Most people think of spousal abuse when they consider the definition of domestic violence. But crimes committed against children and intimate partners also count. It’s not even necessary for the defendant to have an intimate or familial relationship with the person. If the crime was committed against someone the defendant lives with, such as a roommate, it still counts as domestic violence.
Unfortunately, occurrences of domestic violence are common. The potential charges will vary depending on the state that the defendant lives in. Sometimes, they’ll be charged on the federal level instead of or in addition to the state level.
Some examples of domestic violence crimes are:
- Assault and battery
- Child abuse and child abandonment
- Elder abuse
- Threats of violent action
In most cases, a domestic violence crime will pertain to a spouse or former spouse who exhibits abusive behavior toward the other. Penalties vary widely depending on the location of the crime along with the mitigating and aggravating factors.
Aggravating factors are pieces of the case that make the domestic violence charge more serious. For example, crimes committed against children tend to be more serious than crimes committed against adults. Meanwhile, mitigating factors will reduce the potential charges. These might involve a defendant’s lack of criminal record.
Most state statutes will define the potential defenses that a person might have. If you’ve been accused of a domestic violence crime, it’s important to get in contact with an attorney. They can review your case, decide on the best plan to move forward, and give you the most ideal criminal defense for your unique circumstances.
Depending on the offense, you might be facing either misdemeanor or felony charges. The difference between felony and misdemeanor charges will often depend upon how severe the injury was. Criminal history is also a factor in the severity of the charges. In many states, if the defendant has a previous violent criminal conviction, their domestic violence charge will be heightened in severity. Many states also upgrade offenses that are committed against children.
There are multiple potential penalties, including but not limited to:
- Court-mandated community service
- Intervention or anger management programs
- Jail time
- Prison sentences
- Protective or restraining orders to protect the victim
- Supervision over visits with children
- Termination of the defendant’s parental rights
- Deportation of undocumented people
For a prison sentence to be imposed, usually there must be serious injury involved or for the crime to fit a violent pattern of behavior. Violent behavioral patterns might be proved if the defendant has any violent convictions on their criminal record. Depending on the severity of the circumstances, a person might be incarcerated for as little as 30 days or as many as several decades.
People will also often face multiple charges when they’re accused of a domestic violence crime. The sentences for multiple convictions must be carried out concurrently. If the crime is severe enough, a defendant might not have the possibility of parole.
When defendants show that they’re willing to take responsibility for the crime, sometimes they can plead down to lower sentences. Taking responsibility might mean enrolling in intervention or anger management programs of their own accord, or pleading guilty to lesser charges.
If you’ve been accused of a domestic violence crime, it’s imperative that you have adequate legal representation at all stages of the process.