When most people think about domestic violence charges, they envision a physical fight between partners, such as a husband and wife. While that may very well be considered domestic violence (DV), the crime of “domestic violence” under Arizona law includes a far broader range of scenarios that are not limited to disputes between family members or romantic partners. In fact, a DV dispute does not even have to be physical in nature to be considered domestic violation under Arizona law.
Domestic Violence Charges Explained
Under Arizona law, “domestic violence” is not a standalone crime, meaning that in order for a person to be charged with DV, two conditions must be met:
- the victim and the defendant must have a qualifying relationship as described in the statue; and
- the crime committed upon the victim must be one that is listed in the statute.
In order for a person to be found guilty of an offense, the State must prove that the person charged was in a domestic of familiar relationship with the victim at the time of the offense. A.R.S § 13-3601 requires proof that relationship between the defendant and the victim is one in which:
- The victim and defendant are married or were married at one time;
- The victim and defendant have a child in common;
- The victim or the defendant is pregnant by the other party;
- The victim is related to the defendant or the defendants’ spouse by blood;
- The victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the defendant and is related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant; or
- The relationship between the victim and the defendant is currently or was previously a romantic or sexual relationship.
Examples of relationships that normally fall under the domestic conflict statute include:
- people involved in romantic relationships;
- married couples;
- parents and children;
- stepchildren and stepparents; or
- Roommates (while roommates are often charged under the domestic violence statutes, the law in Arizona remains unclear in this area. For more information about roommates charged with DV, click here).
Crimes Commonly Associated with DV
A.R.S. §13-3601 lays out exactly which crimes qualify as being eligible to have a DV allegation. Examples of Arizona crimes that domestic violence is often associated with include:
- Assault A.R.S § 13-1203;
- Aggravated Assault A.R.S § 13-1204;
- Disorderly Conduct A.R.S § 13-2904;
- Criminal Damage A.R.S § 13-1602;
- Criminal Trespass A.R.S. 13-1502, 1503, 1504;
- Threatening and Intimidating A.R.S § 13-1202;
- Unlawful Imprisonment A.R.S § 13-1303;
- Harassment A.R.S § 13-2921;
- Interference with a Judicial Proceeding A.R.S § 13-2810;
- Revenge Porn A.R.S § 13-1425.
How to Get Charges Dropped for Domestic Violence
Under Arizona law, only the prosecutor has the power to drop charges. While the victim’s input and unwillingness to pursue charges against the defendant can be a factor heavily weighed by the prosecutor, the victim does not control the decision to drop charges. Should the prosecutor be unwilling to drop charges, having the case dismissed can only be accomplished via a plea agreement to diversion or through a victory at trial. Successfully navigating plea negotiations or prevailing at trial is best handled by a skilled domestic violence lawyer.
SIDE NOTE: Utilizing a domestic violence attorney on behalf of the victim is an option and can be tremendously beneficial in negotiating the criminal justice system and urging the State to drop charges.
Punishment for Domestic Violence
If the State can prove both the underlying crime (i.e. assault, disorderly conduct, etc.) and the domestic or familiar relationship between the defendant and victim, a person must be sentenced under Arizona’s DV laws. These laws require that in addition to any punishment prescribed by the underlying criminal charge:
The court must order that the individual:
- Be placed on probation (either supervised or unsupervised);
- Complete court ordered domestic violence counseling (minimum 26 sessions);
- Pay any and all restitution to the victim.
The court may also:
- Impose additional fines and surcharges;
- Order that jail or prison be served;
- Require the defendant complete anger management or substance abuse counseling in addition to the mandatory DV counseling;
- Order that the defendant have no contact with the victim.
Again, it is important to remember that the punishment laid out above is in addition to any punishment associated with underlying criminal charges. For instance, if you were convicted at trial of DV aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, you would have the required domestic violence terms order on top of the mandatory prison sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Other Consequences of a DV Conviction
In addition to any punishment a person may face from the court system, DV charges and convictions often have consequences outside of jail and probation. Common collateral consequences for a domestic violence charge or conviction include:
- Loss of gun rights (even for a misdemeanor);
- Suspension or loss of professional licenses (often before even being convicted);
- Immigration consequences;
- Housing limitations;
- Employment barriers.
If you have already been convicted of a domestic offense, having the conviction set aside can often help to alleviate these issues. Click here for further information.
Aggravated Domestic Violence
When a person commits a third felony or misdemeanor DV offense in eighty-four months (7 years) the third instance can be charged as aggravated domestic violence under A.R.S. § 13-3601.02.
Punishment for Aggravated Domestic Violence (Mandatory Jail Time)
Aggravated domestic violence is a class 5 felony. Punishment for aggravated domestic violence can range anywhere from probation (with jail) up to 2.5 years in prison.
- Two prior DV convictions: If someone has been convicted of two prior DV violations within eighty-four months, the person cannot receive probation until an initial four-month jail sentence been completed.
- Three or more DV convictions: If someone has been convicted of three or more prior DV violations within eighty-four months, the person cannot receive probation until an initial eight-month jail sentence been completed.
As outlined above, if a person is found guilty of aggravated domestic violence, in addition to the mandatory minimum jail time prescribed by law, the defendant must complete court ordered domestic violence counseling and pay any and all restitution to the victim.
Defending Against Domestic Violence
It’s often said that the best defense is a good offense. Choosing a qualified domestic violence lawyer is a key component to ensuring that your charges are properly defended against. Your attorney should be able to assert any and all defenses necessary to obtain an acquittal. The exact defense strategy for a domestic violence offense depends on the underlying crime for which you have been charged. For example, the defenses asserted in defending a domestic violence assault crime will likely differ from those used in defending a domestic violence harassment charge.
That said, self-defense in domestic violence cases is a primary defense asserted in many of the strongest defense strategies. Because so many of the crimes associated with domestic violence have self-defense as a possible defense tool, evaluating this option is a necessary part of any case evaluation. Consulting with an attorney can provide valuable insights into how self-defense can be used to combat domestic violence charges.
Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you have been charged with an Arizona domestic violence crime, you want an experienced and reliable domestic violence defense attorney to help you navigate the legal system. Feldman & Royle is a trusted criminal defense law firm with attorneys experienced in defending domestic violence cases throughout Arizona. We know that reaching the best outcome for you requires that we specifically customize our criminal defense representation by learning about you, your circumstances, and the details of your case. Call us for a free, no obligation consultation.
Domestic Violence FAQs
Can a Victim of Domestic Violence Drop Charges?
- No. As with all victim related crimes in Arizona, the State is the party that brings charges, not a particular victim. Once police have been called and an arrest decision has been made, police refer the case to a prosecutor for charging. Only a prosecutor can opt to have charges dropped after review of the case.
Is domestic violence a felony in Arizona?
- Whether DV is a felony depends on which underlying crime the domestic violence allegation is associated. While statistically more domestic violence charges are filed as misdemeanors, even misdemeanor domestic violence charges can have severe consequences.
Domestic Violence Statute of Limitations?
- The statue of limitations depends on the underlying charge associated with the DV allegation. Generally, the statute of limitations for a domestic violence offense in Arizona is 1-year for a misdemeanor or 7 years for a felony. However, some domestic violence offenses have no statute of limitations.
What Are Domestic Violence Charges?
- Domestic violence (DV) charges are not necessarily charges in Arizona but rather allegations or enhancement to underlying criminal charges. For example, you can commit assault without it being a DV Assault but if you assault a romantic partner, it would be charged as DV Assault.
Can Police Take a Gun During a DV Investigation?
- Yes. If police learn a gun is present or a gun is either in plain view or found after a consensual search of the property, the police may seize the weapon. In these situations, if a gun is seized by police it must be held for at least seventy-two hours. Receipt of the weapon must be given to the lawful owner.
Do all domestic violence cases go to trial?
- No. While many cases do go to trial, many other DV cases are dismissed prior to trial or negotiated via a plea agreement.