When most people think about domestic violence, they think of an abusive spouse and domestic violence itself a crime that is charged against said abusive spouse. While certainly an abusive spouse could be charged for domestic violence in Arizona, the cases we see most are simply loud arguments between domestic partners, or the situation where something is thrown in anger during an argument, and the neighbors call the police.
Many people are shocked to find out that domestic violence in Arizona is not a crime in and of itself but is a designation that is charged alongside another crime. For instance, a person could be charged with disorderly conduct, ARS 13-2904, which is essentially disturbing the peace of a person (or neighborhood), and if the alleged victim is in a relationship with the person accused, that person could be charged with disorderly conduct – domestic violence. Another frequent charge we see along side domestic violence charges in Arizona are assault charges under ARS 13-1203.
The natural question that follows is: “What does ‘in a relationship’ mean?”
Well, the Arizona domestic violence statute is ARS 13-3601 and defines what it means to be in a relationship. It may seem obvious, but it’s worth noting that it all hinges on the relationship between the alleged victim and the accused. The statute defines the following as having the required relationship to charge disorderly conduct alongside another crime:
1. The two are married, have been married, or residing or having resided in the same household.
2. The two have a child in common.
3. Either person is pregnant by the other person.
4. The alleged victim is related to the accused or the accused’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 alleged victim is a child who resides or has resided in the same household as the accused and is related by blood to a former spouse of the accused or to a person who resides or who has resided in the same household as the accused.
6. The relationship between the people is currently or was previously a romantic or sexual relationship. There are several statutory factors for a court or prosecutor to consider in determining this.
Doesn’t the event need to take place at your home for it to be domestic violence?
No. Another misconception that I hear often is that people think domestic violence only occurs at a person’s home. That’s not true.
Set scene: You and your significant other are at a local establishment late at night enjoying a few drinks and a live band. After some liquid courage, you think it’s a great idea to start a conversation about how little the other one does around the house lately. You both decide it’s time to leave and as you leave and are in the parking lot waiting for a ride, you start to argue with each other. The arguing escalates to loudly accusing each-other (maybe yelling) or even pushing. A bystander calls the police and because it’s a busy night, the cops show up before your ride. In this situation, you could be arrested for either disorderly conduct or assault with a domestic violence designation.
After one of you is taken to jail and released, the liquid courage dissolves into headache and heartache. Amends are made and it is all put behind you both. Everything but the domestic violence related charges, that is. Despite the fact that neither of you wish for the charges to remain (or maybe even have happened in the first place) the charges remain and the prosecution goes with them full steam.
This is a good example (with some variation of course) that our offices sees happen all of the time.
What are the penalties for Arizona domestic violence charges?
That depends on the underlying charge associated with the domestic violence designation (i.e., assault or disorderly conduct). These are generally misdemeanor crimes and you can learn more about the maximum penalties for misdemeanor crimes in Arizona by clicking HERE. The important thing to remember about consequences that come with a domestic violence designation is that it can be used against you in Child Custody or Divorce proceedings. It can also have negative consequences on job applications, housing, and other necessities. As of now, criminal records are forever in Arizona.
Finally, under certain circumstances, you could lose your federal right to possess a firearm if you are convicted of domestic violence—even if it is a misdemeanor charge. It is important to discuss this fact with an attorney, as having a firearm while prohibited is a class four felony. You can read more about felony sentencing HERE.
What do I do if I’m charged with a domestic violence related charge?
Call an attorney to discuss your case. I have handled many domestic violence related charges in Arizona, and offer free consultations. I will gladly sit down with you to discuss your situation. In many cases, the dispute in question was a one-off dispute and neither the accused nor the alleged victim want the government to press charges. Unfortunately, this is usually not enough for the prosecutor to drop the charges. That said, in most cases, negotiations can be made to dismiss or drastically reduce the charges against you.
In some cases, a person may be offered domestic violence diversion where the prosecution will agree to dismiss the charges if/once the accused agrees to participate in domestic violence classes. Other times, there are outright defenses to domestic violence related charges such as self-defense. Every case is different and needs to be thoroughly investigated to best understand your options in any given case. You can call or text Attorney Steven Scharboneau 24/7 at (480) 363-0090 with any questions you may have or submit an inquiry on our Contact Me page.