A felony conviction carries significant consequences, including jail time and having your record permanently scarred with a felony conviction, which may affect your ability to be considered for many housing opportunities and jobs. However, a misdemeanor conviction are crimes that often carry penalties of up to one year of imprisonment.

Domestic violence is essentially defined as a behavior used by one person in a relationship to control the other person. The more serious form of felony domestic violence is a crime where one family or household member commits a serious act of violence against another resident of the household. Domestic violence laws are not solely limited to relationships between spouses, but also include violence against other household members.

For instance, felony domestic violence may occur between persons who are dating, between parents and children, same-sex partners, the elderly, and other residents of the same household. Further, domestic violence may even occur between people who formerly had a relationship, such as an ex-spouse or others who used to live together.

As discussed above, domestic violence felony charges are most commonly filed as a result of assault and battery between spouses. However, felony domestic violence may also occur with other types of crimes such as rape, kidnapping, or sexual assault.

What Factors May Convert a Misdemeanor into a Felony Charge?

A misdemeanor domestic violence charge may convert into a felony domestic violence charge when there are “aggravating factors”, that convert simple assaults into aggravated assaults. Domestic violence incidents are typically classified as felonies if they involve the following aggravating factors:

  • Acts of violence resulting in serious bodily injury to the victim or death;
  • Criminal conduct or acts directed towards minors, especially very young children;
  • Violent acts or threats that involve the use of a deadly weapon (for example, threatening the victim with a deadly weapon with the intent to intimidate them); or
  • Certain criminal acts that involve forced sexual abuse, such as rape or sexual assault.

Typically, the prosecutor will assess the aforementioned and other factors when determining whether to charge the defendant with a misdemeanor or felony. The prosecutor may also review any prior reported domestic violence incidents of abuse. The prosecutor may also assess prior convictions.

What are the Legal Punishments for Felony Domestic Violence Crimes?

Felony convictions may often carry similar punishments to misdemeanor domestic violence charges. However, the penalties for felony domestic violence are more severe than that of misdemeanor charges of domestic violence.

Misdemeanor domestic violence is punishable by fines or a max of one year imprisonment. However, a domestic violence felony charge carries more severe consequences, including:

  • Heavier fines, sometimes several thousand dollars higher than a misdemeanor charge;
  • Incarceration in a state or federal prison facility, for periods longer than one year;
  • Mandatory court ordered rehabilitation courses; or
  • Longer probation periods.

Additionally, being found guilty of felony domestic violence results in a loss of many other privileges for the offender. As noted above, a felony domestic violence charge may result in a loss of gun ownership privileges, loss of custody or visitation privileges for one’s children, or inability to secure housing or employment. Further, in many states, a third domestic violence misdemeanor charge will often convert into a felony due to previous convictions.

What Protections and Remedies are Available for Domestic Violence Victims?

If you are a victim of felony domestic violence abuse, there are several remedies and legal protections available for, including:

  • Filing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO): Temporary restraining orders are issued by a judge after a preliminary hearing. A TRO can often require the offender to change residencies or avoid contact with the victim.
    • TRO’s generally last a short period of time, until a full hearing can be conducted. Further, violation of a temporary restraining order may be used to convert a misdemeanor domestic violence charge into a felony;
  • Permanent Injunction: A permanent injunction is issued after a full hearing and may be part of the sentencing for the offender. Permanent injunctions last an indefinite period of time and also order the defendant not to ever make contact with or come into close proximity with the victim;
  • Civil Lawsuit: In addition to criminal charges, a victim may file a civil lawsuit to recover losses and expenses such as medical bills or pain and suffering damages; or
  • Custody, Child, and Spousal Support Order Modification: Previous child custody orders may be modified upon a happening of domestic violence. Felony domestic violence will typically result in the offender losing their child custody and visitation rights. Additionally, child support orders or spousal support orders may be issued to protect the injured parties.

Should I Hire an Attorney for My Felony Domestic Violence Case?

If you are a victim of felony domestic violence, you should immediately seek the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable family law attorney to assist you with seeking protections. A family law attorney may be necessary to help you file for a temporary restraining order or permanent injunction.  

If you are facing domestic violence felony charges, you should immediately contact a licensed and qualified criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you on how to proceed in your case and represent you in front of a court of law, if necessary.