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Aggravated Domestic Violence

When tempers and emotions rage in domestic relationships, people end up making bad decisions that result in domestic violence. Of all the violent crimes in Arizona, the majority involve intimate partners. Arizona laws are harsh on domestic violence crimes; the prosecutors and the police are aggressive in enforcing domestic violence charges. Almost any criminal act of abuse qualifies as domestic violence as long the perpetrator is the victim's relative. If you commit a misdemeanor domestic violence crime for a third time, you’ll be guilty of aggravated domestic violence. If you are facing aggravated domestic violence charges, Phoenix Criminal Attorney can help you fight the charges. 

Understanding Domestic Violence in Arizona

If there’s a qualifying victim, several criminal acts of abuse qualify as domestic violence in Arizona. It’s important to note that some of the crimes may not be violent but still qualify as domestic violence. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Domestic violence may also manifest in the form of neglect and economic control. Some of the crimes associated with domestic violence in Arizona are criminal trespass, threatening, kidnapping, assault and battery, disorderly conduct, witness intimidation, and battery or assault with a dangerous weapon.

The following acts between family and household members qualify as domestic violence in California:

  • Any form of physical assault including kicking or hitting
  • Threatening conduct or words
  • Harassment in person or by phone
  • All forms of intimidation
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Stalking
  • Watching another person without his or her consent- the perpetrator may watch the victim while the victim is in a private place like a bedroom or bathroom. The victim might be engaging in a private act like having sexual intercourse or urinating. It’s unlawful to watch another person while his or her private part is exposed so that it wouldn't be exposed in public. Private parts include genitals, buttocks, and breasts. You would be guilty of domestic violence if you commit other acts like recording, videotaping, or photographing a victim during their private moment.
  • Endangering or placing a victim in a risk of physical injury or immediate death
  • Criminal trespass
  • Kidnapping
  • Unlawful imprisonment
  • Custodial interference
  • Criminal damage
  • Disobeying a court order
  • Abusing a vulnerable adult or child
  • Negligence homicide, murder, or manslaughter
  • Negligent abandonment, neglect, or cruel mistreatment of an animal;
  • Interfering or preventing the use of the phone in an emergency
  • Disorderly conduct and specific crimes against children

Household or Family Member

You can only be guilty of aggravated domestic violence in Arizona if you commit the crime against a family or household member.  If the victim is not your family members, you could face charges for other violent crimes but not domestic violence. Who is a family or household member according to Arizona law?

  • Your current or former spouse
  • Any individual who resides or used to reside in the same household as you
  • A person with whom you have a child
  • A person by whom you’re pregnant or whom you’ve impregnated
  • A person related to your or your spouse by blood or by a court order. Relatives may include parents, grandparents, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, parents-in-law, grand-parents-in-law, stepparent, step-grandparent, stepchild, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law
  • A child who resided or still resides in the same household as you and the child is related to your former spouse or another person who resided in the same house as you
  • A person with whom you are or were in a sexual or romantic relationship

Aggravated Domestic Violence in Arizona

If you commit a misdemeanor domestic violence for a third time within seven, you’ll automatically face felony charges for aggravated domestic violence. According to Arizona laws, aggravated domestic violence is a class 5 felony. The penalties for aggravated felony include prison time, even for a first-time conviction. 

At times, victims of domestic violence end up reconciling with the perpetrators of the crime and deciding to drop them. However, according to Arizona law, you’ll still face charges even if the victim of domestic violence states that he or she does not wish to press charges. The law prosecutes crimes of domestic violence aggressively. Therefore, even if the victim decides to drop the charges, you’ll still face prosecution. 

After a victim files domestic violence charges, he or she can’t withdraw the charges. According to the law, only the District Attorney has the authority to drop the charges after filing charges. If the prosecutor decides to dismiss a domestic violence charge, he or she must seek approval from the judge. After filing a domestic violence complaint, the victim becomes a witness of the state and does not have the mandate to drop the charges. Therefore, the state will still prosecute the defendant even if the victim isn’t willing to testify.  At times, the prosecutor may choose not to file charges. In this case, the victim receives a notification about the prosecutor’s decision.

Common Forms of Aggravated Domestic Violence in Arizona

The crime of aggravated domestic violence can include a wide range of offenses. However, a typical form of aggravated domestic violence in Arizona is aggravated assault. According to the revised Arizona statutes § 13.1204, you can be guilty of aggravated assault if:

  • Inflict a serious or severe bodily injury on another person
  • You use a dangerous instrument or a deadly weapon on another person
  • You commit an assault when a victim is restrained or bound, or after impairing a victim’s ability
  • You forcefully commit an assault that leads to temporary but significant disfigurement or temporary but significant impairment or loss of a body organ, including body fractures.
  • Commit the crime of entering another person’s home without consent
  • A defendant above the age of 18 years commits an aggravated assault on a person below 15 years.
  • You violate the terms of a protective order.

Penalties for Aggravated Domestic Violence in Arizona

Domestic violence charges graduate to aggravated domestic violence when you commit repeated domestic violence crimes within 84 months (7 years). Convictions for domestic violence in Arizona are severe. The penalties get worse when the prosecutor accuses you of aggravated domestic violence.

For a first conviction of aggravating domestic violence, you’ll be guilty of a class five felony. This conviction will expose you to prison sentencing. You could get imprisonment of one to four years in prison. The court may also require you to pay fines ranging between $750 and $150,000. You may also have a counseling and education program for anger management and domestic violence.  You have to meet all the costs, fees, and assessments associated with your conviction.  The court may also impose other penalties like community service, probation, and paying restitution to the victim.

If you have two prior convictions for domestic violence in the last seven years, you’ll not be eligible for a pardon, probation, sentence reduction, suspension of sentence, or release. You will not qualify for any of the mentioned reliefs until you complete a 4-month jail term. 

If you have three or more convictions for domestic violence offenses in the last seven years, you’ll not be eligible for a pardon, probation, sentence reduction, suspension of sentence, or release. You’ll only be eligible for the mentioned reliefs after you’ve completed an 8-month jail term.

After a conviction for aggravated domestic violence in Arizona, you’ll have to deal with the conviction's additional implications. In addition to losing your gun rights, a conviction for aggravated domestic violence has negative immigration consequences. Even if you’re a lawful resident of the United States, a domestic violence conviction could have adverse effects on your immigration status. After conviction, you might face deportation from the United States. A conviction of aggravated domestic violence might also render you inadmissible into the United States. 

A conviction of aggravated domestic violence could harm your child custody and visitation rights. In most cases, courts accord victims of domestic violence full custody of the children. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you contact a criminal attorney to defend you against the negative consequences arising from domestic violence convictions. 

In Arizona, criminal records are permanent. Therefore, after a conviction for aggravated domestic violence, the conviction will remain on your record. A conviction of domestic violence might affect your ability to get employment for the rest of your life. Even if you get a set-aside, the criminal conviction will not disappear from your record. If possible, you should avoid a conviction for aggravated domestic violence. 

Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence in Arizona

In addition to prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence, the court may also protect domestic violence victims. There are several protections available for victims of domestic violence in Arizona:

  • Address Confidentiality Program
  • Protective Orders
  • Civil Lawsuit
  • Custody/ child or spousal support orders

The ACP (Address Confidentiality Program) protects domestic violence victims by giving them a legal substitute address. The victims use the alternative address in the place of their physical address. They can use the alternative address whenever public agencies need the address. All mail sent to a victim's substitute address is sent to his or her actual address. With a substitute address, the perpetrator of domestic violence can’t be able to trace the victim.

The court might also give the victim of domestic violence protective order to help prevent further domestic violence.

In addition to undergoing a criminal prosecution, perpetrators of aggravated domestic violence may also face civil prosecution. A victim of domestic violence may file a civil lawsuit to help recover expenses and losses like pain and suffering and medical expenses.

The court may modify custody arrangements, child, and spousal support orders to help prevent other instances of domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Protection Orders

The court may issue a protection order, also known as a restraining order, to protect the safety and wellbeing of a victim of domestic violence.  A domestic violence protective order serves as a civil order that protects a victim from all forms of physical and sexual abuse from the defendant. 

If a victim of domestic violence obtains a restraining order against you, it could affect your life in many ways:

  • The order bars a defendant from committing additional domestic violence offenses.
  • The order may grant one party, in most cases, the victim, exclusive possession of a residence, even if both parties own the residence.
  • A defendant is prohibited from contacting the victim or other people related to the victim.
  • The defendant may lose the right to buying or possessing a gun.
  • The defendant may have to enroll in a domestic violence treatment program.
  • Restraining orders may grant victims of domestic violence exclusive control care and custody of children and pets owned by the parties.

Before the enforcement of a restraining order, a defendant has a right to attend a restraining order hearing. During the hearing, the defendant will get an opportunity to give his or her side of the story. With the help of your attorney, you can oppose the imposition of a restraining order against you. For instance, you can point out that you don’t pose a danger to the victim.

Arizona courts issue restraining orders depending on the unique circumstances of different cases of domestic violence. If the court does not find the defendant particularly dangerous to the victim, the court may refrain from prohibiting the defendant from buying or owning a gun. 

After reviewing the petition filed by a victim of domestic violence, the court may grant a protective order in certain circumstances. A restraining order may take effect if it’s evident that the defendant might commit another domestic violence act. The court may also grant the victim a protective order if a defendant committed domestic violence last year. In some instances, the court may consider a longer period while evaluating the past instances of domestic violence committed by the defendant. 

The court may fail to grant a restraining if the requesting party does not make a written and verified petition for a restraining order. The court can’t enforce a restraining order against a victim of fewer than 12 years of age. Only the Arizona juvenile division has the mandate to enforce a restraining order against a minor below the age of 12 years.  The court may also be reluctant to enforce restraining orders against more than one defendant.

If you suspect that your loved one is planning to file a restraining order against you, you should immediately contact your attorney. A restraining order might have you ejected from your home. A restraining order could also prevent you from meeting or interacting with your child. A restraining order may be as harsh as the implications of a criminal conviction of domestic violence. 

Common Legal Defenses

When the prosecutor accuses you of aggravated domestic violence, you don’t have to accept all the charges. With the help of an attorney, you can come up with legal defenses to fight the charges. Some of the common legal defenses for the crime of aggravated domestic violence are:

False Accusation of Fabricated Evidence

Domestic violence accusations are often tricky for prosecutors and defendants. Cases of domestic violence mainly depend on the victim’s word or testimony against the defendant. It’s hard for the prosecutor to even prove what happened. When couples are going through divorce or child custody battles, one spouse may accuse the other of aggravated domestic violence. A spouse may accuse domestic violence to gain the upper hand in child custody and divorce battles.  The law requires the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the said crime. Your attorney can investigate your case to determine if you are a victim of false accusations.

You Were Acting in Self- Defense

You can fight domestic violence charges by pointing out that you were acting in self-defense. For instance, the victim might be the initial aggressor. Perhaps the victim was trying to attack you, and you responded by attacking the victim. Therefore, if you merely used reasonable force to protect yourself from an attack by the victim, you should not face charges.

Insufficient Evidence

If the prosecutor does not have sufficient evidence against you, he or she may not be able to accuse you of domestic violence. In some instances, victims of domestic violence lose interest in prosecution and decide to drop the charges. However, simply because the victim has dropped domestic violence charges does not mean that you’ll not face prosecution. The prosecutor may even subpoena the victim to court, and if the victim fails to honor the subpoena, he or she might face an arrest. However, a drop in charges by a victim of domestic violence might indicate a lack of ample evidence against you. Your attorney can take advantage of this situation to challenge the prosecutor's charges. If the prosecutor doesn’t have convincing evidence against you, he or she might be willing to reduce your charges or drop the charges.

You can also fight aggravated domestic violence charges by pointing out that you were acting in defense of another third party or defense of your property.

Find a Phoenix Criminal Attorney Near Me

You should not accept the charges or give up when the prosecutor accuses you of aggravated domestic violence. Instead, you should contact an experienced criminal attorney to help you come up with appropriate legal defenses. Phoenix Criminal Attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on the best way forward. Contact us at 602-551-8092 and speak to one of our attorneys.

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