Domestic violence is not a separate criminal offense in Arizona in-and-of-itself. Domestic violence is a designation attached to a criminal offense, such as assault, endangerment, criminal damage, criminal trespassing, interference with judicial proceedings, harassment, aggravated harassment, disorderly conduct, and more, when the victim of the offense meets certain criteria, explain below.
The criteria for a domestic violence designation of a Northern Arizona criminal case are as follows:
1. The relationship between the victim and the defendant is one of marriage or former marriage or of persons residing or having resided in the same household.
2. The victim and the defendant have a child in common.
3. The victim or the defendant is pregnant by the other party.
4. The victim is related to the defendant or the defendant’s spouse by blood or court order as a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister or by marriage as a parent-in-law, grandparent-in-law, stepparent, step-grandparent, stepchild, step-grandchild, brother-in-law or sister-in-law.
5. The victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the defendant and is related by blood to a former spouse of the defendant or to a person who resides or who has resided in the same household as the defendant.
6. The relationship between the victim and the defendant is currently or was previously a romantic or sexual relationship. The following factors may be considered in determining whether the relationship between the victim and the defendant is currently or was previously a romantic or sexual relationship: (a) The type of relationship. (b) The length of the relationship. (c) The frequency of the interaction between the victim and the defendant. (d) If the relationship has terminated, the length of time since the termination.
Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-3601(A).
If any of those criteria apply, and you commit any of the offenses listed above against such a victim, then the crime is a domestic violence offense. There is a misconception that every domestic violence case in Arizona is a felony. The truth is, most domestic violence crimes are misdemeanors. Simple assault, trespassing, criminal damage… these offenses can be misdemeanors or felonies.
However, just because they are domestic violence in nature does not elevate a misdemeanor to a felony. Aggravated Domestic Violence is a separate crime in Arizona, and applies across Coconino County, Yavapai County, Mohave County, Navajo County, and all of Northern Arizona Domestic Violence cases. Aggravated Domestic Violence occurs when someone commits a third or subsequent violation of a domestic violence offense within a period of 84 months (i.e., 7 years).
So, for example, say a Flagstaff person is convicted of trespassing into an ex-girlfriend’s apartment after he was told to leave. Such a conviction can be a domestic violence offense in Flagstaff Municipal Court. Next, three years later, while hiking just outside of Flagstaff City limits, that same person gets frustrated and grabs hold of his new girlfriend’s wrist when she tries to leave his presence after an argument. Such a simple assault is prosecuted in the Flagstaff Justice Court and is a domestic violence offense.
Then, two years later, the same person is now married and has a baby. He gets upset that the baby won’t stop crying and he breaks the baby’s bottle by throwing the bottle onto the ground. Such a criminal damage case would normally be yet another Flagstaff domestic violence misdemeanor… but this is his third domestic violence offense within 7 years, landing him in the Coconino County Superior Court on charges of Aggravated Domestic Violence, a class 5 felony, punishable by up to 2.5 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections.
As you can see, domestic violence is treated very seriously under Arizona law, especially repeat domestic violence offenders. Even if each act of domestic violence is not severe, or does not even cause personal injury to any person, a third offense within 7 years is felony domestic violence and very serious in nature. In addition, a first act of domestic violence can be a felony. For example, Aggravated Assault, or a simple assault committed by use of a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon, can be a domestic violence offense, of a “dangerous” nature, causing a prison term of up to 15 years on a first domestic violence offense.
Domestic violence is a serious crime. It has broken apart Flagstaff families, ruined children’s lives all across Northern Arizona, broken people’s spirits, caused suicide and depression, and sent thousands of offenders to jail and prison. People who commit domestic violence often need help themselves, which is why if you are convicted of your first domestic violence offense as a misdemeanor, you are required to attend a domestic violence offender treatment program. See Arizona Revised Statutes, section 13-3601.01(A).
If you or someone you know has been accused of domestic violence, you need a lawyer who understands the complicated domestic violence laws, had experience dealing with the criminal justice system as it relates to domestic violence, and who is familiar with treatment programs in Northern Arizona. Call today for your free consultation.