How is Domestic Violence Defined in Arizona?
There is no specific crime in Arizona that constitutes “domestic violence.” The question of whether a particular charge may constitute domestic violence is a function of two factors:
- The underlying crime. The domestic violence laws are contained in Chapter 36 of the Arizona Criminal Code (Family Offenses). That chapter specifies numerous crimes that may constitute domestic violence. The list includes many violent crimes such as assault, as well as crimes against children. It also includes many offenses that are not generally considered violent, such as criminal trespass, non-violent harassment, and others. Moreover, some crimes, such as robbery, which is typically not classified as a violent crime, are not within the scope of domestic violence offenses in Arizona. As a result, the classification of the underlying charge as violent or non-violent does not answer the question of whether it could be charged as a domestic violence offense.
- The relationship between the parties. A necessary component in determining whether a domestic violence offense may properly be charged is the relationship between the parties. In some situations, this can be a simple issue. For example, if the parties are married, or if they were formerly married, their relationship, coupled with an allegation of one of the specified offenses (above), can support a domestic violence charge. However, numerous other relationships may likewise fit easily into the definition. These include relationships such as (a) having a child in common, (b) being related as parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling (c) in-laws, (d) stepparent, stepchild, etc. These are often, although not always, fairly simple matters. But the definition also includes offenses allegedly committed where the parties are or were in a “romantic or sexual relationship.” The determination of whether there is, or was, such a relationship involves an examination of a number of factors that are outlined in the statute. Those factors include the length, nature, and frequency of interaction between the parties, among others.
The end result is that there is no specific crime in the State of Arizona that constitutes “domestic violence” as such. Rather, there are numerous crimes which, when committed in the context of a specific relationship, can then be termed domestic violence offenses.
The domestic designation label is important in at least two respects. First, the potential consequences of being convicted of simple assault, for example, versus being convicted of domestic violence assault, are significant. Second, even if the charge against you alleges domestic violence, the fact that there is no relationship to support the charge does not mean that you are home free. Each and every domestic violence offense is an offense in its own right. Just because the prosecutor cannot prove the existence of one of the applicable relationships in a domestic violence assault case, does not mean that you cannot be charged with assault.
Penalties in Domestic Violence Cases
If you are convicted of one of these offenses, you are subject to the penalties ordinarily applicable in each case. Whether the offense is simple assault, aggravated assault, child abuse, vulnerable adult abuse, sexual abuse, or another covered offense, the Criminal Code prescribes a classification (misdemeanor, felony, and level), and in turn a range of potential punishments. The domestic violence laws do not alter the classification of the offense. For example, simple assault, depending upon the circumstances, is classified as a class 1, class 2 or class 3 misdemeanor. Simple assault on your wife or husband, a domestic violence offense, is classified in exactly the same way.
The difference concerns the penalties that may be applicable in the event of a conviction. These penalties can be affected by a prior history of domestic violence, as well as factors such as whether the victim is pregnant, whether the charge involves a violation of an existing order of protection, as well as other issues. Labeling an offense as a domestic violence charge, could, depending upon the facts of the case, subject you to any one or more of the following:
- Mandatory attendance in a treatment program for domestic violence offenders, the cost of which would be your responsibility;
- Mandatory minimum terms of incarceration;
- Additional incarceration time;
- Having restrictions placed on your eligibility for release from jail or prison on either probation or parole; and
- Having restrictions placed upon your activities, as the result of the issuance of a domestic violence protective order.
- Beyond whatever criminal penalties may be imposed, domestic violence can also affect a person’s ability to obtain custody of his or her children.
Clearly, there is a major difference in terms of potential penalties between being charged with an offense, and being charged with a domestic violence offense. In addition to additional jail or prison time, restrictions on parole and probation eligibility, and other issues, the issuance of a protective order can alter what you are permitted to do, where you are permitted to go, and with whom you are permitted to communicate or have contact. These issues can have a huge impact on your life, and that impact can last well into the future.
What is a Domestic Violence Order of Protection?
A domestic violence protective order, sometimes referred to as a restraining order, is ordinarily designed to protect people who may be in present or immediate danger of domestic violence. These orders can be issued on an emergency basis (Emergency Orders of Protection, or “EOP”), or on a more “permanent” basis. EOP’s only last for a very short time, and under A.R.S. 13-3624, they expire at the close of business on the day after they are issued, unless extended by the court. “Permanent” orders of protection can be issued only after an appearance before a judge. In fact, they are not permanent, but will ordinarily expire one year after the order is served on the defendant.
Domestic violence protective orders can restrict contact with alleged victims (including telephone contact), provide one party with exclusive use of a shared home, restrict one party from going to certain places (such as the work site or home of the alleged victim), and can contain numerous other restrictions and requirements.
Phoenix Domestic Violence Attorney
Domestic violence charges are serious business. Enhanced penalties and other potential consequences can be significant. In some cases, domestic violence allegations are manufactured by the alleged victim in order to gain the upper hand, for example, in a monetary dispute between the parties. Arrests are common, and they can sometimes be based upon little more than one person’s word against another.
Navigating through the system, and protecting your rights, requires the assistance of an experienced Phoenix criminal lawyer who knows the law, and who understands how to challenge the evidence against you so that you are provided with the best chance of minimizing the consequences of the charges, including a dismissal if possible, so that you can move forward with your life.
Call Feldman & Royle today at 602-899-8000 for a free, confidential consultation.