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What are the Penalties for Domestic Violence Charges?
Domestic violence, also known as family violence, continues to be a pervasive issue in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, family and domestic violence affect approximately 10 million people in the U.S. every year. Criminal charges related to domestic violence are taken extremely seriously and a conviction for domestic violence can lead to a lengthy prison sentence, fines, restraining orders, firearm restrictions and other life-changing consequences. The specific penalties associated with a domestic violence conviction vary based on the laws in your state. If you have been accused of domestic violence by a partner, an ex-partner or a member of your family or household, contact a knowledgeable domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible to begin putting together a formidable defense. Domestic violence charges can follow you for the rest of your life, so don’t wait to seek qualified legal representation.
What is Domestic Violence?
As a general rule, domestic violence is any act of violence or other abuse perpetrated by one person against another person in a marriage, cohabitation or domestic setting for the purpose of gaining or maintaining control over that person. Every state has its own set of laws concerning domestic violence and these laws lay out the specific definition of domestic violence, the various types of criminal acts that can result in domestic violence charges, and the penalties prescribed for violations of state domestic violence laws. The domestic violence laws in some states are very narrow and specific while the laws in other states are very broad, and depending on where you live, you could be committing a federal domestic violence crime without even realizing it.
California Domestic Violence Charges
In the state of California, for instance, you can be charged with domestic violence for physically harming or sexually assaulting an intimate partner or family or household member, which most people understand. However, you can also be arrested for domestic violence in California if you threaten an intimate partner or family or household member with the intent of making that person reasonably afraid that he or she is about to be seriously injured, even if you don’t actually carry out the abuse. Moreover, domestic violence does not have to involve acts of physical abuse. The abuse can also be verbal, psychological or emotional.
New Jersey Domestic Violence Charges
In the state of New Jersey, there are more than a dozen criminal offenses that may be considered domestic violence if perpetrated against a “protected” individual. The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991 provides protections for individuals 18 years of age or older and emancipated minors who have been the victim of domestic violence by a current or former spouse or a current or former household member. This includes assault, stalking, kidnapping, false imprisonment, criminal coercion, harassment and criminal sexual contact, among other illegal acts.
How is Domestic Violence Punished?
As we mentioned above, the penalties associated with a domestic violence-related offense depend on the state in which the alleged crime was committed. If you are convicted of a violation of California Penal Code § 273.5(a) PC, which makes it felony crime to inflict corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant, you could face imprisonment in state prison for two, three or four years, plus a fine of up to $6,000, among other potential penalties. In New Jersey, a domestic violence charge of simple assault is typically charged as a misdemeanor offense. However, the assault crime may be upgraded to a felony if there are any aggravating factors involved in the alleged offense, such as the use of a deadly weapon or serious bodily injury inflicted on the alleged victim. For a fourth-degree felony domestic violence offense, the penalty handed down by the court may include incarceration in state prison for up to 18 months. The potential penalty is between three and five years for a third-degree felony, between five and 10 years for a second-degree felony, and up to 20 years for a first-degree felony.
Know the Domestic Violence Laws in Your State
State legislatures are responsible for defining and penalizing acts of domestic violence and abuse but not all states abide by the same criteria in establishing and enforcing domestic violence laws. Approximately 38 states include domestic violence definitions and penalties within their criminal code, while nearly every state’s domestic relations or social services codes contain a definition of domestic violence. Within these codes, there is still a great deal of variance, which is why it is important to be familiar with the domestic violence laws in your state. It is also imperative that you enlist the help of a domestic violence lawyer trained to practice in your state if you find yourself facing criminal charges for domestic violence. This is the only way to ensure that you receive the best possible legal advice based on your specific situation.
Consult an Experienced Domestic Violence Defense Attorney
Nationwide, crimes against intimate partners, family members and children are viewed as particularly egregious, and having a domestic violence conviction on your record can have a lasting impact on your personal and professional life, one that can jeopardize your entire future. If you are facing criminal charges for domestic violence, it is imperative that you understand your legal rights, the nature of the charges against you and the process by which domestic violence charges are handled in your state. The most important step you can take after being accused of or arrested for domestic violence by an intimate partner or family or household member is to enlist the help of a reputable domestic violence lawyer who knows the law and what is at stake. The consequences of a domestic violence charge can be devastating, no matter how minor the charge may seem. With this in mind, you should know that it is never too late to seek legal guidance from an experienced defense attorney. Even if you have already been charged with a crime, a skilled domestic violence lawyer can ensure that your rights are protected and help you navigate your case.