What is Domestic Violence, a Felony or Misdemeanor?
Arizona, just like all other states, has provisions that criminalize domestic violence. The extent of the abuse and the aggravating factors will determine whether a person is committing a misdemeanor or a felony in a domestic violence case.
When Will Domestic Violence Result in Misdemeanor Charges?
Domestic violence has many shapes and forms – it can be emotional, psychological, sexual or physical. When a person threatens a family member, they will be committing an act of domestic violence. Criminal trespass is also classified as domestic violence and so is assault.
The nature of the underlying crime and the previous history of the offender will determine if the act will lead to felony or misdemeanor charges.
More information about the offense and the sanctions can be found in Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1201 and 12-1204. Most of the cases will be classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor in the absence of aggravating factors and prior criminal offenses. If a defendant is found to not have intentionally committed the respective act, Class 2 and Class 3 misdemeanor charges may apply.
A Class 1 misdemeanor carries the following sanctions:
- A maximum jail sentence of six months
- A fine of up to 2,500 dollars
In addition, being charged with a domestic violence misdemeanor could affect the defendant in upcoming divorce or child custody proceedings.
Aggravating Factors and Domestic Violence Felonies
Aggravated domestic violence will be classified as a felony. According to Arizona law, aggravated domestic violence will occur whenever:
- A person commits a third or a subsequent domestic violence offense in a seven-year period
- Whenever a person has been charged with two or more domestic violence cases in another state that would lead to a jail time penalty in Arizona
The first occurrence of aggravated domestic violence will lead to Class 5 felony charges. If an aggravated domestic assault leads to the death of a family member, the person will face Class 1 felony charges. For a Class 5 felony, the minimum sentence will consist of:
- One year in prison (up to four years in some cases)
- A fine starting at 750 dollars
- Enrollment in a counseling program
- Community service
A second aggravated domestic violence offense in a seven-year period will also face a felony conviction. In this case, however, there will be no option for probation, pardon or sentence suspension until the person has served at least four months in jail.
Third-time offenders will have to serve at least eight months in jail before they become eligible for sentence reduction, suspension, pardon, probation or release.
The officer who responds to the domestic violence report will be the professional responsible for assessing the scope of the crime and the level of the charge. An Arizona police officer will have to find out whether the situation actually involves domestic violence, if sufficient bodily injuries have occurred and whether the guilty party used a weapon. All of these will be aggravating factors that can lead to felony charges and more severe punishments.
Keep in mind that domestic violence can sometimes involve both people. In such instances, even the victim could find themselves facing domestic violence charges due to the fact they responded to a threat or engaged physically with the other person. Preservation of the evidence and providing an attorney with sufficient information about the circumstances will be of paramount importance in such situations.
An experienced attorney will work towards mitigated sentencing whenever the evidence is solid. Procedural violations during the investigation could also be pinpointed, leading to the suppression of some evidence. If you’re facing aggravated domestic violence charges, call your lawyer immediately. Such a charge will always come with a prison sentence and you should work on negating the claims of the prosecution right from the start.