All relationships come with various levels of conflict and difficulties.  Unfortunately, tensions run high and situations can spin out of control.  Beyond the emotional and physical damage inflicted, involved parties often encounter legal trouble.  If you find yourself charged with domestic violence, jail time may be on the table. It is important to know the implications of domestic violence charges in Arizona.

A convicted individual will have a domestic violence criminal record, even if it classifies as a misdemeanor. Potential employers, agencies, and institutions may have access to this record for years to come. Domestic violence convictions also have an effect on your child custody and firearm rights.

How is Domestic Violence Defined?

The term “domestic violence” according to the state of Arizona, includes many different relationships.  It refers to any dangerous crime against a child, spouse, former spouse, household or former household member, someone with whom the defendant has children, a blood relative, step-relatives, relative-in-law, or someone with whom the defendant has or has had a sexual relationship with. This includes if the victim or defendant is pregnant by the other party.

A.R.S. § 13-3601

The state opts to charge domestic violence as the base crime involved.  The following crimes often find themselves with domestic violence:

A conviction of a crime with domestic violence attached can result in greater jail time.   This is especially true when crossed with a sex crime charge.

Domestic Violence Charges

The charges and punishment associated with domestic violence convictions depend on my factors.  Things taken into consideration can include any prior domestic violence history, victim’s age, and if the victim is pregnant.  These factors determine length of jail time, parole restrictions/eligibility, treatment and rehabilitation programs, and any protective orders issued.  Mandatory minimum sentences are also considered.

What Is the Sentence for a First Offense?

For first-time offenses, domestic violence sentences range from community service and probation to jail time.  This depends on the level of the crime charged.  Arizona classifies misdemeanors into three different classes and petty offenses.  Class 1 is considered the most serious, with Classes 2 and 3 following.  Petty offenses are considered the least serious offenses.  Any offense classified as a felony will carry a more severe punishment table.

Is Domestic Violence a Felony?

If a person finds themselves with multiple domestic violence offenses over time, they may face charges of felony aggravated domestic violence.  This can occur even if the previous instances are classified as misdemeanors.

When a victim is pregnant at the time a domestic violence offense is committed, the court takes into consideration the victim’s pregnancy and may increase the sentence.

What about Jail Time for Domestic Violence Convictions?

The penalties for violent crimes in Arizona are often severe.  This includes domestic violence.  Repeat offenders routinely see their punishment escalate.

If a person commits a second misdemeanor domestic violence offense within sixty months, or 5 years, he or she may be placed on supervised probation for up to 36 months, or 3 years, or may be incarcerated as a condition of his or her probation.

Aggravated domestic violence can include a penalty of a mandatory 8-month prison sentence. This involves cases in which there are prior domestic violence convictions. Aggravated domestic violence is a Class 5 Felony.

The state of Arizona considers a charge to be an incident of aggravated domestic violence if the defendant:

  • Commits three domestic violence offenses within 84 months.  This includes any out-of-state offenses.
  • Has two or more out-of-state domestic violence convictions. These charges would warrant jail time in Arizona, but the defendant has served fewer than four months.
  • Has three or more out-of-state domestic violence convictions that would warrant jail time in Arizona, but the defendant served fewer than eight months.

Do Weapons Affect Jail Time for Domestic Violence?

Whenever weapons are involved in a domestic violence incident, the charges can escalate to a felony.  There are also implications to an individual’s ability to continue to exercise their right to carry or purchase firearms.

Arizona courts have authorization (but not required) to issue protective orders that direct the abuser to surrender certain firearms in his or her possession in various circumstances.

Federal law prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition by people who have convictions in any court of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” and/or who are subject to certain domestic violence protective orders.

What kind of Defense Strategy is used for Domestic Violence Charges?

Domestic violence cases differ from other assault cases.  Arizona prosecutors rarely choose to withdraw or dismiss charges upon a victim’s request. This means that a domestic violence case is likely to proceed through the courts.  It is critical to developing an effective defense strategy.

Successful defenses take the following factors into consideration:

  • Disproving the victim’s claims or statements.
  • Amount of evidence, including witnesses, if any.
  • Extent of injuries sustained, if any.
  • Proving the alleged victim’s claim was purely vindictive.
  • The use of self-defense or the act of defending others (including children).
  • Mutual combat.
  • Property defense.

Prosecutors rarely abandon a domestic assault case.   However, if the alleged victim is adamant about not pursuing the district attorney’s office may decide not to prosecute. A domestic violence defense attorney like Belen Olmedo Guerra on your side can speak to the victim to determine whether they’re willing to end the case before it proceeds to court.

Although a victim not wanting to proceed with the case doesn’t always convince the district attorney not to prosecute, a victim’s wishes can be persuasive.  The prosecutor holds a great deal of influence on the pursuit of the case.

For the best chance of having a domestic violence case dismissed or charges reduced, it’s essential that you involve a criminal defense attorney skilled in the nuances of these cases.

Phoenix Attorney Belen Olmedo Guerra on Domestic Violence Cases

A successful defense depends upon the level of transparency and honesty about the situation.  It can be embarrassing to find yourself in legal trouble, especially if you are not at fault.  At Belen Law Firm, our Phoenix criminal defense lawyers will always treat you with non-judgmental respect.

Attorney Belen Olmedo Guerra has extensive experience successfully representing clients with various assault charges. She understands tempers can control the emotions and behaviors of an otherwise calm and reasonable person, especially when dealing with intimate partners or family members.

For a free, no-obligation consultation, call (602) 715-0908.