Understanding relationship abuse
A charge of domestic violence A.R.S. 13-3601 in Arizona is a designation given to certain crimes when committed by a person with a special relationship to the victim. This special relationship is defined by law, and for a person to be a victim of domestic violence, that person's relationship to the defendant must fall within one of the following five categories.
Those relationships are:
- By marriage or former marriage
- By residing or having resided together
- The parties have a child in common
- They are related such as a:
- The victim is a child who resides or had resided in the same household as the defendant and is related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant or to a person who resides or who had resided in the same household as the defendant.
Any other relationship does not qualify for this special relationship for domestic violence.
Sometimes law enforcement officers will designate an offense as domestic violence based merely on the relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend. This is wrong and does not create the defined relationship necessary for domestic violence required by Arizona law.
Domestic violence allegations can result in civil and criminal penalties like:
- Jail time
- Orders of Protection
- Losing parental rights
- Losing your right to own a firearm
With or Without a Warrant
According to A.R.S. 13-3601(B),
A peace officer, with or without a warrant, may arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that domestic violence has been committed and the officer has probable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed the offense, whether the offense is a felony or a misdemeanor and whether the offense was committed within or without the presence of the peace officer.
If the peace officer believes that either party's actions were justifiable acts of self-defense, there is no probable cause for that party to be arrested on suspicion of domestic violence.
Misdemeanor vs. Felony Charges
In Arizona, domestic violence can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the type of offense committed. For example, aggravated assault on a blood relative could constitute a felony offense, while endangerment of a child in your household could constitute a misdemeanor offense. Additionally, jurisdictions often vary on policies regarding the prosecution of domestic violence offenses.
Those offenses that can lead to a charge of domestic violence in Arizona are:
- Aggravated Assault
- Aggravated Domestic Violence
- Any Dangerous Crime Against Children
- Child or Vulnerable Adult Abuse
- Criminal Damage
- Criminal Trespass
- Custodial Interference
- Disorderly Conduct
- Interfering with Judicial Proceedings
- Surreptitious Photographing, Videotaping, Filming or Digitally Recording or Viewing
- Threatening or Intimidating
- Unlawful Imprisonment
- Use of Telephone to Terrify, Intimidate, Threaten, Annoy or Offend
Other offenses include trespass, kidnapping, and interfering with judicial proceedings such as violating an order of protection can lead to a domestic violence designation. Some other lesser-cited offenses include telephone intimidation, harassment, stalking and surreptitious photographing or recording.
Defenses against a Domestic Violence Charge
Law includes these offenses and any other crime not designated will not be the basis for a Mesa domestic violence charge. A defendant will have a defense should the state charge an offense not so designated.
Care must be taken when the underlying crime is criminal damage. Under Arizona's community property law, property owned by spouses may be owned jointly thereby establishing the required element of damage to property of another. However, if the victim and defendant are not married then the victim to satisfy the damage element of a criminal damage charge must own the property.
Other defenses include defenses to the actual underlying offense charged like self-defense when one is charged with assault or on a trespass charge a person has permission to be on the premises.
A Misdemeanor Sentence for a Domestic Violence Conviction
If the conviction is for a class one misdemeanor then the penalty for the class one misdemeanor is applicable, such as three years of probation, up to six months in jail, and a possible fine up to $2,500. The domestic violence designation then adds the mandatory domestic violence counseling and the potential of seizure of all weapons in the household for six months, and possibly the permanent revocation of the right to possess firearms pursuant to federal law. The added designation of domestic violence could further result in a felony prosecution for a third offense domestic violence charge. Any allegation of domestic violence and the potential sanctions imposed following a conviction should be taken very seriously. Do not wait to speak with an attorney as time is of the essence to prepare a solid defense.