disorderly conduct
- Our results: domestic violence charge dropped, anger management class ordered instead
- Client #2: one count domestic violence
- Our results: case dismissed
- Client #3: one count domestic violence, one count criminal damage
- Our results: diversion program and domestic violence class
View more of our recent case results here.
It’s Possible to Have Your Penalties Reduced
The difference between a successful outcome and one that is not often comes down to the attorney. With the right attorney and legal team, you have a much better chance of minimizing your penalties and the impact of your charge.
At JacksonWhite, we routinely secure reduced charges and dismissed case for our clients. We strive to obtain the best results and our familiarity with the court system allows us to have a high success rate in all areas of criminal defense.
To see how we can help you, we invite you to call our office for your free case review. One of our attorneys will review your information and help you make a decision on moving forward with your case. There’s no obligation, and we look forward to offering our assistance.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.
Get Your Free Case Review
Fill out the form below to get your free consultation and discuss your best legal options.