Domestic violence charges in Pima County and throughout Arizona can be complicated, overwhelming, confusing, and may result in grave, long lasting consequences. Under Arizona law, domestic violence crimes are not specific crimes and can apply to a wide array of underlying offenses.
The term “domestic violence,” as defined under Arizona law, is a tag that describes the domestic relationship (i.e., husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent/child, etc.) between the person charged with an underlying crime and the alleged victim of an underlying crime. Assault, disorderly conduct, harassment, and other criminal charges are examples of underlying charges that could accompany the domestic violence categorization.
In Tucson, sustaining a domestic violence conviction, even for a misdemeanor offense, can have a major negative impact on your life. For example, domestic violence convictions can prevent you from obtaining employment, possessing or carrying a gun, renting a house or apartment, and obtaining professional licensure (i.e., nursing license, etc.).
If you or a loved one have been charged with a domestic violence offense in Tucson, Pima County, or anywhere else throughout Arizona, contact the law firm of Hernandez & Hamilton, P.C., today for free legal advice or consultation.
Domestic Violence in Arizona
The relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim determines whether or not the domestic violence charge will be applied to an underlying offense. According to the law for domestic violence in Arizona, many people could qualify as having a domestic relationship, resulting in the domestic violence penalties being added. According to A.R.S. 13-3601, the relationships that can be classified as domestic violence are as follows:
- The victim and the defendant are married or were married.
- The victim and the defendant live in the same household or used to live in the same household.
- The victim and the defendant have a child together.
- The victim is related to the defendant or the defendant’s spouse by blood or court order as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, or by marriage as a parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, step-parent, step-grandparents, stepchild, step-grandchild, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law.
- The victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the defendant. They are related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant or a person who resides or has resided in the same household as the defendant.
- The relationship between the victim and the defendant is currently or was previously romantic or sexual.
What is a Domestic Violence Court?
Prosecutors in Pima County prosecute domestic violence charges very intensely. In 2012, Pima County Attorney’s Office (“PCAO”) created the Domestic Violence Court. The Domestic Violence Court adjudicates misdemeanor domestic abuse cases in the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court. Similar courts exist in municipal courts such as the Tucson City Court, the Phoenix Municipal Court, the Scottsdale City Court, etc. In addition, these specialty courts handle serious and repeat misdemeanor offenders charged with domestic violence or facing domestic violence charges, emphasizing victim safety and rehabilitation. Similarly, PCAO and other prosecutorial agencies have specialized units to handle the prosecution of felony domestic violence cases.
Domestic Violence Courts are staffed with a team of specially-trained judges, attorneys, and victim advocates who ensure that defendants are closely monitored, the victims have access to comprehensive services, and that judges receive information necessary to make quick decisions.
Domestic Violence Diversion Program
The domestic violence diversion program allows first-time offenders to participate in counseling rather than the criminal court system and establish a criminal record. Through counseling and classes, defendants are guided toward alternative methods of managing and understanding the behavior that led to them being charged with domestic violence. When a defendant completes the diversion program, they receive a dismissal of misdemeanor charge(s) from Tucson City Court, the Pima County Consolidated Justice Court, the Maricopa County Justice Courts, the Phoenix Municipal Court, and many other lower jurisdiction courts in the surrounding areas.
It should be noted that diversion programs are operated by the prosecutor’s offices, which gives them complete discretion over how to administer the program and whom to admit into it. Generally, the prosecutor will weigh in many factors on whether or not to offer diversion to a defendant. An experienced Tucson domestic violence attorney will work to convince the prosecutor that the defendant is deserving and qualified to enter the domestic abuse diversion program. Successful completion of the diversion program and paying all applicable program fees will result in a criminal case dismissal.
Penalties for Misdemeanor Domestic Violence Charges
Maximum Jail Sentences
Misdemeanors are classified 1, 2, and 3. The classification of the misdemeanor determines misdemeanor domestic violence sentences. The maximum jail sentence for misdemeanors is the following:
Maximum Jail Sentences
Class 1 Misdemeanor = 6 months
Class 2 Misdemeanor = 4 months
Class 3 Misdemeanor = 30 days
The maximum fines for misdemeanors are as follows:
Class 1 Misdemeanor = $2,500
Class 2 Misdemeanor = $750
Class 3 Misdemeanor = $500
Maximum probation sentences
Maximum misdemeanor probation sentences are as follows:
Class 1 Misdemeanor = 3 years probation
Class 2 Misdemeanor = 2 years probation
Class 3 Misdemeanor = 1 year probation
Note: even a non-violent misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence which have, as an element, “the use or attempted use of physical force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon” can mean the permanent loss of your rights to possess and carry a firearm under both Arizona and federal law pursuant to the so called “Lautenberg amendment” passed in the fall of 1996 and as contained in 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9).
Repeat Domestic Violence Convictions
In the state of Arizona, if someone is convicted of two domestic violations within seven years, a third domestic violence offense is charged as a felony and carries a minimum sentence of four months in jail. If a defendant is found guilty and convicted of three domestic violations within seven years, the 3rd or subsequent offense will often be charged as a felony, and if convicted, the conviction carries a minimum sentence of eight months in jail.
Domestic Violence Statistics
Acts of domestic violence are far more common than you may think. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in five women and one in seven men report having been victims of severe physical violence from an intimate partner at least once in their lifetimes. When it comes to sexual violence in a domestic setting, approximately 20% of women and 8.3% of men report have been victims. One in ten women has reported being stalked by an intimate partner. The numbers in Arizona are fairly consistent with these national averages. As a result of these figures, prosecutor’s offices are increasingly seeking harsh punishments, severe consequences, and long term penalties in domestic violence cases in Arizona courts.
Frequently Asked Questions about Domestic Violence
These are some of the commonly asked questions by our clients.
If I’m still in a relationship with the victim, can I talk to them about the case?
While the temptation to convince an alleged victim to alter their story or to drop the charges against you can be overwhelming, this can get very tricky both legally and strategically. Any conversation about an incident can lead to new arguments and may end up backfiring. But, on the other hand, you may strengthen their resolve. More importantly, without intending to, your actions may meet the legal definition of witness tampering or obstruction of justice, which is a new crime.
How long does a restraining order in AZ last?
In the state of Arizona, a protective order lasts for one year from the time that the respondent is served.
Can my alleged victim drop my charges?
No. In domestic violence cases, it is the State of Arizona–not the alleged victim–who presses the charges against the accused. So, even if your accuser has a change of heart, or wants the case to be dismissed, it is the State–not the alleged victim–that will decide whether or not to go forward.
Can I own a gun if I’m convicted of a domestic violence offense?
Maybe. It is a felony to possess a firearm or ammunition if you’re convicted of crime which makes you a prohibited possessor. Certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence that involve, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon, can cause you to lose your right to use or carry a gun. Also, anyone convicted of a felony crime of domestic violence is a prohibited possessor Owning a firearm or ammunition after a qualifying domestic violence conviction is a felony crime in and of itself, separate from your original charge.
If you have additional questions about a domestic violence charge in Arizona, contact the experienced law firm of Hernandez & Hamilton, P.C.
Why Is It Important to Hire A Domestic Violence Lawyer?
According to the Arizona Daily Star, “In 2017, the Tucson Police Department made nearly 2,00 domestic-violent related arrests.” Pima County prosecutors take domestic violence charges very seriously. So much so that in 2012, the Domestic Violence Court, a specialty court, was created to prosecute domestic violence cases. A domestic violence conviction can have a negative impact on your life. A domestic violence conviction can take away your right to bear arms, make it difficult to obtain employment, interfere with professional licensing, and prevent you from renting an apartment. A domestic violence conviction could also impact a divorce or child custody case.
If you are charged or convicted of domestic violence, a judge may revoke visitation or require supervised visitation with a child based on an allegation or conviction of domestic violence.
What is the APRAIS assessment?
The Arizona Intimate Partner Risk Assessment Instrument System (APRAIS) is a tool used by law enforcement at the scene of domestic violence incidents and is sometimes later used in court. The information gathered by police officers from alleged victims of intimate partner violence is then given to the court and is read at the accused’s initial appearance/bail hearing. The court will then use this document to decide the terms of your release, such as whether or not you will be released on bail and/or what conditions of release should be imposed and/or whether pretrial services supervision is appropriate. It is an evidence-based document that holds significant sway in court, though it is an imprecise tool developed by and for law enforcement and their partners. This is why you need to remain calm throughout your interactions with the person making the allegations and the police.
The Tucson City Court Domestic Violence Court is a high-volume court that only hears serious, intimate, partner criminal, misdemeanor, domestic violence cases. The court is staffed with prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and independent victim advocates from different agencies. It bodes good sense to appoint domestic violence lawyers. Many other limited jurisdiction courts (City Courts and Justice Courts) have similar programs in place as well. Call Hernandez & Hamilton P.C. now, a skilled law firm in dealing with cases of domestic violence of all types.
Domestic Violence Attorney Tucson
Due to the serious consequences of even a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, it is important that you take your charge(s) seriously and speak with a seasoned domestic violence attorney, Tucson. If you have been charged with a domestic violence offense in Pima County, contact criminal defense attorneys at the Law Office of Hernandez & Hamilton, P.C. for a free consultation.