A Domestic Violence Misdemeanor occurs when one family member commits or threatens violence against another family member or household member. The crime of domestic violence usually involves the crimes of assault and battery, though it may involve other charges as well.
The definition of misdemeanor domestic violence has expanded over the years. For example, domestic violence does not just mean physical violence, but also includes threats of violence and verbal/emotional abuse. Also, domestic violence laws protect a broad classification of people who live together, including spouses, roommates, housemates, elders and children, dating partners, and same-sex partners.
What are the Legal Consequences of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence misdemeanors are treated very seriously. They can sometimes require aggressive intervention by police and other authorities. The penalties prescribed for domestic violence may vary from state to state, but most misdemeanors result in:
- Fines, and/or
- Jail time (up to one year)
Furthermore, federal and state laws often impose additional legal consequences besides the punishments listed above. Domestic violence misdemeanor charges can also have drastic effects, such as:
- Loss of or change in custody/visitation rights
- Decreased ability to obtain employment or housing (many employers and housing authorities require disclosure of domestic violence misdemeanor charges)
Furthermore, in all 50 states, persons who have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence will lose their right to own a firearm under the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban. The loss of gun ownership privileges is also applied to persons who have been issued a restraining order under domestic abuse laws. It is a crime to give sell guns or firearms to persons who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
Can Domestic Violence Misdemeanors be Elevated to Felony Charges?
In some states, domestic violence misdemeanors may be elevated to felony charges depending on the circumstances. For example, if the incident involved a sexual assault or an assault on a child, it may be considered aggravated assault, which is treated like a felony in many jurisdictions.
Also, in some municipalities domestic violence results in misdemeanor charges for the first two offenses. If the defendant is charged with a third domestic violence offense, it will usually result in a felony. Felony charges result in increased fines and possible sentencing in a prison facility for more than one year.
What are the Remedies for Victims of Misdemeanor Domestic Violence?
Generally a court will first conduct an “emergency” or first hearing to determine whether immediate intervention is necessary. At this hearing the judge will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) for domestic violence. The temporary restraint may require the defendant to move out of the household, and it may impose restrictions on their contact with the victim or other family members.
Some time shortly after the initial emergency hearing, a full hearing will be conducted to determine whether the domestic violence actually occurred. The judge will determine whether further remedies must be imposed. Some remedies for domestic violence misdemeanors can include:
- Replacing the temporary restraining order with a permanent domestic violence restraining order
- Modifying child or spousal support orders
- Denial of child custody and visitation privileges
- Initiating a civil lawsuit, which may require the offender to compensate the victim for losses and injuries
- Additional criminal prosecution
Do I Need a Lawyer for Misdemeanor Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence misdemeanor charges are considered to be serious offenses. If you have been accused of domestic violence or are facing misdemeanor charges, you may wish to contact a lawyer for representation. Your attorney will be able to advise you according to the specific laws of your state or jurisdiction.
If you have been the victim of a domestic violence misdemeanor, you should seek assistance or intervention immediately. Hiring a lawyer may be essential to protect your rights and safety. An experienced family attorney will be able to assist you in filing for the appropriate court orders and remedies.